My Father’s Cremation

Some days ago my son and l participated in the cremation service of my father who died on January 20th, at approx. 9am. That was 48 hours later then he wanted, really. As he had done in his life so he did in dying, trying very hard to have things work out exactly as he wanted it. And he got his way, more or less.

Sunday 18th, around 4 pm my half-sister had called and told me, “This is it; they gave him one of the special rooms in the hospital. Tonight, most likely, our father is going to die.” And then she passed the phone over to him. I was crying, my heart breaking, saying, “I love you, Dad. I want you to know. Whatever might have happened in the past, there are no hard feelings left. Nothing hinders what is between us anymore. There is just this love.” He reassured me that he had had a wonderful and fulfilling life. “I am really happy that I can finally go now, and I want you to be happy too.”
In dying as in life he couldn’t tell me directly what he felt about me and about everyone and everything, really. In all of the life we shared he only expressed feelings indirectly, except when he was cynical, ironic or angry. This inability to express most other feelings has been family-tradition since time immemorial until, l think, it finds its end with me. But then again, who am I to tell?
At the cremation hall, where the casket was adorned with flowers, candles burning, behind the curtained windows, half invisible, cars drove by fast in the medium distance on a highway. Later, sitting there and listening to some of my brothers and sisters, and 2 of my Dad’s friends, I was imagining the people in these cars, driving somewhere fast, knowing nothing about what went on here and what we felt.
The close family had been ushered in to have a last look at my father. Stepping up to the open casket I cried, my hand on my mouth which, when I noticed the shock that expresses in this gesture, I let drop again, weakly, and crying. Yes, this was indeed his body, but he was gone, my father was not there anymore. Being almost a week dead his eyelids and hands had weird colors, the rest of him very pale.
Yes, this body had been my dad. And as I went to take a seat, through my tears I saw one after the other stepping forward when they felt ready to greet him one last time.

Mourning is an amazing happening, and for those of my step-, half and brothers and sisters I’ve shared this with, it was very similar. Big waves of sadness and sobbing leaving us almost ‘not of this world’ in its wake. It is easy to do manual tasks, but intellectually demanding or creative work is not possible; there is a feeling of the brain and mind being in a mush. The inability to do much of anything seems to cover all things mental. And I have been amazingly tired without being able to actually sleep much, and then, once I slept, I slept long whenever possible.
Mourning is an out-of-control bodily/feeling happening, something totally natural, overwhelming the person with a sound sadness that feels very much in place.
Is there emptiness where my Dad once was? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem so (yet?); maybe because the relationship with my father had not been too tight, even though in his last year I visited him more often than ever before, not because I believed he was dying soon, but just because there was opportunity. It has been fated.

And then, after my step-brother had started up the ceremony with a song of one of my father’s old friends, a singer-legend in Sweden, and after he had read my sisters letter to the 100 or so people gathered in his honor, I was to say something. We had agreed on possibly 10 minutes and I honestly don’t know how much time it took; there was a deep quiet in me as I stepped up to the pulpit and microphone.
Just a few things I remember of what I said. As I was speaking freely — there were a couple focus points for me on a piece of paper — the flow came; and then I hardly remember anything. I had considered, for once in my life, writing down what I was going to say — wouldn’t want to choke in tears — but I thought that here, as every place I speak publically, it was best to let what is required flow from my heart and presence into the field of us.

I remembered the one and only time my father ever asked my advice; it was about restarting a relationship he had broken with some years before.
I also said, –I think, my father — being a non-believer in these things — will be in for a big surprise when he wakes up from this life to find a welcome committee waiting for him. Matter of fact, I think there is a welcome committee specialized for people for whom waking up in the next dimension is a big surprise.– Something like that.
I also remembered that he was a man with many mistakes, just like me, and spoke about how I felt only love, just like everybody in the family that could be present during his last days and hours. All our wrong doings and mistakes in the end can be washed away by the love between us. It’s unreasonable, maybe even unjust, but it is true nevertheless, and most of all it’s beautiful. Everybody was full of sad love and no grudge held against it.
No matter what goes before, in the end what counts is love.

Afterwards some of the core family stood shaking people’s hands and hearing condolences — looking into all these people’s eyes with the clarity of a love-bathed sadness I could see what the confrontation with the passing away of our close ones opens up: the soul shines through, colored and filtered by the many facets of a person’s character — but, it visibly shines. A blessing.

During all this time my son had been going through his feelings; not being too close to his granddaddy he could be safely sad, the distance cushioning his sadness. To me it was great to have him by my side. Once there will be a time when it’s my time to go, and he might be part of a ceremony honoring my passage. As parents, we not only give life to our children and educate them to be able to live a happy life, we also give them the most intimate taste of death when we go in the end.

