Sunday, April 03, 2005

Eulogy For A Goddess

Herein lies the conundrum, right?

Goddesses are never-ending and eternal.
They are fierce and fragile; nurturing and devastating, but,
loving beyond all else.

And it is this very love which is
terrifying, potent and addictive or
calming, uplifting and healing. It is this love
that is the cradle in which bliss, serenity and peace lay.

It is these close-holding arms which correct or cure;
chastise or encourage; challenge or celebrate.

It is these legs which carry, dance or kick you forward.

It is this awesome mind from which wisdom radiates.
It is this heart
with its wide open doors ringing welcome to illumination.

It is this soul which warms, welcomes,
grants wishes and wipes away worry.

and it is never ending.

And it is.

And it will always be.

Forever and ever, amen.


So, what of this lovely piece of art around which we are all gathered today? What of this exquisite vessel holding the sum total of one woman? What of this symbolic object we hold before ourselves to celebrate that which is eternal? It poses a contradiction to what we know as truth. How can that which is vast, never ending and eternal be made so small?

It is only the limitations of our own minds which invent such contradictions. For what is my Grandmother continues to be

vast, eternal and never-ending.

One day, after visiting Grandmother as she began to make her transition, my daughter Imani said,

"I’ve always been uncomfortable around old people. Old people were always out of it and kind of smelly and don’t really know where they are. They were always someone else’s old people.

My old people were always dynamic, dignified, fashionable, world changing people. I could always do volunteer work with those people and come home to where everyone was shining, spectacular and wise.

Well, okay, they ramble a bit. But, well, it’s history book stuff rambling.

I need a lot of hand-holding to cope with this.
It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
She should have gotten old over a really long period of time.
But, she didn’t. I don’t like that. That’s not what is supposed to happen.”

(See what she actually said in a previous blog.)

And in her mind, I believe she was also thinking
that “other people’s” old people die.

Her “old people”,
her shining host of elders were eternal.

And all of I could think of in response was some rather unwieldy,
complicated psychic babble about the eternity of a person’s essence.
(Which I didn’t say.)

So, I just listened to her.
Because she was saying something rather wise
which nobody around us had bothered to even begin thinking about.

It has always been disquieting for the merely mortal to be in the presence of the divine.
It is humbling, challenging and inspiring.
But, it also generates a nagging itch at the base of the spine
which over time slowly crawls upwards and fills the heart and mind with questions.

The positive person asks,
“What can I do to fertilize this seed of holiness?
How might I weigh in MA’At’s scales?
How will I teach myself to choose right action
and commit to it wholeheartedly?
How might I learn to emulate these actions I behold before me?

The negative person ignores, trivializes, debases or mocks these actions.

Regardless of the response to being with such a shining person,
both the negative and the positive ultimately wish to have
such a profound effect on people.

For, truth knows itself when it looks in the mirror.
It is firm in the understanding of itself.
It needs no external force to validate it.
It trusts that light will invariably find a crack through which to shine -

for darkness is never whole or complete within itself.

I am speaking of the divine.
And yet - here we are today paying homage to a woman.

A petite rather chocolate-cinnamon brown woman
with a soft voice and an air of contained mischief.
She is called Maida...

first Stewart
then Springer
then Kemp.

Who when Stewart kick her teacher in the shins for calling her the “N” word;
who when Springer brought forth to the world one man of gentle, compassionate fortitude
as well as rights for working people
and finally
when Kemp, became of living embodiment of
gentility, justice and the way in which the smallest personal commitments can create world changing power.

A delicate, polite woman. A flesh and blood woman.
A female human. Black and in the beginning a non-English-speaking woman.
That which is lowest of the white male “1st world” low.

Still it is the divine which animates us all. The Tibetan folks have a one word greeting which sums up the essence of what I’m trying to say,

“Namaste. - I greet your higher self.”

And sometimes this is a struggle - to greet the higher self or divine
within an individual. But, with people who live
like a wire charged with that most intangible force of nature - electricity -
it calls your attention to that greater spark. My grandmother was one of those people.

In her presence you felt safe...enlightened...yet..sometimes..the hairs on your arms stood up on end as if to say... careful now, all of this is greater and more complicated than you will ever know.
And you are stilled and quieted by this force. And moved to imitate it in the best manner you know how.

But, the thing about competing with Goddesses that they are the sort who are fashioned from exceptionally rare, esoteric and precious materials.

Most of us woven from a nylon-cotton blend.
The lucky amongst us receive linen or silk.
The sturdy jump from the loom to be knit into a complex wool or durable cotton.

And then there are those - like Grandmother - who are gifted
with a curious blend of silk, wool, cotton,
modesty, warmheartedness, energy,
compassion, humor, social justice and wisdom.

Contrary ephemeral ingredients one might think would ruin the fabric
but these gossamer threads create an almost impenetrable armor.
It is this cloth which only the celestial three may modify and shape. It shimmers with an undeniable and irrefutable blessedness.

And this is hard to compete with. So, many of us bask and revel in it and do the best we can. - Which is often extraordinary and sometimes, just enough.

But, if there was anything at which my Grandmother excelled, it was acceptance.
She accepted everyone for what they were capable of doing at the time they were choosing to do it. And suggesting -
never telling, asking or demanding -
always suggesting that they might think of aiming higher.

And here is another quality of divinity.
The unyielding, immovable commitment to FREE WILL

- for which justice is reserved for a more appropriate time -
but never in the form of an “I told you so...”

always in the gentle, guiding curiosity

“So, now... what is next?”

She could prod and nudge self-awareness in the manner
which most effectively creates lasting change.

Except for when she was
“minding your business” because
she was “old” and “entitled now” to say such things.

And this is what extraordinary forces do - right?

You might step in front of the bus again and again
and somehow serendipity blesses you not to get run over.
But, on that day which for all of your foolishness
should be your last, the bus is suddenly diverted -
kind of like in the movies when a car goes flying over traffic
or something outlandish like that... but... in such a way as to
make you look up and say, “Wow! If I hadn’t been looking,
that bus would have hit me.”

She was the force diverting that bus.
And serendipity as well.
Appropriate and critical intervention.

So, I am rambling now. And this feels more like a sermon than a eulogy
for a woman who touched me in so many quiet ways.

Perhaps this is why I ramble. It is too difficult
to sort through fifty-thousand minute details.

So, yes, even our old people die.
Bodies do not last forever and ever.
But, the spark, the divine force within them
is as alive as we choose to make it.

Each of us contains an awesome spark
which is eternal and never ending. We remain alive
until the last memory of us has been forgotten and
someone stops speaking our name.

And we will speak her name.
And go on speaking her name.
And remembering.

In essence - a poem, I wrote over ten years ago, “Mothers,”
is the best eulogy of all -
maybe because it lives somewhere in some journal
in some library which some scholar may find one day
who might find Yevette’s work and begin
the calling of her name again.

But maybe more so because
in our household we call the names again and again
and each generation learns more to say everyday.

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