Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Last Days: Twilight

Yesterday marked 19 years of my father being gone from this Earth. Well, one of my father's anyways. William Arthur McGaughy died on October 19th of 1994. He raised me from the age of 2 until the age of 13. That's eleven years of fathering I received from him. He wasn't my biological father. And he never formally adopted me. But in eleven years, he managed to have incredible impact on my development. 

Which has me thinking about parenting and biology versus presence/influence. Like, does sperm or day to day have more power? Yes, this is nature versus nurture. Seems to me like both are hella significant. 

Which has me thinking about J.R. and our/my daughter and his other daughter.  

Which has me thinking about my dead father/s and my soon-to-be-born son. 

I've had this suspicion, all along, that unborn babies and dead ancestors reside in the same space. Can't remember if I've ever written about this at length, but if I have, sorry for the repetition. Anyways: I think there's a Beyond where those who have gone before us dwell with those who will soon be on their way. I think there's an ushering that happens, when a baby is born. That the ancestors of that child, gather together in a sacred huddle, scoop up the spirit of the not-yet-born, and bring it to the precipice of entry. I believe this. I do. 

Why? 

Well, because I'm a pastor. And if nothing else, being a pastor affords some extremely unique insights into the broad spectrum of life, including twilight moments in people's lives/families. For instance, when Andria & Tom Ryberg's daughter Ellie was born, I had the unparalleled gift of greeting her in the Ryberg household on her very first day of life. Her newness, her 'just arrived' energy textured the entire home. All I can say is that it feels like twilight, or as Barbra Brown Taylor would say "a thin space" where the distinctions between "Heaven and Earth" are temporarily suspended. I've also read Islamic mystics write about this phenomenon using the term "veil." Like, the veil that covers the Divine Face or the veil that boundaries here and Beyond from one another drops. So yeah, newborn energy is like that. There's an eerie and elated coating of and in the air. A presence. Palpable. But here's the significant thing: the energy of the room where someone has just died is exactly the same. It just so happens that the day I met Ellie Ryberg is the same day that a beloved older member of our church had just died in his room at the local nursing home. I went from laying hands on and doing last rites/ish with a dead body at 4pm to holding a newborn in my arms at 7pm. The energy in their respective spaces was the exact same. I repeat: the sacred energy of newborns and the newly dead is exactly the same. 

Because I am writing here about something that only exists for a brief moment in time, a reality that is all together rare and accessed (only) twice in a person's life, I am hard-pressed to have any language that works in describing it. How do you describe that moment when the day light and dark cross each other and entirely cancel each other out in the fullness of their being? You can't. You just keep your eye on the sky, right? Right. So on that day, when Ellie was born, and Mr. Fox died, I felt for the very first time the twilight phenomenon of birth and death, the crossing over and the accompanying spirit that ushers it all in/out. And since then I've been with a whole bunch of newborns and a whole bunch of dead bodies (never again on the same day, though) and I've been paying very very strict attention to that energy because I think it has something to offer/teach/reveal. 

This morning I got a text from my enduring and faithful friend Julian. He remembers October 19th every year. He remembers my father and remembers my father's death and he remembers to let me know that he remembers. I cannot express in words how much that memorializing presence of his impacts me. Julian is the only one, besides my mother, who takes the time to acknowledge the immense influence my father and my father's death had on me and on the world. The outside acknowledgment itself does a work of healing, and in some ways brings my father's life into a more tangible place to be touched by me (now, today, even though he's no longer here). 

But this morning, this year, it was different. Like I said, Julian remembers every year. But this year I'm pregnant. Like, full term pregnant, about to give birth any second. And I'm pregnant with a boy-child. This juxtaposition of space/time/birth/death in the realm of the masculine gave me pause. Neither of my father's are on this Earth. Neither is J.R.'s father on this Earth. They have all crossed over. They are not here. Which in some ways causes a stirring of grief so deep in me, so familiar and life-long, that I almost cannot witness (to) it. But it also makes me think about that accompanying spirit/s that will be present in the birth-room. I shot Julian a text back about hoping that my father (and since then I've been praying that J.B. Schwartz, my biological father, and Joseph Reynolds II, J.R.'s father) will be Isaiah's ushering guides to the precipice of this Earth. All day I have been envisioning those three men bringing my son home to life in the sturdiness of their celestial grip. The vision brings comfort. The vision brings power. 

Just for that fleeting moment, when we are all there together--the ancestors, the living, the newly born--I hope we are all able to recognize, revel in and release each other in the ways we need to for the next round of generational unfolding to happen with grace. I hope they can feel me reaching as I am pushing. I hope they can feel me opening to their passage as I am stretching my body like never before. I hope, in the holiness of twilight, that we are all forgiven. That we are all forgiven. Forgiven and set free. 

1 comment:

J.R. Reynolds said...

I am in awe of you, Emily Joye. I am also thrilled and humbled that you I get to be your life partner.