So much has been going on inside over the last month, it’s hard to articulate. I tried to start writing earlier tonight, and couldn’t find the words, so I did an unconscious thing, and watched one of my favorite Star Trek – The Next Generation episodes, “The Inner Light”. This one always brings me to tears, and now I understand a lot more about why. Yes, there is loss, and I can completely relate to it. But I’m also projecting my feelings on the story of incarnation.
In this episode, Picard gets to experience a whole different incarnation, an entire life. It’s like a microcosm of our existence, a deep reminder that our life is transient, and that some part of us is bigger than this lifetime. Picard goes on a twenty-minute journey where he loves a woman, has children, lets go of the past life that he knew, loses his wife, finds a fulfilling existence, then finally returns to the larger, outer life. He also learns to play the flute, and the skill carries with him as he returns to his place as the captain of a starship. Symbolically, this is the cycle of samsara, of incarnation over and over. Roger Ebert wrote about this very well.
This is still a very current topic in my awareness. I’m swimming in an ongoing pool of Nancy’s stuff, sorting and distributing, and she continues to unfold. It’s a strange process; she is becoming more intimate, and also less of a force. I feel less of the drama of our life and her death, instead of a wave of grief, I feel a burst of sadness and thoughtfulness, smiling at the memory and returning to what is here and now…it’s all settling in. I have a fresh truckload of her stuff from under her father’s house, some of it is still boxed and sealed, and it’s not difficult, any more, just time-consuming. But I do have a bunch of photos that I’ve never seen, and they’ve been touching my heart. Her high school prom, watching sunrise from a temple in Indonesia (from around the time we first met doing workshops together), more touching images from her twenties and thirties and her childhood.
I get to see the totality of her incarnation now, through pictures, journals, artwork, interior design plans for huge beautiful projects. It’s a lot, she was a prolific woman. And along with the intimacy of seeing and feeling so much of her, she is also settling into my heart in a different way. She’s just there, like a treasured experience, but no longer dominating my feelings.
Her altar has changed. I’ve removed her ashes from the great room of my home, and created a new place for her inside the altar cabinet in my practice room. Now when I go down there each morning, and light a candle, I can open the cabinet and see her new sacred area, the photos and some of her favorite things, an altar within an altar. It seems so appropriate, as my buddhist practice would never have grown like this if I hadn’t lost her. And it also seems perfect that she is held within the Buddha, just as she is held within my heart, and her spirit is held within something greater now.
My life with her is now so much like the journey of Picard in this program. It’s like a whole reality that brought me new experience and learning. And both the memory and the learning stay with me, like Picard and his ability to play the flute.