Testament of Friendship

The past ripples round me. It is a time of reflection—one last look—before I let go. In reflection is the unchanged past but looking through the eyes of the present, I am changed.

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Sometimes, it feels like we are not remembering as fully as we might those loved ones who have died. It is the nature of life to evolve, one experience after another, changing us as we learn to live with the love from loss.

We cling to our memories. Our reluctance in letting go is as physical as it is emotional. It is a mind and body hold. Our cells store the emotion of a memory, often as pain. In letting go of the emotion, we release pain. The cell is changed.

Our body and mind are what we eat and how we meet each moment we live. In letting go, it is not that we love less but that we love completely.

My recent blog posts have been awash in memory. One post was about finding anger long forgotten; the other remembered the Zen master who taught me acceptance. That the anger has been denied longer than acceptance learned does not surprise me.

Both posts lead me to this one as this week marks one year that my beloved friend died of endometrial cancer. Our friendship spanned more than half a century. We grew up in the Rocky Mountains and eventually we both moved east, she to the north and I to the south.

I still think of her as frequently as I did when she was alive. Often, I have to remind myself there are no more conversations for us. I search my memory for the conversations we did have. They are a comfort and sometimes, I learn something new.

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I was not able to be at the celebration of her life service but her partner sent me a DVD of images and music that completely captures her life. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched it, especially in the early months.

Always, I stop the DVD at one particular image. It is a long quotation, in her handwriting, regarding friendship. It is the opening and ending sentences that stay with me. It opens as:

Never cast aside your friends if by any possibility you can retain them. We are the weakest of spendthrifts if we let one friend drop off through inattention, or let one push away another, or if we hold aloof from one for petty jealousy, or heedless slights or roughness….

This was not how she talked but it is how she lived. It took me a while to locate a source for the quote. The words have changed a bit over the centuries—language evolves with us–but the meaning is unchanged.

We accept our shortcomings and our strengths, knowing that sometimes one becomes the other. We lean less on distinctions and more on acceptance.

And while I never knew the quote before Maurya’s death, it is what I have now, a testament of friendship for the life I still have to live, as the closing line of the quote reminds me:

It is easy to lose a friend but a new one will not come for the calling nor make up for the old one.

(Mother’s Magazine)

I do not know that she ever lost a friend. And yes, the diversity of her friendships is a rich legacy. I am changed by her death but more so by the way she lived. I hold close this testament of friendship for the years left to me, for the life I have yet to know.

We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

In letting go, I find forever.

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Facing the Past Tense

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die. (Mary Frye)

Fifty years of friendship feels like only a moment yet it has been a lifetime.  It cannot be over. Not yet. I want Laziness 010514the conversation to continue but mostly, I want the past tense to be the present.

In death, the past tense looms. My mostly Buddhist self believes the past tense is a series of images always available for viewing but never again for experiencing.

I am not used to the past tense. I am not ready to live with my friend as mere memory.

If I think of my friend as dead, there is a hole in the sky that is my heart. I want to tell her how that feels, how that hole is now my world. The telephone that connected us as we aged from teenagers to sexagenarians is no longer in service. It is past tense.

In the last couple years, this blog provided yet another connection for us.  Sometimes, my posts sparked conversations, and other times, our conversations created posts. On this blog, my friend is eternally present.

Discussion was our way for five decades, not a daily occurrence or even monthly, but whenever there was a hole in the sky for either one of us we seemed to sense it. There would be a phone call or an email when least expected and most needed.

My friend was not one who labeled but one who listened. Her innate compassion and loving-kindness opened her to the world wherever she was. And the world responded to her light.

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Along the wend and way of our lives, we each explored Buddhism and over the decades offered our experiences to one another. In these last three years when illness once again marked my life and then for the first time hers, we found ourselves less concerned with outcome and more with exploring the energy of raw emotion.

We were less interested in questions so we had little use for any answer that might appear for we recognized all outcome as temporary. It kept us curious, this being in the moment. We explored eternity as a web without a weaver, its vibrations animating humans, blades of grass–lifetime after lifetime–perfect in its impermanence, forever coming and going.

She is gone in a way I knew and exists in a way I am yet to know.  She is in every breeze, blossom, and glint of light in a night sky. She is. The past tense is no more.

My thanks to Diana J. Hale for her recent post, In Memoriam, as it led me to Mary Frye’s poem, which I could not seem to locate.  Also, thanks to all of you who have sent personal messages. I will respond to each one.