A Pandemic and a Funeral
Inside the universal processes of creation and destruction, there is a planet with a people in much disarray. They have lost their connection to the planet by forgetting it sources their life. This has caused great damage to the systems that sustain them and imperiled their survival. Some are waking up to this, but their fear is only intensified in having done so, as they cannot shake the feeling with each responsive action they take, that it is “too little, too late.” The consequences of their anemic cures are showing up in a planet increasingly uninhabitable. The planet is doing what it does to any creature that extends beyond the niche it was given.
Into their uneasiness has come a pandemic. The virus is feared for the speed at which it spreads and can manifest in a deadly pneumonia. The people have been asked to stop their activities and stay away from others, to put themselves in a bubble for protection. Some are relieved to be asked to bubble up and turn in, imagining rest and quiet. Others are angry, as they don’t want their choices restricted or controlled. Chatter abounds as people engage with ideas of how and when to enter their bubble, and whether that bubble is a punishment or grace. As they debate what to do, the virus continues to be what it is, and do what it does.
Inside the roiling concerns of the world is a woman who has entered a bubble of her own choosing, and not as a fearful response to the virus. Though the precarious position of those beyond her is in her awareness, she is focused on more immediate and close concerns. For she has decided to walk towards death as she would have it be, rather than wait for the one her ALS would give. This requires an unflagging courage to do what is necessary to make her body stop, which she is mostly able to abide in. Sometimes however, she resents the consequences of taking the death reins--the diminished strength from withholding nourishment, the congested digestive system, the eternal thirst, the fogged drugged mind. She tries to relax her vigilance and resume the behaviors of a woman who expects to live, but once outside the bubble, she sees the disease has not stopped being what it is and doing what it does.
To help her stay inside the dying process, there is a doula who is also a friend. She too is aware of the boiling beyond and the risk it places her in, but she has promised to care for her friend and chooses to still give it. There are tasks she is managing, like organizing vigils and grave-digging. There are others she orchestrates, such as arranging for an intuitive healer to attune the woman’s metaphysical energies with her resolve, and read the readiness of the spirit realm to receive her. Then there are tasks she is feeling into and listening for--like what is unresolved that needs attention for her friend to feel complete and let go—relationships, fears, and attachments. She soothes her friend with comforting touch, and flags her courage by reading Rumi’s and Rilke’s promise poems of the Great Presence. She is doing what a doula does, while being with the challenge and risk of doing it.
To have the strength and skill to be the thread her friend holds in the bubble, the doula has entered her own to integrate what is. Once in, the fear beyond her is muted. She sees that the work she must do for her friend to be able to transition in peace, she must also do for herself. This requires listening for what needs healing and making an offering to what she uncovers. Her listening brings awareness to her long habit of taking care of others before self, and the likelihood she would put outward duties in the place of feelings over losing her friend. And so she is checking herself for what is unfelt and unexpressed. Another is the temptation to intellectualize experiences rather than be in them. But death in its unfathomableness, is asking that she allow meaning the time and space to make itself. Then there is her stubborn doubt in the connection between her power and what happens around her, and for this she is practicing bringing the glowing light of her bubble into her backbone, trusting her good intent will energetically fortify her friend. Her bubble helps her see with more clarity how being herself is the choice that results in more love.
As the momentum of the woman’s dying process begins to accumulate and intensify, so does the virus, and the doula must bring it in to the sacred space of her friend’s dying, explaining how it will change her wishes for a house full of vigil-ers and a three-day at-home wake. She encourages the dying woman to stay with her process, and have faith that her bubble is a golden sphere surrounded by light and love. The dying woman tells the doula that the bubble suits her. In it, she feels less need and more faith. In it, she holds the hearts of those who love her. She is making the choice to give herself over to death, by feeding it the fullness of her satisfaction in the many fine relationships and experiences her life has wrought.
When the hour is close, her community of friends and family light their candles and pray, sending their energetic wishes for a peaceful transition from their sheltered-in spaces to hers. Her visible process in the bubble has shrunk now to just breath. She has turned to obey what has come for her and communicates no more with those she is leaving. Her daughter and sister have in their words and deeds, disengaged their heartstrings from her and looped them back to their own. They can trust she is seeing her way to the other side from a spirit that stopped the chanting CD which had played continuously for days. In the same moment, it exploded the glass holding a lit candle, which she’d placed on a shrine created for her mother who had passed three weeks before. The ones to receive her have arrived, and are doing whatever it is they do to help her make the choice to move towards them.
Soon after, the chrysalis of her bubble breaks, and she floats free into the dark night. She is now part of what all the other bubbles drift inside of—the love and fear, the risk and surety. Daughter and doula bathe and dress her body in the cloak of protection she will wear in the grave. They lay her on a draped and decorated table by the bay window. The keening begins, and as it rises her family and friends find their solidarity has been unleashed by the calamity of the virus. They choose to creatively do what they know is right to do. When it is light, they come to the window pane, see her death and take it in, and send their deep respect for how she walked towards and greeted what came. They line the streets to the cemetery with daffodils, bowing and gifting her with flowers as her body passes by. In the time of a deadly virus and debilitated planet, her death has released a flood of grateful bubbles, for now she will become the earth again and give it the nourishment of all the love she ever received and made.
A week after her death, the people are ordered to stay home. For the doula, there is relief in the removal of the temptation of choice. She does not want to return to the world of hyper-activity, and cannot find any interest in contributing to the chatter beyond. After being beside her friend in the moment of death, she wants to be in the intimacy of real things small and close--planting seeds, stroking her daughter’s hair, putting her warm body in the cold river. In these experiences, she feels her fatigue fade and her generosity rise. She would like to stay inside her bubble and never leave it, not because it isolates her from the world as it is, but because of how it intensifies the full feeling of enough-ness in what she has to give it. From the immensity of that feeling, she understands something of the great vastness her friend has entered. Before it is her turn to dissipate, she wants to open as far as she can into that mystery, so that she can die once and for all to living as if she is small.
Now she can say, that bubbles in their fragility, are powerful things. If we enter them knowing they only last a little while, we take the pause they offer to hone our process and choose our response to the world with all its difficulty and joy. In the glow of a bubble’s iridescent translucence, we see we are never without access to the Source of courage and heart. Small creatures that we are, the vastness in which our bubbles float is only bearable after all, through great love. When we can unearth the limitlessness of that love inside us and connect it back to the heart of the world, we are ready when our bubbles thin and break. We slip out of our skin to merge with what is and always will be.
This is what we are. And this is what we do.