Archive for June, 2010

The Funeral Train Began in Springfield…

They were very kind to me at airport security. I reported I had both a death certificate and “human remains” that I was carrying onboard. I also had some homeopathic medicines that could not go through the x-ray machine–incidental and ordinary compared to my never, ever in my life having carried a person’s ashes on a plane after they had been stored in my closet for 6 weeks, hidden away from sight where I wouldn’t be reminded what they really were.

I was escorted to a special area when I showed the box to the TSA officer. He read the label, “certified to be the remains of Kenneth H. Jones, died on 3/30/10 and cremated on 4/13/10.” He took no further steps to examine the box and didn’t require me to give him the death certificate either. He wished me well and sent me on my way. The rules say you must carry human remains onboard, you cannot stow them in your check-on bags. Well this made my carry-on bag so heavy I could not lift it to the compartment above my seat. Some nice person helped me both outgoing and landing.

Just like Lincoln’s funeral train bearing the president’s body from town to town, we bore Kenny’s ashes and picture albums, letters from and to Kenny’s parents and sisters, memorabilia from their beloved Island House and a gallon of tears from Los Angeles to Basking Ridge to Bay Head, to West Point Island where they were finally released into Barnegat Bay. We were to make many stops so friends, his family and mine and admirers could hear the stories, look at his history in pictures, say their own prayers, and celebrate his life and how much he was loved by so many.

Ken’s sister Genia, met me at baggage claim and took me to her house where I spent the night. The next day we drove to her summer home on the Jersey shore where her two sisters and their families had already been resting and preparing for the memorial which would be just one day later. We were going to set sail on the family’s beloved sneakbox sailboat called the Frisky, spread his ashes out over the bay and head back to the yacht club where we would gather to go back to Genia’s house for more stories, good food, and more stories and more good food.

There was no wind that morning when we awoke. This could be a problem with four women in a little twelve foot, flat-bottomed sailboat. However by the time we reached the yacht club and Genia gathered us under the flagpole and Gordon delivered the poignant poem about how “I am not here, don’t mourn my body,” the wind had kicked up a bit. This was good news. However in the time it took us to walk out to the very end of the dock where the Frisky was tied, the wind was all but howling. We got in the boat anyway, stowed the box of ashes under the stern and my job was to sit tight with my life vest on and only do exactly what I was told to do by any of Kenny’s three lovely sisters who were the Frisky’s crew.

Trouble brewed when we backed out of the slip and almost capsized. With a couple of swift moves, the girls had righted the boat and corrected a little too much, causing some gallons of water to rush over the side into the boat. Genia exclaimed at this point that we’re not going to make it. With another maneuver the boat sideswiped another boat whose motor had been lifted out of the water such that it dragged across the Frisky’s newly refinished deck causing a nice gash in the varnished surface. At this point, it was all we could do to point the boat back into the slip and get ourselves and the box of ashes off the Frisky and onto dry land again. As we each were given a hand or two to hoist ourselves onto the dock, dear and sweet long-time neighbor, Sal Toucci offered his dock–why don’t we release the ashes from his dock?

Here comes the rub. No one in the family wanted to go anywhere near what was their beloved Island House property (next to dear and sweet, longtime neighbor, Sal Toucci’s dock). Having been in the family for seventy-five years where the entire Jones/Newman family spent every summer of their lives, it was sold in 2006 upon the death of their dear father, and demolished by the new owners to make way for a giant summer home that spanned both lots from side to side and almost back to front. But we knew releasing Kenny’s ashes from Sal Toucci’s dock was the closest to Kenny’s wishes–he had wanted his ashes spread over the bay behind the Island House–an impossibility–but Sal’s–that was entirely doable. We laughed and sensed that Kenny was orchestrating the whole day to come as close to the outcome he wanted as possible.

His sisters and I walked out to the end of the dock, sat down and began taking the box out of the woven bag in which I was carrying it. But the bag, having gotten wet, was now shrinking around the box making it really difficult to handle. We managed to free the box but I just couldn’t open it. I began to cry. I asked if we could say a few words before letting the ashes go–seemed so unceremonious to just pour them out into the water. So I think it was Debbie who began reciting the 23rd Psalm. This tender and plaintiff prayer to God, this exclamation of peace and love and acceptance and knowing God’s presence and protection made me hold on to the box even more tightly and sob even more loudly. I could hear us all breaking. I felt their hands on my hands and one on my back. I was comforted by their presence, knowing we all missed him and loved him and laughed with him and were carrying out his wishes whether we planned to or not. Finally I opened the box and there was yet another step inside–to cut open the tie that held the inner plastic bag shut. Bill came close with his pocket knife to cut open the tie and we held the bag close to the water and let the ashes go downwind. Surprisingly they dissolved into the water instantly.

Somehow this was meaningful to me. They disappeared in a flash, just like his last breath did.

We all took a moment to walk over to the new house, take a look at it and admire it. Sal said they were nice people, only there from June to September–nice people. So Kenny’s plan not only honored their once-beloved Island House, but if I dare interpret the intention of the day, it also included making some kind of peace with it being gone and a new era opening up for family and friends in ways yet to be revealed. And this stop on the funeral train was complete. It was time to move on to the celebration.

