A week ago Adonis and I left quickly and unexpectedly for home. My grandmother was back in the hospital, and dying. Surprisingly, she hasn't passed over yet, but she's 96, and while her mind is clear, her heart is failing. I spent time with her in the hospital, sitting by her bed, making her laugh, watching her sleep. She had the shimmering, luminous look of someone on the threshold. She was beautiful. One night as I kept vigil at her bedside, I felt the fullness of presence in her room, as if an invisible host were standing around her, waiting to welcome her. I imagined her parents and siblings, her husband, my ancestors, were there in the room with us. It was sacred space.
I believe that death is a beautiful, holy, and necessary thing. I thank Witchcraft for teaching me that. In the hospital, in that small midwestern town, how I wished for a temple where I could light incense and candles and gaze upon the symbols of my faith! How I longed for a priestess of the Goddess, someone who shared my spiritual beliefs and who could listen to me. I read and wrote prayers, but I was hungry for tangible, shared, communal spiritual solace. My desire has made me think more about Pagan chaplaincy as a role I could play for others. I also think that Witches, and Pagans more generally, have a lot to offer the public discourse on death. I'm thinking about how we can make ourselves heard and take part in shared, interfaith conversation.
Hekate, wise crone
You who haunt the thresholds, the crossroads
With gentle hands you midwife the passage
from life to death.
You part the veil and usher us into
the next life.
Patient and watchful,
You know there is no hurry
and no delay.
There is only the turning wheel.
And the dive into the deep waters of mystery.
Beloved Hekate, Moira, Fate -
Hold my grandma in your velvet embrace.
Soothe her throat,
Billow her lungs,
Temper her heart,
Take her in peace.
When the time comes -
the immense rush of freedom -
She will run like a girl -She will move into joy -
The earth is so dear -
And then it's not.
Desire transforms at daybreak.
(Painting by Hrana Janto)