A child has become silent as heaven birthed a new angel. Just hours after I wrote about little Bennett's courageous fight for life – he passed on. While his spirit displayed relentless courage, his kidneys lost their power. It's a fresh reminder that in this life our survival is fused with the body. In the end, we do not own our body – it is merely on lease. From the earth our body will rise and back to the earth it will descend. It is the cycle. Yet part of the cycle is continuance: from the soil that our body returns to, life begins again. Whether we fuel the blossom of a flower or tiny particles that once again return to the womb – new life is fertilized by old. And that is just the physical body. I believe that souls traveling without bodies fill the space around us. The air that appears empty to our naked eye, science shows is actually a plenum. It's when I lost touch with you as a physical soul that I was able to see your spirit glitz and shimmer in the space around me – magic, love, and memory filling what I previously thought was a void. In the immediate days and weeks following your death, I often saw strange lights, unearthly movements, and fractal shapes in places where I had always seen solidity. Because I was raw, I was open. With rawness, comes an ability to see things that our trained minds stopped seeing long ago – connection with other layers and realms beyond human comprehension. It was faith flirting with me. "Believe in more," she said. And because I was seeing the unbelievable and because I had no energy not to, I chose to believe.
Every evening before you and I went to sleep, we offered our nightly gratitudes as we closed the blinds overlooking the city-lights of Boulder and the acres of majestic mountains over which we reigned. The first night I was back in our bed after you died, Kevin came into the room and sat with me as I continued that ritual of thanks, even in a moment when thankfulness seemed impossible. There have been days (and weeks) when I simply don't open the blinds so that I can avoid my gratitude prayer, but mostly – I still keep this ritual. Yesterday morning, my first day back in my bed after ten days in Oklahoma, I opened the blinds. The beauty that unfolded as the blinds lifted took my breath away. I had to remind myself it was not a postcard, it was as real as is humanly possible.
Last night, after I'd received the news of Bennett's death, I sat on the phone with Kevin for a long time. He shared the experience of his day with me. His voice was heartbroken and his sobs were real, but he knew that Bennett's death was both bitter and sweet. This sweet child spent two-and-a-half of his three-years fighting a battle with a terminal condition. He had fought his battle and won it with graceful surrender. Kevin shared the story of what, through his words and my lens, was a truly peaceful passing. A crossing over where the whole family was there, where there was time for good-byes, and during which Kevin played guitar and sang Bennett's favorite song as he took his last struggled breaths in his body and his first in freedom. Earlier in the evening, when I knew the respirator had
been removed and Bennett's last moments were near, I imagined you – an angel – kneeling, beaming smile, and arms wide open... ready to catch Bennett in a huge, loving hug. At the end of our phone conversation, as I closed the blinds in my bedroom, we said what we were grateful for. "A peaceful passing," Kevin said. "Yes. And I'm grateful Teddy has a new friend up there now," I said, guiltily noticing envy's pinprick.
Death is not peaceful to living. What we
don't understand, we choose to reject. In some ways, I've come to
accept death. With the passing of this poor child, I see that death can
be a untroubled destination. Death can be a gentle surrender. It can
catch those who struggle with peaceful and loving wings. With you, death
plucked you suddenly and unfairly – you were not ready for it. None of
us were ready. But sometimes, death can be more gracious. Death can
offer relief. That doesn't mean the loss is any less painful,
horrifying, or confusing. I don't undermine the suffering, trauma, or
grief that will ensue. I don't compare. I simply offer a death an
apology for my hatred of him, a loosening up of the reigns. I see that
he can be both bitter and sweet.
My deepest condolences go out to Bennett's parents and family. I admire his mother Aimee's dedication and undying
love for her son. A mother that could love so deeply that she held her child as he died naturally, instead of coerce him to live a little bit longer, in unconscious torture. Her selfless acceptance of
his fate warmed my empty womb. I'm thankful for the heartfelt
conversations we shared over the past couple weeks as we sat by
Bennett's bedside. We
talked about grief and suffering through the lenses of both the
struggling and the departed. We talked about how strength doesn't apply
during tragedy, it's surrendering to instinct. Healing wishes and
tremendously big hugs go to my dear friend, Kevin. I will be here as his
ally and his support as he boards a train of grief while he is still
congruently riding on another. My prayers of peace travel to little
Bennett as he relinquishes the grip on his spent body, takes his place
as an angel, and lets his spirit twinkle in the air we breathe.