Monday, November 30, 2009

Community losses

At my Quaker meeting, we have lost three wonderful women in three weeks. Mary's death was unexpected and a shock--she was in her 50s, a peace activist, a gentle, beautiful woman. Hilda was in her late 80s, and even though she'd lived a long wonderful life, she was strong and sure, with a great sense of humor and more than a little twinkle in her eye. Her loss is huge for all of us. And Betsy, a colorful, 80-year-old artist with a love of expression (who was known to sing prayers in meeting), passed away yesterday morning, surrounded by her closest family members.

Our community rides together in a small boat that is feeling wave after wave of grief. Those who helped navigate with their wisdom and experience are not with us. Who will move into those roles now? How will the community continue? What are we feeling, and how will we share or manage those feelings in a way that help us feel more connected and less isolated?

Grief demands many things of us, individually and collectively. It asks us to feel what we feel. It invites us to share with each other (not all of us feel able to do that, though). It lets us respond in our own way (by pulling away or reaching out) but it draws us into the heart of the paradox of what it means to live. To live and to lose. To love and to let go. To risk loving again, even though this means the hurt will be that much more intense.

This morning I'm wondering what grief looks like for communities--those who lose key people who were so much more than individuals. People who embody the heart and soul of the community in a real way. When they are with us no more, what does the community have? How will it grow and change? What's next, when the clouds of grief begin to dissipate enough for us to begin to consider the road ahead?

Important questions, I think. I don't have answers today--only more questions. But maybe we'll discover them along the way.


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