It was a very lovely service for my mother. The church was filled to capacity with several people standing around in the back and we heard from many more who wanted to be there but had prior engagements. The minister, who will actually be starting next month and so didn’t really have a chance to know my mother, gave a very skillful eulogy despite her unenviable position, covering the basics of my mother’s adventurous life and emphasizing her unswerving devotion to education and helping people, even in the midst of her own pain and failing health. A young man she’d tutored at a homeless shelter got up and did a heartbreaking rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the ukulele after talking about how she was the only one who believed in him and encouraged him to pursue his art when everyone else in his life had given up on him. Many past students, colleagues and friends told similar stories of how they had been touched, inspired and bettered simply by knowing her. She was an incredible woman, generous to a fault, and will be missed by many. I cannot think of a better testimony to a life well lived.
It was … not easy to be back in that world, among people who knew her better and will grieve for her more than I am capable of doing. I felt like an interloper, a stranger. Which I am. Walking this path has made me strange, stranger even than I think I realized. For years I haven’t been able to share anything of my life with my mother, or anyone who knew me before I accepted my vocation. Because it seemed important to her, I tried. Many times. But she didn’t understand, and couldn’t really. It was too alien, too outside her frame of reference. My accomplishments aren’t tangible. Experiencing a new and deeper level of altered consciousness, getting clear answers for someone during an oracular session, having powerful dreams or breakthroughs in my relationships with my gods and spirits, sticking with a practice even when it’s hard and painful and doesn’t seem to be producing results … these are the ways I gauge my progress on the path. They don’t mean anything to the world at large and even though she was pagan herself they didn’t really mean anything to her either. In the end I think all she could see is what I had given up to follow this path. I’ll never have kids or get married, I’ll never own a home or have fancy things, I dropped out of college and have no career prospects. None of my books have or will sell well. By society’s standards I am a failure. She accepted me regardless, said all she wanted was for me to be happy. But she didn’t understand.
And that’s okay. I never sought her acceptance. I love the woman she was as I grew up, so strong, so vital, so full of creativity. And I love the woman she was even towards the end, generous and kind and always thinking of others even when her existence was filled with so much pain and illness and sadness. But I never needed her approval or the approval of anyone else for that matter. It is the opinion of the gods and spirits that matters to me, since I have devoted my life to them.
So, as I have done with so much else, I put this behind me and look forward. Tonight I have some big ritual stuff to do, reconnecting with Dionysos and the others after the hiatus imposed by this loss. I will also be starting a period of intense devotional focus with Harlequin in preparation for Mardis Gras. Then on Thursday I have the monthly oracular session and Saturday we will be celebrating Lenaia and then it’s getting ready for Anthesteria and the Limnad Nymphaia. These are just the big markers. I will also begin looking for a new job, redevote myself to the fitness challenge, deepen my spiritual practice, begin work on some new writing projects, start attending an open mic night here where I’m going to read some of my poetry and getting my stuff together so I can do the street corner fortune telling again, among other things. Busy, busy time and I wouldn’t have it any other way.