December 2nd is a sadly significant day for our family. It marks the anniversary of the murder (at the hands of the police) of Woody, our best family friend, whose untimely and unnecessarily voilent death occurred on this day in 2001, not three months after the events of 9/11. Interestingly, on the day Woody was killed, we were in New York City visiting my great-aunt Theresa, who at the time was around 112 years old. At her advanced age, straddling three centuries, she managed to outlive Woody by three months.
Our dear Woody---who was my wife's former partner, my son's best friend, mentor and honorary uncle, and my closest confidante---is as sorely missed now as he was five years ago. As much as I am able to embrace death as merely a continuation of life on another energetic and spiritual plane, his physical absence from our lives and home is still a palpable emptiness that has persisted over time.
The 2nd of each month also marks yet another month that our dear beloved dog Sparkey is gone. Sparkey and Woody were joined at the hip, twin flames who are inextricably linked in my mind due to their many adventures together over the years prior to Woody's death. When Woody would walk through our door, he would always immediately drop to the floor and allow the dogs to lick him ceaselessly, covering his red beard, mustache, eyes, and cheeks with their kisses of greeting. He would giggle as he lay there, the dogs intent on their right (and responsibility) to slick him down with joy and gusto. Once he was done greeting the dogs, we were next, and his entry was almost always a source of upliftment for all. Rene would have his "uncle" and playmate, I would have my best male friend, and Mary would have her old friend for whom she functioned as confidante, maternal figure, and spiritual sister.
When Sparkey died in September of 2006, we carried his golden and red body to his freshly dug grave in our yard. His coat always reminded me of Woody's hair and beard in its orange-red brilliance. It was like burying a part of Woody that day. Now a small dogwood (purchased and lovingly planted by our son Rene) sits on Sparkey's grave, some of Woody's and Tulane's ashes and Rene's baby teeth mixed with the rich soil of loss.
This first week in December carries with it a great deal of energy reflecting loss and grief. Yesterday, December 1st, used to be my parents' wedding anniversary up until their divorce in 1976 when I was 12 years old. Tomorrow, December 3rd, will mark three months since my step-father's death on September 3rd. Finally, the next day---December 4th---will mark what would have been my mother's and step-father's 30th wedding anniversary. Multiple blows of grief and loss billow through this week, and I/we just roll with the punches.
Still, I am grateful. These beings have fed me with their friendship and loyalty, adding immeasurable quality to my life's trajectory. My step-father (80), Sparkey (14), and Theresa (112) each died from natural causes---pancreatic cancer, renal failure, and old age, respectively---and they were all considerably old (especially Theresa!) based upon their respective species' life expectancy.
As for Woody, his demise was premature and tragic, although I give thanks in this moment for the wonderful times we shared together. Since we were both born in 1964, we had shared visions of our middle age and old age together, and had always looked forward to celebrating our 40th birthdays together. Sadly, we were robbed of that opportunity, and he left me to celebrate my birthdays without him---and there will doubtless be many, many more before I am ready to join him in the Great Beyond.
Woody's loss helps me to more fully appreciate and understand the loss experienced daily by people the world over who lose their loved ones to violence. Granted, I did not watch him be killed---a fate suffered by many individuals in Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, L.A., The Congo, and elsewhere---but he was still robbed from us, wrenched from our lives, and he is sorely missed.
So, here it is 5am and I am awake again. Morning has broken, mourning has broken, and we stand on this troubled planet looking up at the stars, wondering how our dearly departed are faring in their new manifestations, in whatever form that may take. Sparkey, Tulane, Theresa, Woody, and the many others: your days here are not forgotten, your departure still hurts, but we bless you and send you on your way. You are released, and when our blessed release comes, we will also know the sweet surrender of leaving this mortal coil, and entering those realms unknown to those of us still embodied.
May all beings be free. May all beings be happy. May all beings be free of suffering.