Earthgym and Grief
My tears flowed freely, dissolving into the sparkling waters of Lake Tahoe. I swam, stroke after stroke, feeling nature’s loving embrace soothe me in my grief. I needed to feel the gentle hold of the planet, nestling into Mother Earth’s watery arms and allowing her to ground me in my emotion - a bittersweet feeling of heart-wrenching loss mingled with the relief that he is now beyond the pain and suffering. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. He passed in an instant during a complex operation, and never woke up. That morning, my dear, funny, generous, gentle, loving brother-in-law, Skip, my ‘brother from another mother’ had slipped peacefully through that portal into his next adventure, beyond this physical realm, released from a body that was done. There are no words for times like this. He was my brother, we were so very close, and now he is gone. The void gapes like a canyon in the landscape of loss. No more rich baritone laughter, no more radiant smile that lights up the room, no more deep conversations about life. At least in the way I was used to. Instead, he speaks to me now in other ways. That day the water sparkled more brightly that I’d ever seen, as if Skip was smiling through the waves, dancing in the reflected sunlight., letting me know he was joyfully at peace. Three butterflies followed me for a long time as I swam along the shoreline, weaving between big granite boulders. The first butterflies I’ve seen this season, they danced in circles, their striking white and black wings beautifully contrasting the golden sand. The Earthgym weaves her magic even more potently at times like this. Whilst on the surface it might simply look like outdoor exercise, it is so very much more. My swim that day was a conversation. A communion with nature, and with the essence of life. Nature helped ground and soothe me, and bring release and solace where at first there just seemed to be a big black hole. Each day since then I have swum in Lake Tahoe’s glistening waters. And each day brings a different experience. A dancing interplay of waves, sunlight, clouds and wind. My husband Benjamin is experiencing his own Earthgym experience. When the news of his brother’s passing hit he was up in Washington state, by the ocean. The same ocean that contains the ashes of his wife and two children. And there he has remained for several days, walking the beach, sitting with the trees, listening and watching. Being with the loss, and opening to the messages coming through the waves, the wind. Especially the wind. The same wind that came when his wife passed away, the same wind that came when his son passed away. And now the wind that carried his brother away from this physical world. They were unbelievably close. Though separated by a thousand miles they spoke most days, and had 58 years of shared history. Skip was Benjamin’s big brother, his guide and protector, and the historian of the family – remembering childhood events like they were yesterday. The Earthgym is not only about movement. It is also about stillness. Sometimes we stretch with sticks, tone with stones, flow like the river, dance like the flame. And other times we are still. Sometimes we are stillness in motion. Benjamin is feeling the loss deeply, but is also feeling a deep peace. He said this the day Skip passed: "As deep stillness empties with effortless motion into the expanse, I remain in the stillness." Sadness mingles with peace as my salty tears melt into the vastness of Lake Tahoe. Thank you, my watery Earthgym, for your loving presence. Thank you for honoring my grief and showing me the sunlight through the clouds.
~ Rachel Flower