Children grow up surrounded by big people. These big people love them and care about them and protect them from harm. The number of big people varies from family to family. In mine, I grew up with a mother and a father and three grandparents. (One of them died before I was born.) None of these grandparents died until I was in my thirties. In fact, I didn’t ‘know’ anybody who had died until I was 19. I was aware of how protected I felt. I was aware that these elders somehow kept mortality at bay.
I was in my thirties when my grandparents died. Not all at once, mind you, but gradually. By the time, I was forty they were gone. Still, my parents held forth and, even though I was on my own, I felt circled by them. Protected. Younger than. I was still one step removed from mortality.
Then on July 4, 2009, my mother died. Two years later, on September 29, 2011, my oldest sister died. This week, on May 23, 2012, my father died in his sleep. He was 91.
When my daughter was born in 1996, I remember one of the songs that played in the delivery room was Peter Yarrow’s The Great Mandala. I know. How did one of the greatest anti-war songs make it on the delivery room tape? Who knows? All I know is that the phrase: “Take your place on the Great Mandala as it moves through your brief moment of time” had resonance for me. As my daughter entered the world, she took her place on the Great Mandala of life and I moved further out on the ring of mortality. And like her arrival, my father’s departure has moved me to a different place on the Great Mandala.
Rest in Peace, Dad. Thank you for so many years of being my big person.