"I believe that death is a friend, a fabulous dancer who will twirl me away in my last waltz." Ted Menten, Gentle Closings
Keening: A wailing lament for the dead.
I am not sure where or when I first came across this Celtic tradition, but something about it spoke to me. When someone died, the women from the town would walk through the streets in a public display of their grief by wailing and crying. Maybe it spoke to me because I find our Culture and Society to be so repressed. Crying is a natural emotion and form of expression of sadness. Why then is everyone so uncomfortable around someone crying? I grew up in a time period where men were not supposed to cry. Being a hyper sensitive child, this was not something that I was very successful at. I was no robot. Even as a young child, I was perplexed by this rule to repress what is natural.
We are also of a culture that claims vulnerability is a sign of weakness. I disagree. I believe, like many now in this enlightened age, that vulnerability is a sign of strength. It is this belief as well as, friends, mentors, teachers and role models pointing it out to me, that I chose to share this very personal story. Sometimes, grief is "messy."
When my partner passed away four years ago, I was pretty sure that I would be unable to stay in the home we owned together. I couldn't afford it on my own and felt that I had to move on with my life. I knew I would probably put it up for sale at some point. The California Real Estate market was crazy. I wanted to be able to get something out of it for all the blood, sweat and tears that we put into it. Approximately, six roommates later, the time seemed right. I knew that it was going to be difficult on so many levels, but I felt that I needed to seperate from what was now my past.
I was originally supposed to do the Keening at my home with two close friends that I consider family. They were to witness the ceremony and to be my support as well. It was an emotional week and the day that I had scheduled the event was particularly challenging, as I was to drive to Fairfield to sign off on the papers to close on the selling of the house and set me free to pursue the next chapter in my life.
I packed the car with my two faithful companions and headed on out to complete the "turning of the page." Things went rather smoothly and better than I had anticipated. I expected it to be more emotionally challenging. It certainly helped that the people at the Office were very sweet and aware of the circumstances. I Signed off on all the paperwork, it all felt rather surreal and abstract actually, as I stared at the facts and figures that represented 13 years of my life. Before I knew it we were exchanging small talk and I was heading back to my car with copies of all my paperwork. I climbed in and accepted the kisses from my dogs as an acknowledgement of a job well done.
I found my way back to the freeway and merged with the rest of humanity going about their daily lives. I hadn't been on the freeway more than 5 minutes when I became faintly aware of a nausea and rumbling or trembling filling my body. I was feeling a bit disoriented and confused. The subtle symptoms rapidly grew into the roars of a full fledged Tsunami. I was unsure what my body was going to do, but I knew there was a huge emotional purge approaching and I should not be behind a steering wheel right now.. I pulled to the side of the freeway, flung my door open and barely made it around the side of the car to vomit and sob and wail. My head buried in my hands and the whoosh of cars speeding by made me really dizzy. I allowed everything that I felt to leave my body in whatever way it chose. I allowed the moans, the wails, the wounded animal sounds that come from deep within our core, to escape and float on the winds of racing vehicles upward towards the heavens. Mother Earth drank all of the tears that I fed her and in her way, caressed and held me through the process. I consciously opened the emotional gates and allowed everything to pour out of me that needed to.
There was a beautiful calm that engulfed me once I released all that I needed to.and I became aware only of the sound of the vehicles whooshing by and the strong, bitter winter winds. I pulled myself together, took a deep breath, wiped my face as best I could and scurried back to the warmth of my vehicle and my canine friends. They licked my face clean of all sadness and I embraced them both and thanked them for their love. I pulled back on to the freeway and joined the sea of harried commuters.
I arrived home to find that plans and schedules had changed. The ceremony would not be happening today after all. I climbed into bed and slept for several hours. We would just reschedule it.
One of my friends that was to attend the keening ceremony and I were to do a Reiki exchange on the weekend and catch up. I told her about the incident and after giving a detailed blow by blow of event, she asked me "Do you still feel the need to do the Keening?" I stopped and felt into that question and thought a little while, but eventually said "I don't know." She asked "What is it about the Keening that you find so compelling?" I thought a bit and then said the " public display of such deep and intimate feelings being shared so openly." She pulled in closer to me, looked deep into my eyes and said "Tee, you can't get a more public display of sharing deep emotional and intimate feelings than barfing and sobbing on the side of the freeway with hundreds of people witnessing your purge." I thought about it for a few seconds and had to chuckle because she was right. That was better than I could have ever planned. "Maybe, that WAS your Keening?"
"Yes, I believe it was." I said and smiled.
Spirit always knows best.