Tag Archives: Grief

A Weeping Yogi

During our March Break ski trip to Whistler, BC, while my family frolicked in thigh-deep Pacific Powder and I did—not, I visited The Oracle (More than just a store . . . an experience!). While there, I made a purchase which I tucked away in my suitcase to take home to put in my office.

On the day we returned home, within hours—before we even had a chance to unpack—we learned that our close friend, Lynn, had died that morning.

Laden with grief, I unpacked my suitcase and came upon my purchase: a Weeping Yogi.

His card reads:

“The yogi weeps because the world is profoundly sad, they say, and someone has to always be weeping for its sorrows, so that you can be joyful. Hand-carved in Bali, these yogis take your pain so that you can enjoy life. Known for their gentle, joyful spirit, the Balinese believe that sharing your sorrows lessens the load and sharing your joys helps you grow: so share your sadness with the yogi and share your joys with those you love. Holding his head in his hands, the yogi seems to be saying, ‘If it’s too much for you, please share it with me. It’s why I’m here. It’s what I do.’ Some feel that the yogi has either just moved into his pose of sadness and sorrow, or is about to stand up in happiness and joy.”

That day, I held the little wood carving in my hands, and damned if I didn’t feel a little better.

I’m not sure what compelled me to pick up the yogi, but in the past three years I’ve lost two of my best friends (ages 46 and 47, for Pete’s sake), my brother, my mother-in-law, and my dog. To add insult to injury, we even lost the Dairy Queen in our neighbourhood, so I can’t even inappropriately self-medicate with hot fudge sundaes anymore.

My cynical friends will say that it’s just a piece of wood. They’ll say its effects are the result of a psychological mind game.

Yep. It’s a piece of wood. Yep, it’s effects are a psychological mind game. (But then, isn’t everything?) All I know is that, this past week, I picked up that piece of wood and held it for a while, and then I wrapped my dog’s collar around it.

Damned if I didn’t feel a little better.

Paying the ferryman and other rituals of comfort

We saw my brother off to sea one last time on Sunday – along with a dime for the ferryman.

Graham was retired from the Canadian Navy, and it was his wish to have his ashes committed at sea. We did so after the annual Battle of Atlantic commemoration ceremony in Halifax harbour on Sunday morning.

When the navy prepared his ashes for the committal, they placed a dime on the corner of the box. It is naval tradition to send the dead off with a coin to pay Charon, the ferryman from Greek mythology, to carry him across the river Styx.  Our Canadian navy uses the coin with the ship on it, of course—our dime, or what they call the “Bluenose coin.”

I hadn’t thought about they ferryman or Greek mythology before the ceremony, but I found the Bluenose coin to be beautiful naval ritual of comfort.

At times of death, humans seem to need rituals of comfort.

My father was a Mason, and when he died, the members of his lodge held a separate small ceremony. I don’t remember all the specifics of what each person did when they stepped up to my father’s coffin, but they all ended their time with him by pointing up. I presume it was their wish that “up” was the direction he would go. If you were to ask me where I believe people go when they die, I wouldn’t say “up.” I might say “around,” or “among.” But it gave my father’s friends comfort to point up, and that’s all that matters.

I’m not Catholic, but I have many close family and friends who are.  I have stood at funeral homes many times while Hail Marys have been said over the coffin. I can see that this small ritual brings comfort to those reciting and to the family present. When I die, I won’t have formal Hail Marys said over my body, but if it brings comfort to my Catholic family and friends to whisper a few, I hope they will.

At a memorial service for my 103-year-old friend a month ago, we released colourful helium balloons printed with the words, “Bon Voyage.” The colourful balloons (again going “up”) were a joyous ritual of comfort for us.

When I die, if I have lived at all well, my service will be filled with Muslims, Christians, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, humanists, and every other faith or non-faith. Each of them will need a different ritual for comfort. May I be sent off with balloons, dimes, Hail Marys, pointing fingers, and a collection of many other small rituals to help each person get through the day.