Yesterday, I spent the day celebrating the life of a woman who lives here in Santa Cruz. She has been living with cancer for about 20 years, but her little body is finally unable to fight it off… She’s dying in an active sense now.
Some of my friends put together a celebration of her life and invited her community to take part in the event, the ceremony more like, which was awesome and touching. Frail from the ravages of the disease, Zeuf took center stage in front of hundreds of lovers of her… people whose lives have been touched by her life. We all circled around her at the cliffs in front of her favorite surf spot and people offered up memories of times with her, sang songs, shared how her life impacted them and people laughed as well as cried.
My little granddaughter was with me for the day, as well as my beautiful daughter and her daughter. The little ones understand little of the how’s and why’s people were all clumped together and talking. But, strangely they were attentive and present.
Mira, who is 2, almost 3 finally asked me what we were doing… why were people crying and talking. When I explained what was happening, she looked away for a moment from her Tutu’s eyes and seemed to think about what she had heard. It was only much later when we had met up with her parents for dinner and she was sharing her day with them that she offered up what her interpretation of her time without them was all about.
“We was at a lady’s dying celebration. We was celebrating her dying.”
What a concept.
Most of our lives are spent avoiding death in any form. We work at keeping things alive and lament death in most forms. It’s as though we are allergic to the cycle of life to a degree, but I’m no different than others in wanting things to thrive around me, especially people I care for.
In this case, my relationship with Zeuf is not directly close, although she and I have many people who are our closest friends together. It has seemed that although I am not personally in Zeuf’s life day to day, she is in my dreams often. In that way, I feel very close to her and find that over the years of knowing her, I’ve loved her as much as her dearest friends do. And I have been a part of her support team in very invisible ways. Attending her celebration was essential and important, as her life has been full of how to help others be all that they can be.
… In other words, the richness of life is not measured by what we acquire, but who we inspire.
(photo by Vaughn Visnius)
Zeuf has touched thousands of people with her warm and generous heart and brave response to the struggle she’s conducted to live at all. Her life is a testament to the activity of her soul … and to the power of love.
This time of year we are all witness to the death of the year and the growing season. It’s harvest time, even though the obvious signs of decline are around us. The leaves are turning to yellow, the streams are quiet and whatever water is there hardly moves. There is a death happening, but we always celebrate the fullness of the season and the result of the life lived.
As with the end of this year, there is the promise of another growing time to come and we all know this to be the cycle of life. For obvious reasons, we don’t generally accept a person’s dying with the same kind of celebration, but in a way there is little difference. Even though our bodies decline and die, our spirit never dies. We live eternally and remain close to everyone who remains “earth side” after we transition out of our particular body.
In the case of Zeuf, this may be the result of all this celebration. When she actually does pass on, her friends and family will continue to feel and know that she is still with them. The effort to celebrate her before she passes is a way to keep her presence here when she isn’t her in her amazing body. Her life is being celebrated and she is still with us to witness the abundant response to her commitment to love and the impact she has made on the world.
(Zeuf and Alayna Nathe… best of friends)
Wonder if we could be that abundant of spirit as a collective force? What would occur in the world we all share?
It’s a dream to ponder … It is difficult to change our methods of being and believe in the unseen elements of life.
Yesterday I witnessed so much joy and celebration, the idea of death was really far away from my mind, until Mira shared her day with her parents. With some joyful tears, I recognized how correct she was in her perception of our day.
Zeuf has been someone who inspires me… Not because she’s so brave or has struggled so much to live, but that she lives in love and with purpose, in spite of it.
There is a custom in this beach side community where when someone who is deeply connected to the ocean passes away, friends and family paddle out to memorialize them in their beloved ocean water. Zeuf’s people did that yesterday, before she actually passed on.
My sense is that when people have already passed away, they are there with their people during these rituals. Yesterday, no one had to try to just “feel” Zeuf. We were all given the opportunity to share directly with her because she is still with us.
Who knows, maybe all that love pouring into her little body yesterday will have a miraculous affect. Knowing the spirit of Zeuf, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are sharing a glass of wine together 30 years from now…
Miracles happen all the time, and Zeuf is and has been one such miracle.