Contemplating our own mortality has been much on many peoples’ minds in recent weeks. The topic brings up so many issues, cultural and personal. We are fortunate to be given the free time to consider the matter…a side product of our stay-at-home mandates in most states and many countries.
It’s interesting to study what is on the other side of death. For the person crossing over from this life to another realm, there is a final peace as the battle is over. For those left behind, there is a greater variety of feelings. There is the profound sorrow of losing a loved one so central to our existence. There is the contradictory gratitude, when the crossing over has been painful, that our loved one is at last at peace.
There are several ways we in our American culture honor our dearly departed. Some traditions favor cremating the body, and spreading the ashes at some special site or storing the ashes in a commemorative vase. Other traditions favor a burial, which might include a simple or ornate headstone or tomb. Each tradition has its values.
Over the years, I’ve found comfort in both traditions. With a scattering of ashes to the wind, I feel the loved one’s spirit going back into the great universal consciousness, where it is always accessible during quiet reflection. With the burial of a loved one, the site becomes, for me, a place to consider what truly matters in our lives. What do we have to take with us when we cross over? We have only our own personal progress as a soul – how kind we were, how we personally lived our solitary existence in love, respect, honor, courage.
Visiting a graveyard can also be a point of contemplation. During a recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina I visited the 92 acre city of the dead – the Magnolia Cemetery. Founded in 1849, on an old plantation site, it has seen its share of wars, of soldiers lost too young, of children who died too soon, of mothers lost in childbirth, of statesmen and commoners who were granted long productive lives. There is a profound sense of mortality, but also of comfort and of a coming to terms with our short human time on earth.
What interested me especially was the way the consciousness of comfort, of mortality, pervaded the trees as well. Many of them carved their sympathy and support into their physical appearance. Here are some images from my visit – of nature spirits who have manifested in trees and of gravesites that have mellowed with age. I hope these images help bring you a sense of balance, of peace, and of connection to universal consciousness.