A Threshold Experience with Death
In November we focused on deathkeeping. To open this experience, students were asked to share a threshold experience with death, a moment that death touched them personally, or a moment when they were the designated person to recognize and hold the death and dying of another. Below is the threshold death experience of Kate, a Song of Sophia student.
“I was conceived into a grieving womb that had lost a pre-term baby a few months prior. My mother’s grief and her fears around whether I would live were whispered to me as I swam in her waters. What does that mean? I wanted to know.
Much of the human death I’ve encountered has felt sterilized and/or remote and hard to connect to. Which maybe is why I’ve had the most profound grief processes through the death of animals and trees.
For example, the photo above is of a (thornless cultivar) Hawthorne tree who I met about two years ago. She was glorious but it was decided she was inconveniently located. The old man who had planted her decades ago passed away and the house was sold to people who wanted to build a garage. The driveway was to run right through her.
I learned her fate soon after we met. I noticed my impulses (which would return again and again) to turn away, to not love her as I knew I could because of how it would hurt. But I couldn’t deny her magic and this dance we were in together.
She supported me as I was finding my voice as a newbie SoS student. I would bring her my blood and sing to her. Pressed my face to her bark. She was a portal into the Fae realm as I gazed up into the gestures of her branches. I brought my children and friends to admire her. I made medicine from her fruit.
Construction on the house began and it started to set in that her death was coming soon. The impulse to turn away intensified and although I visited less frequently, I could feel space opening up within me to hold whatever medicine was occurring through this experience with this amazing being. And this was it – she taught me I could stay as a loving witness though this process she was experiencing. I didn’t need to interfere.
When I came back home after a three week trip last summer, she was gone. A pile of sawdust where her trunk had been. A few branches in the gutter. There was pain and shock in this moment and also a quiet nod of gratitude to her spirit. I know I will continue to learn from her for a long long time.”