Joanie's mom, Madonna, passed on peacefully three weeks ago. Her kids and grandkids were with her during the vigil, surrounding her with love and feeding her rich double-dark chocolate ice cream. Her last tastes were of this all-time favorite food.
Death teaches us, it brings us together and reminds us of what's important. For example, the fly-in fishing trip to Canada that friends and I had been planning for nearly a year suddenly wasn't what was important any more. I let it go and was blessed many-fold in return by the teachings of this shared experience and by a deepening connection with Joanie and her clan.
There was a time at the hospital near the end, when I was the only man in the room. Keeping vigil with Madonna were her three daughters and one of the granddaughters. It was awesome to see how natural and fluid these caring women were in that situation, conversing and reminiscing, laughing and crying, at ease with their mother, themselves and their feelings.
Death is a mystery to us. It asks us to make room for two apparently contradictory truths. The first is: Madonna is gone. Over time, each in his/her own way, the members of her family will come to grips with that truth. The second truth is: Madonna is still with us. Depending on one's cosmology, Madonna remains alive in our hearts or she remains literally alive in a realm of spirit. Either way, our connection with her is permanent. Either way, we still have access to her.
All the little deaths in life – the losses, the leave-takings, the disappointments, the countless invitations to let go – prepare us for that larger letting go. We sure need the practice, because letting go is not easy for us.
Madonna lived generously and joyfully. She loved and laughed. She traveled and tasted so much of life. She cherished family. She was graceful in life and graceful in death.
Love helps us live that way. Perhaps chocolate does too.