Tag Archives: friendship

Promises to tomorrow #16 Die Wise

There is a lot of cosmic energy in the air this time of year with the change of season and various religious rituals. And in my own life I have had my fair share of hatched and matched and dispatched connections around me. It is so often that new life is paralleled with deaths.

The news of one of these deaths of along-time friend came in a phone call. It was a life short-changed. Her death marked by a note in the informal and bleak, cold space of a facebook page, where the smallest group of readers weren’t all across the last details of her life. She set the page up years ago to post a few photos and it had not served her in any way as a community platform. Scratching through archival emails I was able to find some addresses and my forensic skills failed me in being able to find a sister that I knew was out there somewhere. An empty hole, dug to put a body, but not one to put in. A mutual friend and I went to our memories to put into that hole the laughter, quirky, difficult, cantankerous, generous, inspired, learned sojourner and friend she had been to us. On the street, the day after I heard the news, I saw shocks of white hair on every corner, little reminders of the sacred monkey she was in our lives.

I am preparing for the next Salon we are making and it is on the future of death. Unlike the wisdom cultures we are not so easily able to find ways of keeping the generations past with us into the future. We bequeath precious material objects, legally passing from one generation to another those items we want to live on.

A bequest literally means “about speech”, and so what do our bequests have to say about us after we are gone or when we are alive and making the decision about what we want to say to others when we are gone. Stephen Jenkinson, affectionately known as the Grief Walker, says we (of the non wisdom traditions) want to leave things and letters to the living behind because we are frightened of being forgotten and that is the biggest fear most people have when they are dying (once the fear of pain is longer realised). Jenkinson believes, having listened and been with thousands of dying people, this fear is because we have forgotten those who have gone before and not paid enough attention when it happened to others, and now when our turn comes this is the instinct that kicks in. He doesn’t let the dying off the hook and implores mothers to keep mothering, children to keep being children, partners to keep being married, all in the act of dying. The work of this time, and indeed of our whole lifetime, is to learn what it means to be human and to bring that wisdom to life, to die wise. Our bequest is to have our lives speak into the space made by knowing we will die.

We all know we are going to die, yet most of us don’t live that way, cherishing and nourishing every moment. My friend did – she squeezed every moment of life out of every day – truly living life to the full and that is her bequest to me. And only those of us who knew her, got a taste of that indefatigable spirit hungry for life and thirsty for adventure. She traipsed through laws and codes deciphering and searching for justice, turning stones over that refused to be turned and leveraging them out of crevices, often causing her more pain than was really required. She knew from an early age her body would be ravaged and let her down and her mind would probably too and to find her in that state the last time I saw her was devastating. I saw her in a public hospital, the very place she had brought her skills and advocacy too when we first worked alongside of one another. She believed in the public purse, public good and public service. She rioted for equity and access. She demanded a fair go for all and put herself in places where she could contribute to making that happen for others. Fiercely private she died with barely a soul knowing and no public mark or bequests to show for her life. Memories will live on with the small family she shared DNA and for those of us who are scattered, like her ashes in favourite places, we will catch the memories in the wind and help them find a home in our hearts.

Living a life to bequest, to die wise is a big promise to tomorrow, inspired by those who have died recently and the dying I share my living with every day.



Served by Soup

Carrot soup was on the menu – a touch of spice and sweetness, vegan and diary free as well. All care was taken to make the choice of carrot soup for the guests that arrived in time for lunch on a winters day with Venus in transit from Melbourne to Adelaide.  Our host had listened, remembered and delivered more warmth than was in the bowls.  She chose very well, witnessed by the “yes please, I would like some more.”

I first met this soup maker in her choice of a coffee shop, then in a foreign land, that had all the familiarity of shared histories; and now in the comfort of her own home.  Another step on this forever pilgrimage, taking another sip from the soup bowl together.

The next day the soup I had was bestowed upon me by a couple sharing their day off with me by the seaside.  It was an honouring of times gone by and a gradual unfolding of what might be ahead with friendship re-kindled.  Chicken (and vegetable) soup for the soul, heralded a conversation alive with the radical spirit and critique we were able to reactivate in a single sip.

Another day in the week and I was graced with another soup. This time there was the echo of a full winter garden.  The soup was crafted with love, first knitted together in my womb more than thirty years ago. Shared with the originators of the creation; communion.

In the confines of a workplace, a final bowl of soup for the week was heated up in the microwave after being poured from a pre-packaged supermarket purchased container.  It had none of the love of the other bowls sipped with deep affection earlier in the week.  I was however comforted by thinking that it was a moment of east meeting west – the soup was laksa and the packaging meant I could enjoy it easily without a trip to Malaysia.  Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the humble tea bag being a wonderful expression of east meeting west – where the plentiful tea leaves of Asia and held together in single serves for us Europeans to enjoy at our leisure. So with that memory, I breathed in eastern cuisine infused by western packaging and smiled as I breathed out and took my first spoonful.

I have been served by soup this week.

I love that all the ingredients rest together to make a whole that has to be contained in a bowl. I love how soup comes in a bowl and always prefer to drink soup from a bowl rather than a mug. The bowl is my favourite receptacle for eating from.  I love the shape of bowls and how my hands can cup the bowl.  I love the openness of bowls.  Like an open womb I drink from the bowl and take all that I need to sustain me for the next step of the journey.

I have discovered Hildegard that there is an Angel of Light soup on the market that includes the herbs you advised for soup.  I am sure you would have had many a bowl of soup shared with friends, family, travellers and co-workers in the vineyard, barnyard and fields.

When I sit down for the soup of life I want to always be able to say; “Yes please, I do want some more”, regardless of what is being served up and in what shape packaging it comes in.  In my heart, I do know that the great soup maker always makes it with love even when I see it packaged in plastic, blinded by the east/west co-creation it may well be.

Soup has served me well this week.