There are sacred places and sacred moments where life intersects with loss and one meaning expands into another. Half Moon Bay, California is one of my most sacred of places. It was where Lydia and I collected beautiful memories early in our marriage. It was a place we would take Matt, our newly born child, to introduce him to planet earth and a vast sea.

IMG_4087Half Moon Bay is where Matt and I slowly set to sea to spread Lydia’s ashes. It was where I returned to spread the ashes of Matt and Bryan. It is where I will go tomorrow.

The book I wrote chronicling my journey of loss into the Afterloss and ultimately to a place of healing and peace came out yesterday. There has been a beautiful response and my hope that others would find solace and their own journeys within the pages encourages me. Yet, I have opened my life and the inner workings of my sorrow in a place I left to solitude a long time ago.

I woke up yesterday, and as I do every morning, sit in deep reflection. I like to let the night settle into day. I have been feeling those parts of my life again, not in solitary wanderings but in the collective found in the Afterloss. It’s a gift to touch sorrow with another, but it is different.

Yesterday I decided I needed to return to Half Moon Bay. I need to return to where my life intersects with loss and one meaning has expanded into another.

Many years ago I was sitting next to a small graveyard in Brunnen, Switzerland. An elderly lady was cleaning the grave of a beloved. She slowly picked the one or two weeds that sat in the shadow of the gravestone. Then she picked up the sponge out of a plastic bucket and began tenderly wiping the top of the stone in a gentle caress.

She made no sound. She had no tears. When she dipped her sponge into the bucket and stroked the name of her beloved I felt the sacredness of that moment. I made no sound. I had no tears. I sat in the distance honored to be honoring the sacred dance of sorrow and healing.

I have returned more than usual to the sacred moments that have transformed my life, many of them in a book that is a sacred dance in and of itself. Tomorrow I will take the four-hour drive to a timeless place, to life giving waters that have shaped my life.

Several months ago I was coming home late at night. I live in a town with no streetlights and the two-lane road was empty. I came up over a hill and the eyes of a small raccoon flashed on the road. When I slowed down I saw another raccoon lying on its side. I crept my car closer. At first the little raccoon wouldn’t move. I came closer. Finally, the little one went over to the side of the road. I drove over the larger raccoon making sure my tires would do no further damage.

I stopped, got out of the car and wrapped the still warm raccoon in a blanket. I took her dead body over in the tall grass where the little raccoon was hiding. I laid her down in the tall grass. The small raccoon looked at her mother and then looked up at me. I mumbled something inane, but she understood my tone and even more understanding passed between our eyes. In that moment, two different species spoke a common language – the language of loss.

I stopped to move her body not for the one that died, but for the one left behind. It was her safety that drew me to stop. It was the child that needed safety and space to grieve. I stopped for us.

That’s why I wrote the book. So many people stopped and sat with me. And in their honoring of my sorrow and giving me the space to grieve I have their story to tell. It is my hope that if you find yourself drawn to this book that you will experience within the pages a common language. I didn’t write this for me. I wrote this for us.

If I could, I would sit by the side of the road with every person that comments on this page. Time does not allow me to respond to every comment, but I read and carry each one in our collective Afterloss. I could spend the rest of my life sitting in silence with those that know its sound. There is a term in a spiritual practice of meditation that is called “watching the sound”. It is an honor and a privilege to sit with another to “watch the sound” of sorrow speak a common language.

I will go tomorrow to Half Moon Bay. I will sit by the ocean’s edge just like that woman sat by her beloved’s grave. And just as she tenderly caressed the memories more than the stone, I will feel the caress of an ocean breeze bring to life my own tender memories. And I will heal just a little bit more in a sacred place and a sacred moment. I will watch the sound of our common language. We do not sit alone.

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