A light of freedom: the sea will laugh with me.

A gift. A sheep with a tether on a surfboard.* Charlotte Schulz, artist. 

My son died unexpectedly (August 2006) and I continue to work with my feelings and grief around the loss.

After his funeral, friends and family gathered at my sister's home for lunch. I have a significant memory from that lunch. 

In deep grief and pain, I head upstairs. I sit alone in a chair at the far end of the house. I remember thinking that I have options. (Thank you Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart.Either I'll isolate and allow this event to consume and harden me. Or I'll let the loss of my son soften and open my heart to feel and connect with others. 

I stood up and went downstairs. 

Over the years, I uncovered other pain: blame.

At first, I wanted to blame anything and anyone for Michael's passing. But now I know that blame is trying to put my pain on something or someone. Blaming is a way to not feel.

So, I began to allow feelings. That means that when they arise, I feel. I sit with and allow them without saying or doing anything. I don't distract myself from feelings. Or numb them. (This is challenging.)

I'm learning that dealing with pain and feeling is not something on a list I get to check off. It’s lifelong. What’s important is that I’m willing to continue softening towards whatever shows up. 

The best way to describe where I am now is that I found an ocean of love and comfort behind all my pain. It is nothing less than freedom. Liberating, spacious freedom.

So I’m celebrating.

I’m going to the beach. And I have a purpose.

This purpose arose a few weeks ago. I had an awakening phone conversation with a friend, someone I feel connected to, though we’ve never met face-to-face. What transpired in our conversation would not make sense unless I could do a little mental transfer from my head to yours. To sum it up: I felt clouded, uncertain, and somewhat stuck in my work and life. After our conversation, I meditated and did Tonglen for myself and all other parents working with the loss of a child.

I knew it was time to let go a little more.

I’ve written about how I let go of Michael’s things and why, but I still have a handful of his ashes. It’s time to put them in the sea.

In a few weeks (November 2013), I’ll don a wetsuit and get on a surfboard to swim out as far as I can.

A surfer at sundown. Sarah Lee, photographer. Her blog and more amazing underwater photos.

As I paddle out and try to stay balanced while carrying him in a baggie around my neck (please let that paddle-skill come back to me), I will imagine the sea laughing with me.

And I’ll hear Michael’s over-the-rainbow spirit singing. 


About Charlotte's drawing - At first, I interpreted the sheep as Michael. Now I see myself as the sheep. I recently noticed the tether around the sheep's neck and realize that untethering happens when I sit with the pain of this experience. Being with my hurt is like the transformation of a personal karmic seed. The light in the image represents facing my difficulty. I believe it takes strength to look, yet looking is a key in my pocket that unlocks and frees me.