Friday, 21 June 2013

Remembering the Stories that Were, Never Can Now Be and Somehow Still Are

I chatted about zombies this morning, and I'll now speak about the dead. (Well, there's a good correlation, you have to admit.)

Summer Solstice Feasting

Roomy and I use the Summer Solstice as our day to remember the fuzzy critters who have left us.  When we moved in together in 2007, we had four old cats between the two of us.  We now have one of those left, and everyone else has quietly left us since.  The first to pass away was the youngest of the old cats, and it was on the Summer Solstice.  So, on this day, as on every first day of summer, we feast and remember. (Other cats mentioned here and here.)

We remember our friends' animals, as well, and all of the critters who came and went, making powerful or subtle changes in our lives.  For the time they are with us, they are family, too, and today, as we reach the zenith of light and begin our slow descent into darkness, so we remember them.

Remembering the Stories-That-Never-Can-Be-Yet-Are

I'm lucky in that I've never lost a close family member (fuzzy family members aside).  I've lost some friends, but no one extremely close to me.  But the thing about celebrating a life - any life - is that it's celebrating the missing stories and chapters, not just the ones that were written.

Roomy grew up very close to her grandparents.  I love hearing her stories about them, and I'm glad I had the chance to meet them.  They were wonderful people.  I didn't know any of my grandparents very well.  Both of my grandmothers passed on before I bothered with memory, and my grandfathers when I was very young.  I have only fleeting memories, mostly fragments of light resurrected by sights and scents. 

But Roomy remembers her grandparents well. We were chatting recently about life after death.  I'm not sold on anything - I've always figured I'd find out when I was dead, so why waste all this important time on the question now?  But I asked Roomy if she imagined she'd see her grandparents again someday.  She thought about it, as Roomy generally thinks things through (a bit different from my approach), and then she said: "I don't think they've ever really left, in a way." 

Roomy isn't overly religious/spiritual/whatchamacallit, but the stories of her family are still ongoing.  She'll still think of telling her grandmother about something, or sharing a tidbit from her day.  Her mother, who visited last weekend, said the very same thing. "I'd have called her (her mother), but then thought, no, I guess I won't do that."  They're very straightforward people, the type to just get back up, dust themselves off and keep going, so it's always fascinating to me when they reveal something so personal, so deeply ingrained into their character, with just a simple throw away sentence.  Makes me love them more for it.

Celebrating the Things that Still Are

Humans are complex individuals.  We're physically trapped in time but mentally free to explore any realm, any possibility, any dream.  It's easy to get trapped into thinking of all the things we just never had, and those we never will. It's the consuming game of "I'll be happy if I just have this one other thing" that's never settled into anything more than more sorrow and debt. 

So I like to think of all the wonderful things I have as I remember all the things I've lost.  My blessings are so many that I couldn't count them all, and I consider myself lucky for it.  I have a wonderful family, friends, cats, a lovely house, and my life is generally drama-free. A second niece is about to be born any day now, and I can't wait to meet her and re-discover the world through her eyes. I love this life.

Celebrate Now

I celebrate all of these things during the Summer Solstice not because I'm overly spiritual, but because the timing makes more sense for me than the traditional time of reflection: New Year's. It's cold then, and the winter blues might have settled in already.  There are too many distractions.  Too many commitments, too many expectations, too much food to eat. 

But in the summer, it's quiet.  It's not freezing.  I can go outside and actually smell the flowers.  I can look at life as something more than an endless white landscape of darkness.  My mind is more at ease and my body more solid.  It's a perfect time for remembering all that has passed and all that still is, and to dream and plan for an even better tomorrow.

I hope you'll take some time to reflect as well, on this, the longest day of the year.