The way my father left this world has been an inspiration to me. May I be able to — in the end — go in a similar way; a way where we all feel that we can let go, were actually, letting go is quite natural to us. Passing away like this is a blessing, as is giving life.
It’s amazing, shaking so many hands and/or kiss left-right-left, as is customary with people of a certain proximity in Holland (mostly inter-gender, and not so often with men; with them kiss-kiss-kiss is close relatives only). Some people were holding up the people cueing up behind them. With some people you don’t mind at all, with others you see that they do this because they need the comfort of special attention; this takes some energy but it is a natural part of such things.

Finally my father’s last wife, the mother of my youngest half-sister (4 wives, 6 children, that’s the patchwork my Dad created, 4 of them present + many of the children that came into the family with their mothers), took us all to a place for a drink with closest family and friends. Is it wrong to say that we had good fun? Maybe, but we had. It was good to see all of them in good cheer.

Some time in Spring we will be putting ashes of my father under the tree he used to play under and climb around in when he was a young boy, joyously, so joyously that he was imagining, he told me when we spoke about this a year or so ago, “When my life is over I want to be put at his roots.”

Enlightening the Passions – Day 19 (Dark Waves)

Providence has hidden a charm in difficult undertakings which is appreciated only by those who dare to grapple with them. — Anne-Sophie Swetchine; The Writings of Madame Swetchine

The day has only just begun and Madam J. dropped by much more forcefully than she did yesterday. Only now, given the right circumstance for this investigation, I could uncover again the deep, and in a way soft sadness that’s underneath Madam J’s trappings. I don’t know where this somewhat paralyzing feeling comes from. It is connected with a feeling of being forlorn and seems to want to be beyond consolation.
Do I need to go through this again and again and again?
I would so much love to be in my generous heart, and in my sadness I also know, that this cannot be ‘done’. I remember the change I wrote about yesterday, and keep reminding myself of it. And looking out of my window across the street to the houses on the other side of the street I know that behind those windows there are all kinds of people with a multitude of feelings, some maybe even with the type of sad feelings I’m having. All of us are casted in roles and a play that we have both chosen and not chosen, moved or at least effected by the feelings that go with that. And then I think if I should choose a very different course than the one I’m taking now, “Would that make a real difference?”

Reflecting on my life and its different periods, full of all kinds of searches and journeys towards change, toward exploration, towards an enlightened life. And I see now that I’ve always moved, even in the times that were very much enlightened, with my general feeling. Never mind the period of my life, there were always irritating, challenging and even desperate times. Surely there seems to be an overall movement into more encompassing levels of being with and in this world we all share, but that doesn’t seem to effect the feelings other than allowing me to feel more intensely, more fine-grained and more unrestrictedly.
“No salvation from feeling,” I think. But then, would I want to be in a place where there are no feelings at all? No bodies that are prerequisite to feeling? (Not that I remember how it was without a body, but I seem to be convinced that feeling needs a warm-blooded vessel, at least the kind that I’m looking at now – including the extatic and blissfull ones.)
Thinking of the people that I’ve hung out with more or less intensely that are deemed to be ‘enlightened’, they also where feeling everything, and, come to think of it, some were quite unconscious about what they were feeling and how it influenced their behavior. Actually in their teaching and in what they expressed it was clear that they regarded themselves as having transcended this. But from where I stand now I would say that transcending this is not an option. From my perspective, enlightenment as I’ve seen it manifested is just the most sophisticated denial of the fires of the living available for us.

So would I exchange what I’m going through in this situation for another one? If I could pick and choose from the shelves of destiny like it were a super-market, yes certainly, I would. Real life is different though, and there is – apart from miracles that are just that, miraculous – real limits to what is possible.
I’ve chosen to not do the classical things, separate, create pressure, sulk, etc. But even if I would go, there would always be “negative feelings” and the challenge that comes with that. So really, the only true choice is between being fully alive with feeling and opening up to unforeseen possibilities that come out of the feelings themselves…

When the larger waves of sadness crash on me, what I said above doesn’t come to mind, that’s obvious of course. What comes to mind is headlines and scenes that reinforce me feeling sad. And “unrestricting myelf”, being with my feeling, also means to simply not take the easy ways out what most of these headlines and scenes offer – “Close down”, “Create more distance”, “Get angry and take revenge”, “At least change the topic”, etc.. So sadness remains, even if I really have no idea where it comes from, what it does mean beyond the obvious phrases that can be used in such a situation – and which actually are used by some friends if I don’t stop them from consoling me, offering help, advise or righteous anger.
The sadness makes me tired, is incapacitating me. So in the course of the day a slight tinge of anger, a kind of “leave me alone!” vibration, has helped to keep me going, though. If I were to boldly exaggerate I’d say that the sadness makes me want to lie down and fade away whereas the anger channels enough energy to me to keep on going.

