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In Memorial

I was recently asked to guide a memorial service. It was a rather stunning request to me. I honestly thought they’d change their minds.

They didn’t. I did it.

I’ve been leading events for quite a long time. Some have been full of people. Many have gone well, according to many involved. I’ve been the priest at a wedding. I’ve helped organize protests. Guided prayers barefoot in the snow, in the woods at night. I’ve never done anything like this before.

This man, Michael, loved the trees and the waterways. He spent his life learning sacred and spiritual arts of many cultures. He was a living challenges to expand our sense of family to include the whole World. So we talked about the Earth and the many cultures Michael honored and learned from. He found harmony within himself not in spite of the diversity of his experience, but because of it.

His wife at his death is from Pakistan. It was deeply important to him that we wrestle with our cultural willingness to exclude Islam from global unity. Somehow we continue to war with Islamic countries. Michael believed this stems from a deep drive to keep someone as an enemy. As a way to avoid ourselves. As a way to project our inner pain.

Then we talked about the surrender that comes with the death of a beloved. Many people carry stuck energy, the remnants of unpleasant relationships that they learned to struggle through, without ever fully healing them. When someone dies this can be all the more challenging. The sense of regret and anguish fester in extremely unhealthy ways. So we meditated to remind people of the worst feelings they shared with Michael. To presence the anger and whatever sadness and regret remained. Then we imagined a sacred fire in the middle of the room, and offered these feelings into it.

As if we were driving, and trusting the exhaust system without describing its mechanics, We did not mention chakras. We continued in this manner, using exercises that are based in vibrational harmony. We focused into more tangible questions. How did he challenge and enable you to become your best self? What does his spirit wish for you as he departs? How can you live a richer deeper life through his inspiration? The heat of the fire became this source, as we drew this strength from the same fire that transmuted the pain.

Michael was wealthy, as one of his dear friends described him, in the things that truly matter. Such an inspiring force was full of contradictions and tangled memories. When someone believes that death is an absolute end, such memories can truly become detrimental to life. So we talked about life beyond death, and how deeply Michael trusted in his own transcendence. I asked them to trust this, inspired through his faith.

Then we talked about the Heart. Our hearts love, that is what hearts do. The physical Heart feeds blood to cancer. It doesn’t discern. The shadow of this is that cancer must be cut out through other means. The gift of this, is that our hearts will continue to support the full range of our feelings, offering us the opportunity to heal and transform with them. The temptation is to avoid pain, and yet when we turn of difficult feelings, we sever our ability to feel entirely. Better to engage them, feel, find support and keep feeling. The only way out is through.

Then I had them stand, as I smiled. Michael’s family and friends were broad. Many of them struggled with his environmental and spiritual activism. So I asked them ‘what is the insult commonly hurled at environmentalists?’

‘Treehugger!’ Many responded. So I had them engage in tree pose. Feel the lifeforce of a living plant, with roots reaching into the Earth. Let these roots teach you to feel spiritual roots. Breathe and believe in them. Empower them and draw life from within the Earth we share.

“Thank you Michael. Thank you for inspiring us to believe in the Earth, and the gifts of many cultures. Thank you for being brave, willing to speak out the challenges and disagreements that so many people avoid. Thank you for loving the gifts of the Earth. Cherishing hot drinks, good music and baseball.

Thank you. Thank you for your life Michael. Thank you for challenging us to be present and honest. Authentic and real. Thank you for challenging us to take risks and learn from sources that we may fear as too distant to what we are. Thank you for loving life in its simple and profound pleasures. Thank you for creating community wherever you went. Thank you for your life.”

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