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How Spirit Works and How Fear Can Lead to Hiding

It’s been quite a while since I last posted an entry. Been working for the last three weeks and that daily activity takes my mind away from my sorrow and my loss. One of the pleasures of my work is getting my hands into the garden here at Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens. I love the gardens, the shapes and colors of the gardens, the living, loving, alive things and how they change and take shape. In doing things I love to do, I use up some mental and emotional energy in the loving. Oh, a friend told me yesterday that when she realizes she’s sad over the loss of a loved one, she immediately sends that Soul her loving–and as Spirit would have it, the loving comes right back to her in ways she consciously experiences it. Isn’t that wonderful! I’m going to try it myself.

I’ve also continued the task of unboxing things upon things and deciding where they go. The task of notifying a myriad of businesses, associations, and contacts that Ken had died. The task of communicating with hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies. But the most important message today is about how Spirit works. My friend Richard came to me a couple of weeks ago and told me that the night Ken died, he and his partner Kate were overwhelmed with the joy and welcoming they sensed Ken was receiving as his soul left his body. They each had their own experience of this without conferring with each other until afterward. It was as if they themselves were present on the realms of Spirit where these welcomes take place. Indeed, if I understand the teachings of the Spiritual Heart, some part of their consciousness (their own souls) was present on those realms and they were conscious of it just as Ken was conscious of his Soul throughout the last few months of his life here on earth.

Remember I told you about my other minister friend who had the same experience as he prayed outside our door the night Ken died? And remember I told you about how my practitioner friend helped Ken realize that his grandfather’s soul was present to support his transition? And how John Morton, the Spiritual Director of MSIA, told me not to worry about missing the moment that Ken would leave his body, that I would be called, and indeed I was called out of sleep to awaken just minutes before he stopped breathing.

So when I am conscious enough to move my awareness to the Spirit that resides in me, I am comforted, I am hopeful that my future has purpose and even more loving than I’ve ever experienced before, and I know my birth family and my spiritual family love me and help take care of me by praying for me, by giving me space to do those tasks, and by asking if I need anything, and helping me dig into the boxes, and listen to me tell the stories I have written about here, and look at the photo album of his life, and make DVD’s of the memorial service and our wedding, and CD’s of our ordinations and the interview in the New Day Herald.

In a couple of weeks I’m traveling to the East Coast where his family will hold two more memorials for Kenny. With me I take a bunch of memorabilia and his ashes. Cremated human remains, TSA calls it. And a death certificate to prove that the box indeed contains these remains. Impersonal and yet a daily occurence on any airline on any given day. Deeply moving how such a common thing can be so profound when it’s someone as close as a husband with whom one has spent nearly every day for years upon years. I still think he will walk in the door any moment.

My sweet and darling husband was no saint, at least not until the last couple of months of his life, and oh now I’m remembering, not even then. He left with some secrets that I’m only now beginning to understand. In the big scheme of things, not terrible things, but what is important is that my fears fed the part of him that was compelled to hide. I was very outspoken about what I feared and that made him hide what I feared. I know this sounds vague so I’ll try to be more specific–just as a way to get clear enough for me to let go of the fears and for you to understand how fears could tempt one to hide.

I am highly sensitive to cigarette smoke. I avoid it wherever I go and choke up immediately if I smell it. Ken continued to smoke about 4 or 5 cigarettes (the natural kind) throughout our marriage on the sneak. Never in my presence and always on breaks at work or in the car with the windows wide open. I never found out he still smoked after telling me he had quit years ago until he was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. And that’s when he really quit. I was shocked but oddly enough I wasn’t surprised because he knew how to hide so well. And when he or it was found out, he didn’t seem to mind taking the consequences–his nearest and dearest being mad as a bat, withholding love and unable to communicate. Somehow my inability to have any altitude in these situations fit perfectly into his pattern of being scolded for things he did out of his own compulsions. This is only one example of many that showed me two people could play into each other’s negative patterns just by being who they are, human beings with foibles and weaknesses.

To this day I still don’t know the dynamic of Kenny’s childhood that created his ability to hide. I do know the dynamic in my childhood that produced fears–doing things that my parents would disapprove of, that would create reasons to punish me, that reflected in my mother’s eyes as she glared at me ready to pounce. Like flashlights under the covers at night. Like shaving my legs, and wrestling with the boys. Waiting to do the dinner dishes until my grandma got up to do them. Wearing my skirts too short. And necking! Crazy isn’t it! Still together Kenny and I created our own brand of miasm that was hard to crack. It only began to disintegrate when I realized what we were doing. Naming it started its downfall. Thank God because it freed me up enough to give my life over to serving Kenny in his hour of greatest need. I am blessed. I am grateful, I am willing to serve as my life’s work. I pray for my Kenny’s Soul and ask him to watch over me in my elder years as I do my best to demonstrate who I have become as a result of our relationship.

In this my love reaches out to you to brighten your awareness of your own divinity. God bless you.

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