Today’s Word from Sheila Weidendorf
It was a week after my mother’s passing. Just back from Minnesota with her ashes in tow, my husband and I set up a pooja (altar) in the back yard beneath a giant cedar tree. (In his Hindu tradition, vigil is kept in this way through the 12th day, upon which a final ceremony is held to mark the ending of the oﬃcial grief period.) It was a warm sunny day, and the fact of my mother’s death finally hit me—I had been so busy managing things, settling her aﬀairs, that I hadn’t had time to sit with my own grief.
I decided to pull the hammock out into the sun near that cedar tree and “talk” to Mom. Languoring in the mid-day warmth and quietude befitting the matter at hand, I was suddenly overcome by what could only be described as legions of songbirds that had somehow taken up residence in that aforementioned tree. Birdsong of every kind rang out from its branches; a veritable avian symphony resounded, interrupting the calm and quiet of the day. It was beautiful—nature’s own bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) spilled out in honor of my mother!
Two hours passed, me in the hammock, the birds singing out from the tree, my mother’s soul enjoying the journey into the Great Union with the Holy One. Such peace and joy filled my every cell, and I was so very, very thankful—both for my mother’s life AND for the beautiful way she traveled into death. Is this a strange thing to say? So be it. My mother lived a tormented life. The dementia of her last two years brought her notable happiness, in as much as she forgot to hate herself. When it was time to shed her mortal coil, she did so quickly, quietly, peacefully, and surrounded by Love. What more could I ask for with regards to her ultimate “phase change?!?”
Perhaps the birds were simply enjoying a previously-scheduled island vacation in my cedar tree and only coincidentally sang their hymns above my mother’s vigil pooja. That’s ok too! It was beautiful, timely, and in their song, I found joy and peace and thanksgiving. Maybe this is just another way God works in our lives, giving us opportunities to notice the good, the true, the beautiful. No matter what our circumstances, each and every day we spend on this little rock encircling the sun aﬀords us myriad opportunities to pay attention, to appreciate, to forgive, to let go of what holds us back, to be thankful for each and every blessing.
In my husband’s Hindu tradition, when a soul leaves the body behind, we say, “Om Shantih,” loosely translated to mean “original and ultimate peace.” The droplet has rejoined the great ocean, the part has merged with the whole, the human has met the divine as the soul carries on with its journey. The loved ones of the deceased have the marvelous opportunity, thereby, to be thankful for both Life and Death, for particularity and the undiﬀerentiated expanse that is actually our birthright.
I am fortunate to hold fond memories of my mother from before mental illness gripped her. I was most fortunate this past year or so to be a midwife of sorts for her process as she moved toward sadgati (freedom). I am deeply thankful that, through her, I have had this most marvelous opportunity to take birth, to live what has been a rich interesting life. And I am deeply grateful that my mother was able to pass so beautifully from this existence into the Great Existence.
Because it’s the thing I best know how to do—after listening to the bird bhajans for about two hours—I went inside to my piano to pay homage to my mother, Hope Lane (Linder) Weidendorf, in the fashion of our little feathered friends. Click HERE to listen to the music I created as inspired by them, which I entitled, “The Birds Sang Om Shantih For My Mother.”
And, if you you like, here is a ink to the obituary I wrote in her honor.
Thank you all, and bless you, now and always. Love,