June has been a month of grieving for me and my family. One of our dogs died suddenly the very first day of the month. We are dog people. We danced with him in a constant marathon of love and joy. I still have difficulty putting words to our grief.
Then I put on a conference I had agreed to plan as a part of a grant for a nonprofit that I work for. Event planning is something I can do but usually choose not to. To me, conferences are like weddings. You get everything planned and along the way your stress level causes you to overdose on chocolate and you cry puddles of tears over the fact that someone accidentally shrunk your favorite sweater when the real reason you’re crying is that one of your speakers cancelled at the last minute. I was miserable to be around for about two weeks. I blamed God and the Moon and British Petroleum for all the things I wasn’t getting around to do or settle into for myself.
Then, just as I was starting to embrace joy again, my mentor and dear friend died suddenly. She was 86 years old and having good days and bad. She hated feeling out of sorts and would have chosen the sudden exit over a long drawn out illness. But I still feel cheated out of a last visit.
Those are the bad moments of the past month. But the good moments lasted much longer than just an ordinary June in an ordinary year.
I had ten years of unconditional love from a dog who was born and died during a rainstorm. Catching a tennis ball gave him more joy than almost anything in the world. Noah taught my daughter how to be a great mommy to a loving and gentle pet. He read with children at the library and comforted pre-schoolers who were exposed to domestic violence. Pulling on his ears, our granddaughter would gently place her Barbies on his back for a ride around the living room. And now when she spends the night, she asks me where he’s gone. Our other dogs grieve and we all look for him in the usual spaces.
And Betty Spencer taught me the value of connecting people for the betterment of humanity. Once in awhile, I would pop over to check on her and soak up her energy. We’d talk for awhile and she’d smile in this sly, knowing way and suddenly say, “Here’s why I called you here today.” As if she had some telepathic influence over my life, she would go on to outline some person or project I needed to be connected to. And I would agree, no matter how much stuff was on my plate. Because when Betty thought something was important, it was more than important than any of us ever realized. Her energy came through her eyes, grabbing hold of you and commanding you to pay attention. Her exuberance was barely contained in her average frame. And there is a temporary void in Mississippi and South Louisiana – but one that we will fill with our memories, our plans, and our mandates to carry on the work that she began in all of us.
So the inevitable losses that cause us so much grief also bring us a deep knowing that our lives are better for the beings that we share them with. I will find a container for my grief and open it slowly when I need to. Memories will flood in and out as I discover one of Noah’s tennis balls under a bed or come across a note Betty wrote to me across a meeting room.
For today, I choose to mention them in the hope that just a piece of their peaceful and loving energy will flow on. In very different ways, theirs was an amazing journey of soulful purpose.