Sojourning with Grief-Loss is the Invitation

Labyrinth at the University of Edinburgh ( http://www.labyrinth.ed.ac.uk .) photo by anne richardson

Labyrinth at the University of Edinburgh (http://www.labyrinth.ed.ac.uk.) photo by anne richardson

Loss Unites Us

Loss is the invitation slipped into your mailbox. You can choose to open it, chuck it in recycling, or set it aside to respond to later. When you do read the invitation, there is no address to set out toward. The RSVP simply says, “be kind to yourself as you set out.” It does offer one piece of advice: “Ask Grief to accompany you. Grief will be a generous companion.”

As my first week of “Sojourning with Grief” comes to a close, wisps of images and ideas are starting to form. The one above came as I sat on the train from the Oban to Edinburgh. I continue to connect with folk as I remain open to others I meet on my journey. Often conversations end up with some sort of loss being shared, for that is common to us all. Loss unites us. It is the opening line in our lives—the leaving of the womb to enter this world.

Opening Loss Invitations

Part of me wants to say something profound like, “When I let go of what was, I am able to receive something else as yet unseen.” There is some truth in that…and it isn’t very helpful when “loss invitations” are flooding your mailbox. There are many losses where that rings hollow. Most of the losses that come into our lives are not by choice. They are usually painful, especially when a relationship or dream is involved. That is why in the past I let the invitations linger unopened or even recycled them (and still resist at times.) Oh, the loss was still there, waiting…

Waiting for what? A deeper dive? A search for meaning? To just wallow, wail and weep? All of the above and more. For gratefully there is no right way to go about accepting this invitation. Once a loss is acknowledged, then Grief can be invited in as companion and the journey can begin.

Death oftens slips loss invitations into the mailbox . Cemetery at Parish at St. Cuthbert with Edinburgh Castle in background. Photo by anne richardson

Death oftens slips loss invitations into the mailbox . Cemetery at Parish at St. Cuthbert with Edinburgh Castle in background. Photo by anne richardson

When I titled this journey “Sojourning with Grief”, I wasn’t intentional in not adding “my” before Grief, but intuitively it was the best choice. Another insight I have had, is that the journey I thought I was taking (to grieve my mother’s death) has faded (for now,) for I feel her with me, along with my father, every step of the way. Instead Grief is my traveling mentor, teaching me to listen even more deeply to others’ stories. I am a willing student.

What loss invitations are sitting unopened in your life?


Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. Photo by anne richardson

Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. Photo by anne richardson

Grandmother Ocean’s Song

Here is a logistical update since my last post. My last day on the Isle of Mull was spent out on the sea and on islands watching puffins, climbing rocks, singing to Grandmother Ocean once again, and, for lack of a better word, whooping into the wind from the top of Staffa where Fingal’s cave is. I met a lovely woman and her ten-year old daughter and we climbed to the top of one of the Treshnish Islands. It was nice to make a connection and swap stories. As I slipped beneath the covers my last night in Mull, I still felt the swell of sea rocking me as I drifted off to sleep.

 
Distant cousins meeting for the first time.

Distant cousins meeting for the first time.

Cousin Connection

Saturday was a travel day…taxi, ferry, train. My paternal grandmother (Nana) never shared much about her family, though she lived with us several months each year when I was a child. Through ancestry.com, a distant cousin and I made a connection—her great-grandfather was my grandmother’s brother. She lived just outside of Oban (“coincidentally”) which fit into my journey and we were able to meet for a nosh before I caught the train. Though we had little to share in the way of past family stories (her mother was adopted) we are already cherishing the connection we made and plan to remain in touch

I arrived in Edinburgh late afternoon after a long train ride with one change over in Glasgow. The train offered time to journal, read a book that is resonating on this sojourn (The Old Ways, A Journey on Foot, by Robert MacFarlane,) chat with another Ann, and nap a bit. I also met some young bicyclists on the shorter train ride. Such courage! I can’t imagine riding a bike on the narrow roads in the countryside of the UK.

Year of “Saying Yes”

Once settled into my excellent Airbnb, I explored the city and had a bite to eat, which included haggis spring rolls. This is the year of “saying yes” and, well, you can’t come to Scotland and not try haggis unless you are vegetarian or vegan. It was okay. I’m sure there are other ways to prepare haggis that would have a stronger flavor. I fell into bed exhausted and slept dreamless.

Labyrinth Grounds Me

Easter Sunday. Though the city is full of buildings that may look like they may have been full of worshipers a century ago, most are restaurants and hotels now. I took my time rousing this morning. I am not a tourist who needs to visit landmarks. I am a sojourner. All I felt I “needed” to do today was visit the labyrinth at the University of Edinburgh and visit the Edinburgh Castle.

The labyrinth grounded me, something I sorely needed after a week away. Downy feathers floated across the path of the Chartres-style labyrinth. I had the path to myself for most of my walk. The sun was warm and made my shadow short as it was late morning when I arrived. Syllables from students lolling in the park drifted over the hedge that enclosed the space and fell at my feet. Birdsong floated above. Trees watching over the space are getting ready to leaf out as spring gets into full swing. I take my time. I am not in a hurry. When I am done, I thank the space and those who tend to it. It is sacred, even though those who joined me briefly and had no idea what it was about.

Walking the labyrinth grounded me as my first week of the nine-week sojourn comes to a close.

Walking the labyrinth grounded me as my first week of the nine-week sojourn comes to a close.

St. Margaret’s Chapel altar cloth. This chapel is still used for weddings, baptisms, and other sacred rituals. photo by anne richardson

St. Margaret’s Chapel altar cloth. This chapel is still used for weddings, baptisms, and other sacred rituals. photo by anne richardson

What Stories Do Walls Hold?

Edinburgh Castle. Crowded with selfie-sticks and the people attached to them. I meandered and found myself drawn to St. Margaret’s Chapel (she was Queen of Scotland, c1047-1093.) I got a sense there is more to her story than the one officially told. It is held in the stones of the building (the chapel is the oldest building on site.) I listened as best I could, but many visitors were in and out.

Another part of the castle where I felt a strong sense of connection was by the National War Museum. I honor veterans as I did my chaplain training with veterans and what I felt here was sadness and a cry for peace. Some might call it projection. So be it.

My mother had a CD by the Royal Scots Dragoon, which I now have. And I love it. Yes, it is primarily bagpipe music. Anyway, I went into the little museum that honored them.

And finally, I saw the “Stone of Destiny” which is still used today for coronations. When Prince Charles becomes king, it will be shipped down south and he will sit on it when he is officially crowned. No photos allowed, but it looked hard as a rock (haha.) It has been used for over 700 years and is thought to be imbued with “sacred powers.”

Green Burial-Not a New Idea

I found another cemetery at the Parish of St. Cuthbert. What can I say! And you know, it was all green burial back in the day (see the Green Reaper.com.)

Tomorrow I have half-day in Edinburgh, then head by train back to Glasgow and catch a flight to Derry, where I meet my daughter for four days of adventure with her as my guide (she went to school there for a year a decade ago.)

Until my next update, take care and be gentle.

Me with a Royal Scots Dragoon

Me with a Royal Scots Dragoon

Puffins on one of Treshnish Isles welcoming fellow sojourners.

Puffins on one of Treshnish Isles welcoming fellow sojourners.

Haggis spring rolls

Haggis spring rolls