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Time to CelebrateSeptember 22, 2012
How do you feel when you have finished an intense period of work on a big task – a move, a renovation, a graduation, a book? Often there is a letdown in one’s spirit as that adrenalin-pumping purposefulness suddenly drops off. Many organizers, speakers and facilitators find that there is a vague sense of depression when an event is over. Yes, they need a rest, but many simply move on to the next task. Endless diligence is not always good for the soul. In A Pace of Grace, I recommend taking the time to pause for applause, to breathe deeply the joy of completion, to celebrate with people who know what this project has meant to you, to buy yourself a long wished for gift, or maybe just a bouquet of roses or a new toy, electronic or otherwise.
And what are caregivers to do after the death of one they have looked after for weeks or years? How do we face the sudden hole, the empty space that looms when our constant hyper-vigilance is no longer needed? For me, as for some others, the death of my adored brother John seemed at first to be triumphant. After a long night of praying for mercy, just wanting him to be free of pain and suffering, he took his last breath. In that moment of victory, I raised my arms and yelled, “He did it!” Meanwhile, grief lurked silently in a corner, awaiting the perfect time to come roaring back.
What many families do, usually a few days after putting their loved one to rest, whether with a simple or elaborate ceremony, is to hold a second event – a celebration of life. It gives family and friends time to arrive from distant places. It gives the immediate family time to plan and personalize an album, a power point, or in the case of John, a designer for stage and film and Disney Imagineer, a show. We dressed up a rather plain hotel banquet room, creating a set with John’s favorite paintings, some Japanese tapestries from his home, and flowers on every table. We had music, talks, spiritual readings, a power point about John’s life, and First Nations elders dancing. People laughed and cried.
It meant so much to have more than a hundred people from our small town community as well as family and friends from around the world celebrating with us. John was a dedicated lunchist, so we served a lavish lunch. It was a joyful day, the memory of which was a balm during the months and years of grief that followed. In Chapter 20 of Graceful Endings entitled Tributes and Roasts, I write about celebrating an individual’s life before they die. South African activist Mzwakhe Mbuli wrote:
“Now is the time
To give me roses, not to keep them
for my grave to come.
Give them to me while my heart beats,
give them today
while my heart yearns for jubilee.
Now is the time.”
We need to create a sacred place for celebration in our lives, whether a gentle pause to experience deep gratitude for the completion of a project or to honor the life of one we love, before and after they go.