On Sept. 2, gunfire took the life of my very good friend, Susan Choucroun.
Her loss weaves in and around my thoughts, knitting together my days: “She is gone, she is gone,” rustle the leaves in the morning wind. “You will never see her again,” honk the geese flying low.
Where are you, my friend? Here? In the heavens? Everywhere?
In retrospect, though no owl had hooted, and no hawk had flown across my path, subtle signs were preparing me for loss.
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Only the week before, we enjoyed each other’s company over lunch at our favorite Cheesecake Factory. Sharing confidences, laughing, whispering, both of us, with some misgiving, passing up dessert. Though more than an hour had passed, Susan seemed not in a hurry, and said to me, “Do you have to leave? We still have time.” So, we stayed much longer than I wished to, though I worried our table was needed by others.
The next Tuesday, I was to facilitate our monthly pipe circle, an American Indian spirituality faith practice. Pipe circles are led by different members of our group, held in different homes. We gather to share our individual thoughts and pray with the sacred pipe. This was my first pipe circle to lead in nearly a year.
As the morning dawned, I moved quickly about my day shopping for the evening, cooking and cleaning, preparing for our ceremony, oblivious that in another neighborhood, senseless violence was overtaking lives. Five would die, and one would be Susan.
As the evening’s pipe circle began, we focused our prayers upon Being Here Now, which is a state of being in the present moment where many believe effective prayer takes place. Being Here Now is a present moment state of consciousness where many believe one may attain perfect alignment with the spirit world — whether praying to God, Creator, the saints and angels, or one’s ancestors.
In our circle we spoke, too, of the cyclical nature of life and its transition back to the source. We spoke of the recent loss of friends and loved ones. One dear fellow in the end stages of Parkinson’s shared the planning of his Irish wake. “Will you come?” he said. “I hope you will be coming.”
As we prayed that evening, we moved more and more into the awareness of Being Here Now, inviting the spirits of our ancestors and loved ones recently passed to join us.
We invited the spirits of those loved ones present in our lives, though not in our midst, to join us. And, we invited all the spirits of the generations to come, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s spirits, to join us in loving embrace of peace and harmony. In our endeavor, we felt a continuum, an interconnection, an interrelatedness with the seen and unseen.
The following day, caring for a friend’s home, I was surprised to see a vase of gladioli on her kitchen table, with a note, “Take them, if you like.”
“So funereal,” I thought. Minutes later, I learned of Susan’s death in a text message.
At her services the Friday following, I cried on the shovels of earth I placed upon her pine coffin. I took a small stone from her grave site in her memory.
Saturday is All Saints Day and I will light a luminary for Susan. Sunday is All Souls Day, and at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center, as part of the program for the 30th Annual Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner, I’ll be thinking about Susan and the beautiful light she still shines upon me.
In remembering, I will strive to be more in awareness of the present moment and my relationship and connection with all that is present around me. For, in that awareness, I am, she is, you are, we are, together as one in everlasting spirit.
Goodbye, dear Susan, and hello.
Kara Hawkins is another of The Star’s new rotation of Faith Walkers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.