by Lily Myers Kaplan
This past weekend I read a poem at the funeral of my friend, Judi’s, sister. Though I did not know Barbara Ann, Judi and I have recently developed a sweet intimacy, though it was not always that way. Years ago we were colleagues who, in her words, “bumped heads, forcing us to each grow…and bonding us forever.” In our final year of working together, when first my mother, Margie, then my sister, Lois, and finally, my brother-in-law, Dave died, with blow after blow to my heart, her compassionate and kind presence stands out.
It was a no-brainer, then, to offer my support when she responded to a Spirit of Resh Foundation update, telling me she was in the hospital sitting at the bedside of her husband, Michael–who she met and decided to marry in the fourth grade – after a cancer operation in which more than one organ had been removed. I’d quoted Dave’s words about cancer being the “blessing in disguise” that awakened him and Lois to “love greater that we’ve ever known.” Judi said that as she looked at her soul-mate, hooked up to tubes and monitors, with fears swirling, these words gave her courage–just when she needed it most.
After more trips to and from the hospital, Michael begins chemotherapy and the long journey toward healing, which looks an awful lot like illness as pounds fall off his body. Then, adding insult to injury, Judi’s sister dies in her bed, suddenly and unexpectedly. Blow after blow. Judi, the Rock of Gibraltar in her family of five (now four) sisters, plans the service and asks me if I know of some poetry that she might use. I share a few poems, then feel honored when she asks if I would read the one that she particularly likes at her sister’s funeral. It’s the one that Dave’s college friend (Page) read at his memorial (see below.)
Cancer, death, life-threatening illness. They are the great equalizers. They take us right smack dab into our humanity. Into our vulnerability. And into our relatedness as human beings – spirits encased in bodies which, one way or another, will ultimately fail us in this physical reality. In the face of loss and its attendant swirl of emotion–ranging from grief to remorse to anger to sorrow … and more … the emergent question of what matters most and what brings meaning to life arises from the center of our beings. This question inevitably connects us, one way or another, to our hearts.
As I stood to read the poem in the chapel, love, deeply felt among friends and strangers is what I felt among the assembled mourners. Sharing that moment in a room of people I mostly did not know, I felt a deep commonality and communion between us. Love and loss is universal. And to share it with others, well, that’s intimacy.
Lily Myers Kaplan, director of Spirit of Resh Foundation holds an MA in Culture and Spirituality, and BA’s in Transpersonal Psychology and Divinatory Studies. Her most valued credential, however, is her soul-path grounded in the everyday world, guiding people through love, loss, challenges and growth into an ever-evolving sense of self and place in the world.