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On Loss

September 17, 2010

For the second time in my adult life, I'm feeling the loss of someone who inspired me, to whom I felt a strong sense of kinship mixed with awe, without having developed the kind of substantial closeness that might have followed if that awe had been a bit smaller.  I want to note that this is a separate category from people to whom I was authentically close.  I don't know why I feel the need to make that distinction -- perhaps I just don't want to presume, or characterize my loss as equivalent to that experienced by the intimates of the deceased.

The first of these losses, a couple of years ago, was one of my mentors in the art and craft of theatre, who took me under his wing and nurtured my skills and my spirit.  The second, earlier this month, was Lady Serena Endura.  When I was in high school, Serena ran a little witchy bookshop, and it was there I bought my (now tattered) copy of Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.  Like any baby Pagan, I must have been terribly annoying and clueless, but she was very kind and welcoming.  I sat in that shop with her on many, many occasions, just chatting.  She formed my early impressions of what a Priestess and Witch -- the real thing, sans pointy hat -- were: authoritative, nurturing, and deeply connected to the world through her faith.  Her shop closed, of course, and I lost track of her, though I knew she ran a group just outside of town.  When I was planning my wedding, I found her again, and while there are many things I'd now change about the ceremony, her blessing meant and still means a lot to me.  We still have most of the container of sea salt -- pewter, with a pentacle on the lid -- that was her gift to us.

As I recently started to emerge from my Priestess-burnout, I was thinking about her almost constantly, never realizing how close she was to the veil.  I wish I'd had another opportunity to connect with her, to ask her to share some of her wisdom as one who'd been leading for so many years.  I feel as though I barely knew her, and yet I feel her absence from the world like an old friend.

The day I heard of her passing, a poem came to me once again, the same one that haunted my consciousness after Steve died.  To honour her, I'll share its last lines here: the poem is Tennyson's Ulysses.

Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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You perfectly put into words my thoughts on the passage of someone who was an inspiration. I was not authentically close to the person and would never want to presume that my sense of loss was anything akin to that of his family or friends, but it was a shock and it forced me to realize that the people who make differences in our lives, and then disappear into the periphery may pass away before we have a chance to thank them. It disturbed me far more than I could have predicted.



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