Love, Loss and Letting Go within the Labyrinth

Photo by Bo Mackinson

Photo by Bo Mackinson

Unbeknownst to me, there was a dragon waiting for me within the winding path of pavement. It was not the fire-breathing demon I've become accustomed to dealing with every time something horrific happens in the world. It was a tender-hearted giant of grief that quietly arrived when I saw the first orange leaf fall from a tree of many colors that stood next to the labyrinth.

And for a very long time, I stood in the labyrinth staring at that tree. As I watched the leaves fall, I thought of the grief workshop I would soon step into in a few days' time. One of the things, Francis Weller (the facilitator of this workshop and the author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow) says is this, "Everyone we love, we will lose." As those words wove themselves through my body, the leaves began falling more quickly. Just a slight breeze released many of them from the branches they'd call home for a season.

Over the last two years, I have lost one friend two suicide. Within a week of each other, my grandmother died because of an old heart and my aunt died, I believe of a broken heart, under very tragic circumstances. My beloved 15 year old cat died in my arms as the vet "put him to sleep." These personal losses along with the daily losses happening around the world to people, to animals, to Mother Nature at the hands of angry human beings and corrupt administrations, have made this soul of mine very heavy at times.

With the leaves continuing to fall and my steps finding me again, the tender-hearted giant began to reveal many truths during my very slow walk to the middle of the maze. 

I will lose everyone I love.  

I first noticed the brightly-colored leaves scattered along the path - bright sunshine-yellow, pumpkin-orange, ruddy raisin, burgandy red. These leaves hadn't been gone long from the tree. Buddy. Grandma Johnson. Aunt Adele. My beautiful friend, Home Le'amohala.  My dear friend and high school principal, Roger. Then I noticed the various shades of brown leaves- ecru, amber, sienna, dark chestnut. These leaves had fallen from the tree awhile ago; several years, a couple decades, a lifetime. My great grandmother. My three other grandparents. My friend, Tamara. Uncle Steve.

I will lose everyone I love.

I will lose my husband. I will lose all my relatives; my parents, my sister, my nephews, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. I will lose all my friends; the ones I've ever had friendships with, the ones I still maintain friendships with today.

So while I don't know when I'll lose all of these beautiful beings in my life, the truth is...I will lose all of them. 

The loss and grief that moved through my body as my steps became slower and slower felt so heavy, so unbearable, I considered stepping out of the labyrinth and running into the woods to sob. I chose to stay. I stayed because there were other people having their own experience in the labyrinth and I didn't want to disturb them or leave them. I stayed because I wanted to know what I might find in the center. 

Photo by Susan Johnson

Photo by Susan Johnson

I wrapped my shawl around me a bit tighter and continued on. I continued on as the leaves continued to fall all around me. I continued on as the squirrels began to chatter and the crows began to screech. I continued on as the dragon led me to where I needed to go. 

I will lose everyone I love. That, of course, includes me. 

As I stepped into the center of the labyrinth, the dragon's breath was a comforting warm breeze against my skin. My body no longer felt heavy. It felt light and liberated. The most significant truth revealed itself soon after stepping in...

Dragons are not to be slayed. They are to be embraced.  

And so I embraced the love and loss of myself, the ultimate letting go and in so doing, my grief for all those I have ever or will ever love, was somehow set free.