9 December 2015
Today, Captain Midnight and I went with our good friends William Ayot and Sarah Bird to Matara to visit Chris’s damaged memorial stone and to make a small act of remembrance now that a year has passed since she died. When we arrived, it was heart-warming to find a small bunch of Rosemary already lying on the stone beneath the broken body of the bear, placed there last week by other friends while I was in London on the Five Realms Course.
William, Sarah, and I looked together in some amazement at the rotten stump of the tree whose shattered trunk had improbably threaded it’s way through its neighbours to fall on the sculpture during a stormy night three weeks ago. We stroked the bear’s wounded torso and stood in silence for a while, before making our impromptu ritual.
As Captain Midnight rootled in the fallen leaves nearby, performing his own arcane doggy rites, we humans placed our offerings on the memorial: a few small stones, some sweet grass, and the year’s last rose from the garden at Folly Cottage. Sarah left a copy of William’s recent book Re-enchanting the Forest: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World, which is dedicated to Chris’s memory, standing against the stone, in thanks for her contribution to its publication. We each spoke a few informal words of gratitude and farewell and then made our way to the Gumstool Inn for lunch.
Over dessert, William reminded us of the old practice of year’s mind to mark the passing of the first year of mourning for a loved one. Simply put, it involves consciously turning away from the memorial and walking toward the future without a backward glance. It’s not about forgetting (you can return at any time) but about giving a message to the soul and a commitment to the departed that you will live what life is left to you fully and with an open heart.
It’s hard to imagine that Chris – the most life-affirming and open-hearted person most of us have ever known – would want anything else for those of us who loved and love her still.