Today I attended the funeral of a friend and neighbour.
The crematorium was packed. People were standing around the edges and at the back filling it to the very brim. People in gaily coloured clothes. Flowers in their hair. Posies in their hands.
Her family stood up and recounted their best memories of her. Tears flowed, but also laughter. Jack Johnson was played instead of a hymn. We all filed out to Dancing Queen by Abba, placing our posies on the coffin, whispering our goodbyes, before emerging into the hot sunshine.
On Saturday, my dog was so ill, I thought he might take his last breath at any moment. I cried, but then I realised he doesn’t need the energy of my sorrow and despair pressing down on him in that state. So, picking up my drum, I played a gentle heart-beat rhythm and sang to him, making it up as I went. Singing my love, calling on unknown guardian angels and spirit guides to help him. I sang about green fields and blue skies, about running free and sniffing new scents, about his doggy and human friends past and present. I banished fear and filled the room with love. I made my own little ritual. Peace descended.
He rallied. He’s still here. I repeat the ritual often, and I’m coming to terms with the idea that he’s on his way.
Grieving may be hard, but when you think about it, it’s simply love with nowhere physical to go. Ceremonies and rituals help us process this – they give us a path to go down or an opportunity to forge a new way. And somewhere on the journey we realise what remains in the here and now is love and peace. We are, and will always be, connected by love.