I went to a funeral today.
Aside from the politics, the rhetoric, and the media bloodbath—life went on outside of those parameters. Life still ended, too.
My coworker’s father passed away last week. I am lucky to have a job where my coworkers feel comfortable enough to ask us for support in such vulnerable times.
I must admit; I struggled hard this morning. The dark clouds and the rain mirrored the despair in my heart. I had an unholy rage burning a hole inside of me. I wanted to burn everything down and at the same time hide in a corner and never come out again into a world which hates me and everything I love. I wanted to cry and to scream and to annihilate anyone who contributed to the source of my pain.
It was hard to put aside my own grief and fear and anger to be there—mentally and emotionally—for my colleague. I had lashed out at my family. I was snappish, irritable, and sarcastic to some of my other colleagues who brought up what happened last night. I did not have the energy to hold back and be polite.
So, sitting silently in the pew waiting for the service to begin, I stewed. I teared up. I hated myself and I especially hated the world. But I tried to keep it at bay. I did a little bit of shadow work, a little bit of conversation with that part of me that was “acting out”. Now I am aware that the piece was the part which most identifies with Hillary Clinton. The rejection was just too much for me. In my vulnerability I allowed myself to be taken over by the shadow of the Scorned Woman. The Nasty Woman. All those parts of myself I was forced to reject for being too angry, too emotional, too power-hungry, too aggressive, and too manipulative. Too…Hillary Clinton-esque.
I got my answer about what specifically was acting out, but I did not know what to do. I did everything I could in silence; grounding, asking the Goddess to hold some of my pain, promising to keep talking to my shadow if she would just give me peace during the funeral. It was hard and it was not really working. The persona still snuck up and kept stealing my concentration with gnashing teeth and screeching vengeance. I did not want to break down and make a scene.
Then the service began. And it began with a rousing song performed by the gospel choir.
Oh, did I forget to tell you? This service was in a historically black church. Part of me was shocked into some kind of mental re-wiring. And the first conscious thought I had, unencumbered by my shadow, was about the Black community in America.
They know they are going to survive this, I realized as I watched in awe as the cloud of grief hanging over me and probably hanging over everyone was lifted as if by a fresh breeze. They are unsurprised, but undaunted. They’ve survived so much worse.
The mark of good liturgy, I think, is when you are taken through a path with sure hands. When my thoughts drifted to darker musings, the preacher told me to read the obituary or to sing along to the music. I could connect with the story which was unfolding before my eyes. The story of a man—practically a stranger–who lived a hardworking life and who had a message of hope in his passing.
The preacher told us this man kept getting lost on his way to Sunday bible study because the church is huge. But he never gave up. He made sure to find that place of hope and learning, of soul growth. He had the determination to create a bedrock of faith to hold him when he needed it most.
The preacher spoke to the grief and the struggles faced by the immediate death of a loved one, but he also named the trials everyone in the room were facing. He named the uncertainty of the world outside of the chapel. He acknowledged we did not leave our fears and our struggles at the door. He named it, and he told us stories about finding the places which give us hope. He reminded us to be unwavering in our determination to move forward and to find support.
This morning I woke up with the death of America in my eyes. No hope of redemption, just survival.
This little pagan is not afraid to take wisdom and comfort from other faiths when invited. I came back with a different sort of belief. This is the America I believe in:
I believe in an America the slaveholding, short-sighted founding fathers could not dare dream.
I believe in an America not currently enshrined in constitutions, laws, buildings, and institutions. I do not believe in the America born out of oppression, genocide, and poverty.
I believe in the America tended by the black community like the one I sat with today. I believe in an America which resides in the generative connections of true community. I believe in an America where leaders open the way for us through compassion and hope.
I believe in the America imagined by the water protectors in Standing Rock and carried in the bones of their ancestors.
I believe in the America my fellow activists, stewards, healers, and artists are creating with the tools they’ve gained from hope, hardship, and a faith that we can do better.
I believe in an America which has never existed, not really. I believe in an America which can only exist when the current nation is washed away in a united, conscious effort. When the pillars of white supremacy, misogyny, and unhindered destruction of the earth are uprooted and destroyed once and for all.
In the past year, I have had reoccurring dreams of a storm just on the horizon. I have dreamed about running from the storm and hiding from it. Well, the storm is here. My shadow is still here. My pain is still here. But I feel like, in this pit, I’ve been thrown a rope. I am thankful for the preacher and the church which gave comfort to someone I care about as well as myself. I am thankful for the people who have given me tools to return to my work without floundering in fear, anger, and grief.
Let us mourn and rage and fight, but let us also throw each other ropes. Let us remember we are here because of those who survived. And we must survive, too. We must not only survive, but we must love and play and work towards a better world. We must weather the storm. We must remain vigilant in the face of shadows. We must learn from our mistakes and we must never, never let each other lose hope.