A dear friend/former roommate of mine is now dying. Actively.
I think of D’s and my times together, and right now, one special memory, or set of memories, comes to mind.
We loved glitter.
Both of us.
I don’t think she loved it as much as I did/do, but we loved it. We put it on one another before going out dancing—she was the dancingest girl I ever knew. I used it in my hair, on my chest, down my arms. Either teal-and-purple mixed together (a wonderful gift!) or a white, iridescent one from Diamond Dust.
My friend, D, has never, to my knowledge, been much of a religious person. We didn’t speak regularly about it, except inasmuch as I was making ceremony all the time for Four Quarters all the time. (This was the late 90’s and early aughts.)
But I learned something glittery from her and from some others that I took with me to seminary.
The hidden face of Ash Wednesday
“Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
Sure, we’re all children of Earth. We are children of the loam, the soil, the ash and dust of this place. Decomposers break down what becomes the soil, what becomes the Ground of Things on Earth. The land and salty sea and fresh falling rain. We are children of Earth, of evolution and adaptation, of ancestors of two legs, many and none. Ash Wednesday can remind us of this.
And yet we are also children of Starry Heaven, as my friend Jonathan has always reminded me. So one day at the beginning of Lent, I took my teal and violet glitter, all mixed together in their matching box, and I reminded people, putting glitter on the backs of their hands, that Heaven is also their home.
Whatever Heaven is for you, remember that you are its child.
For me, it is the Sun, the stars, the vastness, the unknown and unknowable, planets and moons and nebulae. It is the implacable force of gravity.
We are children both of Earth and Starry Heaven.
Every one of us.
Death as becoming anew
And so I think of my dying friend.
Of her sinking deeply into unending sleep, into her next transformation and becoming. Of her birthright as a child of Earth and Starry Heaven.
Though she was not an overtly spiritual person, she lived out this knowledge. She lived out her Earth Childhood in her embodiedness, her dancing, eating, drinking, dressing, cooking… She lived out her Heaven Childhood in her glorious groups of friends, her love for her sweetheart, her pinwheel delight in dancing, the sparkle of her eyes and of her heart.
She did not, at least not until very recently, wear her heart on her sleeve. She was in many ways, somewhat reserved. And yet her spirit has shown through always.
And that spirit, I believe, does not die. It ripples out into memory and beyond. It moves out as infinite waves meeting infinite points of contact, having infinite effects.
“We do not die. / We are not gone. / We are just on the other side.”
I’m not sure what is meant, always, by “the other side,” or by “the farthest shore,” or even “the Veil.” But I know that this life is travel. And that when we die, we arrive somewhere very different from what we have known.
So, beloved friend, know that, even though you go “a thousand miles for a year and a day,” and we cannot go with you, not now, I have faith that you are becoming a thousand things, and a thousand thousand things that will bless the world.
Travel well, dear love. Know that your glitter still lights us all.