Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

March 28, 2006

a gentle brush with someone else's death

I had a really interesting experience lately that I haven't found closure for yet, so I'm all wiggly and agitated about it (although less so than when I started writing this post). I friend in the Baha'i community died this past Friday. Rachel Weller. She was 100 and SO ready to go. Ever since I've known her (about 10 years) when asked how she is, she always replied 'clinging to the wreckage'- and she really meant it. Well her grip loosened last week when she had a couple of falls and became weak and lost consciousness. Her son knew she was near the end, and the Baha'is here (who all loved her) swung into action and came to pray by her bedside so she wouldn't be alone and also just to say good-bye. I got to go there and sit with her for about an hour. It was a really great, intense experience. A couple of us sang prayers and songs quietly that we thought she would like and said prayers and I held her hand for a while. It was so sweet. A little unnerving though. She was breathing hard kind of like I did in labor! (those transitions-birth and death- seem to be so alike) And she would stop for a second and then breathe quietly for a while and I kept being scared that she was going to die right there in front of me and I wasn't sure I could handle that. Well she didn't die right then, and I also picked up a book of poetry from her bedside table and read a couple of them to her. They were so sweet I copied one down to take home (I'll post it later). I felt like I had been given a precious gift in those moments. Appreciation of the preciousness and sanctity of life and the clarity that transitions give you, things like that. I really wanted to do something more for her and be involved helping in any way I could. I got my chance the next day. She died the next morning and I was asked to help prepare her body for burial in the way Baha'is do that evening. It was very simple- just wrapping her up lovingly in a white cotton cloth, putting a special Baha'i ring on her finger, and putting some good smelling rose water on her face and hands. Doesn't that sound nice? Kind of sounds like taking care of a baby. All the while, others were praying outside the room. I would like to gloss over the fact that I was dealing with a dead body in a very icky, sort of dirty and messy, medical-y room in a mausoleum- out of respect for Rachel- but I will say that I was not ready for the grim reality of it. It felt very raw and bright and more real than I really wanted to get. Very much harder than the sitting with her that I had done 24 hours earlier. I'm getting a little shaky and hot and buzzing in the ears as I write about it. It's going to take me a while to really integrate that experience with the knowledge that her spirit was elsewhere, happy and free, and that I was just looking at the temple of her soul, getting it ready to return to the earth. As easily as I can say those words, they never really meant a whole lot except a nice idea until I had this experience. I tried to get a little farther in the integration of it all by helping out with her memorial service- arranging great armloads of tulips and cutting up oranges and strawberries, etc. but it didn't do a whole lot for me. It was nice to be to the celebrating her life part and past the ceremony of death part. I ended up missing the storytelling part where people talked about her life though because the kids had had enough and needed me right then. So I'm still trying to put it all together. How about if I tell you, dear reader, about Rachel? Maybe that will help me. I'll do that in the next post.

Posted by Bahiyyih at March 28, 2006 01:38 PM