I learned in hospice work that death is misunderstood, unappreciated, orphaned by a world too distracted by fear and anger and hollowness to see that life and death are not different things, but one thing. Paul knew that also, perhaps because he had seen so much death in his work as a fire chief, as I had when I was a police reporter.
Death paves the way for life, makes it possible, defines it and gives it purpose and meaning. If there is one thing every single person reading this knows, young or old, left or right, black or yellow or white, it is that we shall all die, and everyone and everything we love alongside of us, before and after. Death is sometimes sad, but not only said.
I can see this as a terrifying and awful thing, or as the profoundly mystical and ethereal triumph that it is. It makes life possible, because life springs from death, always and for all time. We all have lots to do, Paul’s wife Pamela told me this week, especially in the laughing and triumphant department. We have, she says, a new generation of incredibly cool and smart and capable young human beings who are, even as I write this, rising up and stepping into their light.
Paul opened this door, he paved the way for Blue Star Rising, his final home.
Blue Star Rising, that is what Paul has given birth do, however he died, and whatever anyone else might think of how he died. Someone told me last Sunday that Paul was lost, he prayed for Paul to find himself. I believe that Paul had found himself, in ways it is not for me to understood or even know.
We all have lots to do. That is what I say when a friend dies, when a dog dies, when tragedy strikes the world, when I am frightened or disappointed, or yet another leader disappoints and divides or another human hurts another human, or another animal is taken from our world. Laughter and triumph are the point, perhaps, the challenge and the path to transformation.
Yesterday, I got a message on my smartphone warming me that my voicemail queue was nearly full, and so I went to delete some of the messages, and I was surprised to see a long list of messages from Paul. I didn’t remember so many. I believe I had listened to them all, and responded to them, but I wasn’t certain, I get a lot of message. It was a deep journey to go back and listen to some of them, I could not bring myself to delete them.
They were messages of love and kindness, really. Exchanges of ideas and hopes, messages of friendship and caring. Some praised my writing, some had questions about it, some were about things he had read that he wanted to me to see. Sometimes he worried about me, or was concerned about my life.
I had the sense that Paul was a soul-keeper, that he was tending to my soul, and as I have learned since his death, to the souls of so many others over much of his life. He tended souls, watered them, nourished them, that was what the messages were about.
In my life, priests and rabbis and teachers never worried about my soul, or tended them, so I was slow to believe my new friend was really doing that. But he was, of course, the real deal. How else could I explain the depth of feeling over his death, the loss of my soul keeper. I may never have another.
Suicide is always a message, a voice from the other side of life, we can each take from it what we will, what we need. But it is not about comforting me, I have to live my own life, make my own decisions. Hope and triumph or suffering and despair. I stand with Pamela, the Quakers taught me to celebrate life always, not to mourn it’s inevitable loss.
And what, the prophets say, did we expect? Some of us have the vision to choose how we die, most of us never do. It is neither noble nor selfish, it is simply what it is, our sacred possession of our own soul. In our fearful world, there are some choices that can never be taken from us or made for us.
And then, this morning, writing on my blog, I came across this photo of Paul and the blind horse Sarge, one image echoing the other, one blind, the other with bowed head, eyes closed, as if in prayer. Crisis and mystery always around the corner, Paul embracing the moment and making of it what he would. I caught my breath.
So here, the triumph of death. The rise of the young people. The challenge to them to restore hope, heal the earth, honor the animals, be open to the future, spread love and peace, live in harmony and compassion, help the poor, do better than us. To have the courage to think differently, to travel abandoned and unexplored paths, to rise up and light the darkness.
Looking at this photograph, I see that Paul was tired, life can drain the spirit. I see that the young people at Blue Star are not. Blue Star rising.
There is so much to do.