Hearing that Chris had died, a friend – knowing me to be a storyteller – recently asked if I was able to find comfort in any particular story. Immediately, though at the time I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why, a Scandinavian story came to mind: The Lindworm.
Later, as I thought about my response, I realised that I felt somehow “met” by the story because it named something important about my experience of loving and losing Chris. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to speak an archetypal – perhaps even universal – truth about love and marriage.
The Lindworm (a two-legged, wingless, semi-human dragon) who has already devoured several naive and unsuspecting princess brides, is confronted in the marriage chamber by a shepherd’s daughter. On the advice of a wise old woman, she is wearing not one but seven hand-embroidered wedding shifts.
The Lindworm stares at her, burning with desire.
“Strip,” he says.
“I’ll take off one of my shifts if you take off one of your skins,” she says.
“No-one has ever asked me to that before,” says the Lindworm, crying out with pain as he tears a layer of scaly skin from his body.
The shepherd’s daughter takes off a shift.
“Strip,” says the Lindworm.
“I’ll take off another of my shifts if you take off another of your skins,” she says.
Seven times they remove skins and shifts until the Lindworm is a formless mass of flesh and the shepherd’s daughter is naked. Then she takes a brush dipped in lye and scrubs what remains of the Lindworm until it is red and raw.
Then, and only then, does she bathe it with milk, take it to bed, and hold it in her arms. When she wakes in the morning, lying beside her is the king’s son, a Lindworm no longer.
I have been flayed by love and loss, and grief is scrubbing me raw. Although it is often too painful to see it clearly, and there are times when all I want is not to feel, I know there is a profound gift to be found in this ordeal, and I am daily bathed by loving friends in the milk of human kindness.
Like the shepherd’s daughter, Chris had an uncanny ability to see our creative potential (often before we knew it ourselves) and she rejoiced in helping us realise it. She was a great teacher because playing small was anathema to her; she instinctively knew that, as Marianne Willamson said:
As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.
Through the example of her own life and willingness to share her journey, Chris challenged us to let down our guard and meet the world afresh, in all its beauty, passion and pain.
I would give anything to wake up by her side once more.
[Picture: Daniel Decena http://tinyurl.com/lguz2fw%5D