Will I have to go alone
like the flowers that perish?
Will nothing remain of my name?
Nothing of my fame here on earth?
At least my flowers, at least my songs!
Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin, 15th C. Aztec poet
As our days shorten, and our nights lengthen, the energies of our garden
recede for winter and our thoughts begin turning inward. Our upcoming holidays are very much in keeping with this shift in energies. Halloween, originally called Hallowe’en, or Holy Evening, is a holiday with cross-cultural roots. A closely related Hispanic holiday celebrated at nearly the same time is Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos.
[Jardin Perico, compliments of Carolyn Leigh.]
Dia de los Muertos is a special time in the lives of our Hispanic neighbors when they honor their ancestors by embracing and celebrating those in their families who have passed. They build altars to honor their dearly departed and, as a tribute, prepare their ancestors’ favorite foods. Upon their altars they place candles, the favored foods, and ropes of marigolds, which they view as a symbol of death. I must confess that I learned about these marigold ropes by once returning to a Mexican hotel after a trip to the local market gaily sporting one around my neck and someone discreetly informed me what they were for. So much for understanding local customs. No matter. Lesson learned, and I took it to heart.
When my Border Collie Peaches died two years ago at the foot of my bed I went into the garden and strung marigolds on a thin red cord and then wrapped them lovingly and gently around her beautiful black and white neck, which made me weep the more, but she wholly deserved the honor. A kindly friend helped me carry her body into the back of my car and I drove, slowly, (deliriously) to a crematorium for animals, which, blessedly, Phoenix had. Once there I was determined to see her through to the very end. I pushed past my horrific fears and pain and asked to see what would transpire. They readily accommodated me, without question or hesitation. I was ushered quietly to the back of the small building. Outside on a cement patio stood a tall, stalwart Mexican gentleman who stood beside a simple oven. He opened the door and showed me the deep cavern which would later hold the body of my most precious dog. He told me in gentle and natural terms how he would put three dogs into the oven at a time. And the fires would purify their bodies as fire always does and render them into three piles of bones. Then these people lovingly and carefully put the three piles of bones into three buckets, each labeled. And the three buckets of bones were then carefully transferred into a machine one at a time that would pulverize the bones into a fine fine dust. They were very proud of this particular machine and told me how efficient it was, one of the best. I saw the result of some other person’s doggie’s bones, now a fine powdered grey dust. Dust to dust. All from a star. I’m sure you know. I steeled myself to my grief to allow myself to stay open to what was about to ensue. I had purchased a lovely enameled urn for my beloved Peaches’ powdered bones. They would return this to me at an agreed upon time.
I drove home in stunned silence, without my Peach by my side. She always rode in the passenger seat, accompanying me across country twice, and I don’t think I could have endured driving through the rural South without her. I know for a fact I could not. She was the most gentle BEST dog one could ever have wanted. So good. So conscious. So loving and loyal. And now she was gone.
As I returned over the path over which I’d arrived, I noticed a Unitarian Church on my right I’d not seen before, and I made a mental note to return. Indeed, on the very next Sunday I did return and found myself quite at home. Perhaps I’d found a church I could feel comfortable in? Alas, I felt a seering disappointment when the friendly minister took the pulpit and announced it was his last Sunday, that he was moving on. What am I doing here? His sermon began so:
“A woman had a dream. She dreamed she was walking her dear dog. But as she walked she suddenly realized that this dog had died. She looked around at the pastoral setting in what seemed to her to be a kind of heaven. Before her spread a vast meadow where the dog could run and be happy. And when the woman awoke from the dream she knew this dog was safe and well and would be there when she crossed over, awaiting her.”
I could scarcely contain myself. Tears streamed down my face and I immediately saw that Peaches’ death had required me to follow a specific path to take her to her final destination. That I would notice the church I’d never seen before. That I would arrive the very last day of this minister’s watch over this church. And his message was that my Peaches was fine. Was watching. Was waiting.
This kind of experience one has to stay tuned for. Must be ready to receive.
Must be open to receive. These are the blessings that surround us daily. They are found in the garden, and in every moment of our lives.
Posted on October 17th, 2007 by Kathryn
Filed under: People at Life