Feather from Sue – Lightening the Weight of Grief

Surprises come in many guises.

Sometimes even shocking the nervous system with disbelief — no this can’t be true, I only saw her 3 months ago and she was fine then….

Reality takes many different forms. Could this be true? She was healthy, lived an active lifestyle: played pickleball, went for hikes every day, was heavily involved in volunteer work, and enjoyed traveling with her long time partner. How is it possible that my sister Sue is gone; has passed into another realm without me having a chance to say goodbye?

Instantly my life has taken on a new shape – How many in your family, well there were 7 of us, now there are 6….this is surreal – I am filled with a sense of helplessness and despair.

This is how my journey with grief began two years ago when my older sister suffered a heart attack and passed away after only 9 days in the hospital. It was shocking for those of us in the family to receive a group text, sent by her distressed partner, from another province where she lived, saying the doctor was talking about palliative care.

What do you mean? She only went into the hospital a week ago…what is going on?

Looking back I vividly recall that I received a phone call when I was in the office from another sister, Sue’s twin. She was crying so hard I couldn’t hear what she was saying, couldn’t tell if Sue was still living or not. I felt so very far away, the distances between provinces felt vast.

Emotions busting open the floodgates of my heart, I grabbed my coat, cell phone in hand, and exited out the front door. I headed for the forest – a place of long time solace, comfort, nurturing and wholly Present Divine support for me. Finding a treed hilltop I sat, buried my head in my open hands and cried uncontrollably. Oh Sue….and even now, at the memory, the sadness rises up yet again…..as my grief continues the winding road of this journey.

Being in the forest, alone, there was space to think, digest and find some semblance of how to deal with the ominous, heavy, dark cloak that surrounded this sudden turn of events. I didn’t know where to begin…..slowly lifting my head from my tear soaked hands I noticed a feather. There, nested on the pine needles 3 feet from me rests a large, very beautiful striped wild turkey feather!

This was the first one I had seen that year. Funny, I didn’t notice it when I sat down. Reaching over I picked it up, stroked my damp face with its soft caress and held the thought: this is for Sue, I will take it when I visit her in the hospital next week.

I called my niece on the phone. She was sitting with her now deceased mother in the hospital. We both cried together, sharing a sincere long distance telephone hug of deep, heartfelt understanding, connecting in sorrow, listening to each other’s sobs and knowing that life would never again be the same.

Then I understood—the feather was not for Sue, the feather was from Sue, her goodbye to me sent in a language she knew I would appreciate. Thanks Sue, I still cherish the gift, one of the many gifts you have provided me with since then.

Looking back at death and what it means to me, I had lived on a farm and seen death through the eyes of the animals that had passed on. We had little burial services for them, and some prayers accompanied by tears and a sense of loss. We even had a celebration of life for a very special dog.

Later, in the 90’s I began investigating death through reflections and questions in Swami Radha’s book Kundalini Yoga for the West while attending yoga classes held at a center in Lakefield, Ontario.

Through study and personal reflection my perspective shifted from having a sense of dread about and generally avoiding the topic, to entering in through personal enquiry and an increasing desire to know more. At that time I consciously made preparations for my own inevitable death – writing up a will, obtaining a government guaranteed funeral plan with prepaid cremation – all steps that felt empowering to a single mom. I was taking charge of my life to the best of my ability, not wanting to leave a burden for anyone else to clean up after my demise, not knowing when that would happen.

As time passed I continued to live with, process and grieve the loss of my older sister a little bit at a time, as it arose. Initially I found that ceremony, celebrating the life she had lived, family-sharing stories, writing poems and voicing them with like company offered tremendous support.

Spiritual tools, practices, reflection written in my journal while sitting at my little personal altar, and the support of community provided ongoing sustenance. Daily I offered a Divine Light Invocation, seeing Sue’s Essence go up in a spiral of brilliant white Light, returning to Source.

I knew I was offering what I could in the best way possible as she continued her journey in a different form, leaving behind the body that no longer served her. Shedding a skin, so to speak, making her travels to unknown places lighter,… ah yes, lighter like the feather she had gifted me.

I was slowly making my life lighter by laying down, little by little, step by step, the sense of loss and sorrow that weighed heavy in my being – letting go into the Light of Peace.

It helped to hold close to my heart a quote from the Bhagavad Gita (translates as the Song of God) an ancient sacred text from India (from the Divine Life Society)
2:23 “The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it.” 2:24 “The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry. It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity.”

Reading this text I am reminded that her Essence continues its journey, and I feel comforted knowing this is part of the cycle of earthly life – sex, birth, death. I understand that it’s an ongoing cycle that invites constant shedding while gradually learning to adjust and embrace change rather than resist.

Today as I put on a scarf, I opened a small jewelry box from my drawer and a moment of sadness washed over me as a memory emerged at the sight of the small copper leaf pin. This was the broach my niece had given me the week after Sue passed into the Light. Feeling a lump in my throat, I acknowledged, ‘Oh Sue, you left us too soon’….. a thought that had passed through my mind often in the past few years. Fastening the lovely pin to my scarf I began my day, fondly holding Sue’s memory close to my heart.

Reflecting in my journal, I took time to review the rich gifts that this grieving journey has, and continues to bring to my life. A reverence for the sacredness of life has blossomed in a much deeper way. Compassion, understanding and a desire to support others on their grieving journey has taken a central place in my heart. I can honestly say “I understand”, yet I don’t need to say the words, people can feel the support through shared experience that brings knowing. I feel a strong desire to give back, offer service while I can. Gratitude continues to expand as I acknowledge the preciousness of life…this life, the abundance of opportunity, and the palpable Divine support that is always available.

Yes, I am reminded of my own mortality. I don’t know how much time I have; can I make each day count? Am I on purpose? Am I growing in awareness? Contributing in some way to the benefit of humankind?

Daily I am filled with a deepening respect, admiration and appreciation for the beauty of nature and what She offers ongoing with such humble generosity. I soak in Her gifts – the sound of the creek rippling over the rocks, the dancing flight of a beautiful butterfly, the sight of a small tree frog hopping across the path and the bold, loud, demanding call of the raven outside my window. Yes, I am alive, thank you for this gift.

Sue’s demise nudged me to invest more time and become more proactive in my own self care as I age. I aspire not necessarily to have a long life, but a life of quality—good health while stretching myself with ongoing learning, growing and moving towards developing inner spiritual strength. Yes, take time to stop and smell the flowers that seem to be blooming in full abundance this year and offer back from a place of gratitude for the treasure trove of learnings that I have been blessed to receive.

Hari Om Tat Sat

Durga is a teacher and long-time resident at the Ashram sharing her enthusiasm by teaching workshops and outreach online classes.


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