My only sister died suddenly last Friday. She went to the emergency room on Thursday for severe stomach pain, went into cardiac arrest while being examined, and was resuscitated. After being on life support for about twenty-four hours, she was released, authorized by her daughter and her husband. She died soon after the machines were turned off, in the presence of her husband, her daughter, and her five-year-old grandson.
My sister and I were never close, partly due to the eleven years between us (she was the older). This still comes as a blow, in a year full of blows. A number of people close to me lost family members in the past ten days. As it happened, I had an invitation to a dinner party for Saturday night that included a brief Remembrance Day ritual. This had been planned and scheduled weeks ago; the friends who hosted it were friends of my ex-husband also and had sung for him. So we had this dinner, made offerings to the dead, told the bees in my friends’ hive, and sang some choral music in memory of my ex. I wrote this text for the ritual.
The dead are neither present nor absent.
They are neither near to us nor far from us.
They live in us, in our speech, in our hands, in our memories.
We die in them, the parts of us that go with them into the dark.
If they are hidden from us in the shadows,
we are hidden from them by the light.
Yet from time to time we come together
and join hands across the great divide.
They remember us no less than we remember them.
If they are forgotten, they, too, may forget.
Let us not forget our forefathers and foremothers, grandparents and parents,
children born or unborn, spouses and friends, mentors and teachers.
Let us take hold of what they left to us
that we may pass it on before we go.
Let us say their names and offer them our continuing love.