Today we continue our late autumn theme of “Death and Life” with a new contributor, Meg Pauken. Our next theme for early winter will be “Beginnings”. Send your writing and art to humanisticpaganism [at sign] gmail.com by December 21, 2013.
It’s unavoidable, the looking back to what was happening last year at this time.
The health of my parents had begun a very rapid decline. It was an intense, emotion-filled and exhausting time.
This morning, I thought about the gradual and then accelerating pace of the narrowing of their lives. First it was Mom forgetting things, then she no longer drove, and finally she walked only with a walker for support. Dad played his last game of golf. The summer condo became their home, and then they moved again to an even smaller apartment. They rid themselves of a lifetime of possessions. Dad took his last steps, unassisted, on February 10, 2012. His car was returned to the dealership last March. There came a point when they no longer left their apartment.
I was reminded of the death of a star: how it collapses in on itself. The energy of its core sucking everything nearby into itself; retracting, at first imperceptibly, then faster and faster until nothing of its previous fiery glory can be detected. All that remains is a black hole.
All that remains except for one thing: the light it gave off that is still traveling through the universe, illuminating far flung planets, being picked up by telescopes unknown.
What if we are like the stars? What if the energy we emit remains in the universe after we are gone, traveling far beyond the spheres we knew, continuing to provide warmth and light?
Our jokes and our stories will continue to be told. Our likeness will appear in later generations. The advice we gave will come to mind (and continue to be disregarded). The love we gave will still be felt. Our energy, our light, radiating on through time and space.
My parents’ words still echo in my head though their physical presence is gone. The habits they inculcated and the values they taught still linger: self-sufficiency, generosity, humor. I think of them often and I tell their stories to my children. The birds at the feeder remind me of them, as does a nice glass of wine. Their energy lingers in our lives, certainly.
So, what if? What if we are like the stars? What energy am I sending off into the universe?
This essay was first published on March 6, 2013 at Tales From the Sandwich Chronicles.
For discussion: What “light” do you most hope will radiate from your life after the death of your “star”?
Meg Pauken is a writer, former lawyer and mother of two living in rural northeastern Ohio, USA. Raised as a Roman Catholic, she is a Unitarian Universalist and has felt the call of paganism since her childhood. She blogs about family and spirituality at Tales from the Sandwich Chronicles.
This Wednesday, we hear from another of our new regular columnists, Maggie Jay Lee, Musings of a Pagan Mythicist: “Gnothi Seauton”.