In all of this there is also the notion that even though ‘challenging’ feelings might be specific to the state I’m in, feelings of bliss are also state-specific – they come, for instance, in times when my whole soul expands to embrace all existence and non-spacetime as well. So feelings are state-specific, and the states to which these feelings belong exist independent of the developmental level I’m generally on. They can be likened to parts of our body that remain more or less the same, regardless of our development: Just as a hand so is the pain of a baby the same hand and pain that an old, wise man might feel, and the joy of a little kid is the same a wise old lady feels.
If this is more than a notion and holds true – and right now I can’t remember situations in my own life where it hasn’t – then as much as inner growth and maturation is beautiful, the basic challenges remain, at least if one goes for being “aware and feelingly presenct;” this being shorthand for the continual practice of ‘unrestricting’ myself, reality-dialoging my hunches, ideas and yes also what the feelings tell me. By reality-dialoging I mean, if a person is involved asking them, if this or that feeling is correct,  or telling them what touches or moves my heart right now. Even if that is in itself something that makes me feel “ashamed to ask”.


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)

Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)

Enlightening the Passions – Day 18 (Madame J. visits)

You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can decide how you’re going to live now. — Joan Baez

Had an interesting encounter with my old friend jealousy – Madame J. –  today. Interesting, because when I expected her to come and burn up my heart-solar plexus area, give me a belly-ache and a tearing at my guts, all she did was to give me some sadness and a sentiment of constriction around the heart.
Maybe I don’t need that gut-rattling anymore. Maybe the in depth work-out with my feelings has flexed my feeling-body so that it now doesn’t hit me that hard anymore. Maybe I breath deeper most of the time. Maybe the avalanche is just waiting to hit me some time later, today or tomorrow. Maybe…
I don’t know. This is just happening.

There is a shaky sense of uncertainty often during the day, but – apart from the jealousy in it’s soft version – I don’t think there has been any headline in my mind coming up to explain it. So I reckon it to be part of the new form of jealousy I’m confronted with now…
But actually it sounds too strange to put the slightly shaky uncertainty in one pot with Madame J. Shouldn’t I reserve that feeling for the more dramatic moments in my life? Maybe Madam J.; I just think, is the dramatic appearance and make-up of Miss Uncertainty? There seems to be a ring of truth to that, at least I’ve got this gut-feeling that tells me, “Hey Mushin, this does make sense.” Whatever the case may be, I guess as time progresses – and it always does; except for photons that know no time – I’ll see what this morphs into.

In a work related online meeting that went on for 2+ hours (on reflection later) I noticed that not once did I feel under attack when suggestions and proposals I had spent quite some time considering and preparing were not taken up, and one time the word ‘pedantic’ was used in connection with a wish for changing some terms we use… and not even then did I take this as something that was saying anything about me personally. I didn’t tell myself, “Don’t take this personal.” I didn’t tell myself anything, I just was attending to what appeared on my radar mentally, emotionally and whateverly.
I didn’t notice at the time that this was going on and my “Don’t say anything I don’t want to hear about my stuff because I take it personally” wasn’t on the alert in the background, but when reflecting on it this is amazing! And what’s most astonishing is that enriched with this experience I can now look back in my past and see how personal everything used to be! A remark that surely only related to some tiny aspect of my work or something I had done was often a cause for elaborate defenses, irritation or feeling really hurt.
Not wanting to go into rose-cloud-mode with this I’m not going to overvalue this happening, and I’ll tell myself that this is not caused by the practice I arrived at with this experiment- but it is encouraging nevertheless.

— I just heard the wonderful news that one of my heart’s brothers has become father. And seeing the pictures of the lovely new one, the mother and him the frail and robust beauty of our human condition touches my heart as well as remembering all the feelings that came my way in the time of my girlfriends pregnancy, during the birth and during the first days and weeks.
There, for a very short time, unrestricted feelings abounded…


Starting up the experiment
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (Powerlessness)
Day 5
Day 6 (Jealousy)
Day 7 (Guilt & Jealousy)
Day 8
Day 9 (Shame)
Day 10 (Interlude)
Day 11 (Under Pressure)
Day 12
Day 13 (Clear Delight)

Day 14
Day 15 & 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19 (Dark Waves)
Day 20 (Time Out)
Day 21 (Splash)
Day 22 (Understanding)
Day 23 (Fear & Imagination)
Day 24 (Vulnerable)
Day 25
Day 26 (The Presence of The Past)
Ending the Experiment – Day 27 (Intentional Vulnerability)