The day got off to a bit of an odd start. We (all of the organizers) were running late getting to the location of the service, and it turns out, so was the lady (M) who had the responsibility of opening the gate. Other invited guests were not late, so I get this call while on the road of “Where are you?”. I explain that I’m running a little late, but that the gate should be opened any minute. I didn’t know yet that M had been robbed at her gym that morning and was dealing with reporting of said robbery. M still got there a few minutes before I did, so the guests started congregating at the site. I was travelling with Rebeccah, her husband Kris, and their daughter Sasha.
I arrived at the gate (which is always kept closed, as free range cattle are on this 101 acre property), got out to open it, and as I did, two cars pulled in behind us. Since I was already at the gate, I waited for those cars to come through as well, and then closed the gate. I turned around, and realized that Lynette and Leigh, her biological daughters, were in those two cars. Lynette was with Barbara’s ex-husband Mike (the girls father), and Leigh was with her beau Stefano. (Apologies in advance if I am misspelling your name, sir. Let me know and I will fix it.) I had not seen the girls since her passing, and therefore we immediately took that opportunity for a round of hugs and tearful greetings. Leigh introduced me to Stefano. Yes, this was my first time to meet him, and sadly, Barbara never did get to meet him.
We made our way down to the air-conditioned building where the pot-luck was to be held, and where the other guests who had already arrived were congregated. There is this phenomenon called Pagan Standard Time, and it was in full force yesterday. By the announced time that the service was to begin, maybe a third of the anticipated guests had arrived. Neither of the two priestesses were there yet, but I had heard from them, and knew they were close. Since the gate was opened late, the air-conditioned building was not cool yet, but was getting there fairly quickly. This is Central Texas, in late July. The temperature was in the upper 90’s, and I have little doubt that the humidity was rivaling the temperature.
First priestess K arrived, and the girls and I, along with her, went over to the grove where the circle was to be held, and began setting the altar. They had brought flowers, silks, and other things of beauty for the altar. I had brought Barbara’s replica of Sting1, a beautiful pastel chalk portrait of her done in 1978, and a tie-dye t-shirt of hers that said “Life with Dogs – Priceless”. K started setting up ritual items, and soon L arrived to do the same with hers. I burned myself on charcoal, and K performed reiki immediately. There is no burn there now. Reiki is truly amazing, as is K.
We started to hear thunder, and began concerted efforts to deflect said rainstorm. Among other things, it would have been really bad for that pastel chalk portrait. (Yes, as Pagans, we believe that we can affect weather in the short term. Get over it.) It didn’t rain at Spirit Haven yesterday.
By the time we were ready to start circle, some 25 – 30 people were waiting at the entrance to the grove. It is traditional to be blessed by a priestess upon entry to a ritual space, so you wait for that blessing and invitation to begin entrance. If you came here looking for details of a Pagan death ritual, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Those details are private, and for the invited guests only. Suffice it to say that we did what was appropriate, including the telling of her life and its impact upon those present. The ritual was as it should be, and she was well and truly celebrated.
If you know me, you are aware that I have chronic pain problems. I have fibromyalgia, and true to form, by the end of the ritual, I was in severe pain. I could barely walk, and would probably not have made it back to the feast had it not been for one friend who had driven the distance from the building to the parking area near the grove. She saw my distress, and offered me a ride back to the feast. I gladly accepted. I hobbled into the building, slipped through the crowd, and went into a back room where quiet conversation was occurring. I collapsed onto the floor, and stretched out flat. About then, I realized I was also in the early stages of heat distress. I got some water from Kris, and started to slowly rehydrate.
It wasn’t long before the third member of my trifecta for the day hit. Migraine. So apparently muscle pain and heat exhaustion weren’t enough. Of course, I know that my migraines are triggered by stress (actually, relief of stress), so it’s not that surprising a development in hind sight. I took some naproxen for the muscle pain, and Excedrin for the migraine. After maybe 45 minutes, I had consumed enough water, cooled enough, and the medicines had done their job. I was alive again. By this time though, I had missed the feast, and probably had seemed very unsociable to many of the gathered guests. Ah well, everyone assured me nothing in particular was expected of me. It’s just as well. My good friends among the crowd found me to say goodbye as they left, so I won’t beat myself up over that.
I went out into the main room, and hung out with the few people who were still there, including Barbara’s girls. Much of this time, I was watching Sasha. She had been sleeping in a baby carrier / car seat / stroller, and my duties were basically to be there when she awoke, which she did, about half an hour after I moved to the main room. She is six and a half months old, and the sweetest, most easy going baby I have ever known. Oh, and she made biological clocks all through the building start ringing, never mind ticking. (Yes, Lynette, Leigh, Rowan, et al, I am looking at you.)
Just before the funerary ritual, it was brought to my attention that Kris and Rebeccah had decided to do a Wiccaning for Sasha as long as the appropriate persons were gathered in one place anyway. Think of it as the Pagan equivalent to Christening, complete with the naming of Goddess parents. Just as we were preparing to do that, the time I had waited all day for occurred. You see, I set the date of this memorial service with one very significant astronomical fact in mind. Yesterday was the full moon, and moon-rise and sunset coincided with the exact time of that full moon.
Everything, and everyone, came to a halt as that auspicious event occurred. If you have never seen a full moon rise just at sunset, you cannot know what a powerful experience it truly is. The beauty is beyond my meager words to describe. She was resplendent in red-gold, and seemed to be twice as large as normal. We all stood and watched Her take Her place of honor in the sky, and reluctantly pulled away from the sight to complete our remaining tasks.
L setup a quick altar for the Wiccaning, and the parents and Goddess parents stepped forward to be blessed. Again, the details are private, but the ritual was performed, Sasha was given her Wiccan name, and her Goddess parents accepted their role in her life. Yes, I am her Goddess father, and proud to be so. I am only sorry that Barbara could not be there to accept the role of Goddess mother.
We gathered our belongings, made our way to our respective cars, and said our goodbyes. Kris and Rebeccah had to drive all night back to their home in Arkansas in order for him to be at work this morning. I rode home with one of my priestess friends, and arrived home about 11pm. As it happened, Kris and Rebeccah were just leaving from collecting the last of their belongings from my house, so we had another round of goodbyes, and they headed out. They did arrive safely this morning, and thus ended the saga of the final public memorial service for Barbara.
1Her Sting doesn’t glow. It’s just an accurate replica of Sting, complete with inscription. She fell in love with it, and at 5’1″, it was a perfect size sword for her. No, we didn’t make Hobbit jokes. She might have used Sting on us if we had. Besides, her feet weren’t hairy.