G a t h e r i n g ?

“We are gathered here today…”
Weddings. Funerals. Sundays.

A Sibling. A Mother. A Day.

“Without her money, would there be a ‘we’?”
A gathering.
A calendared event.

Leigh M. Leightner

In a small town, everyone knows the funeral director, because he’s the only one. He knows family members in ways family members don’t know one another. Wedding, funerals, Sundays, and church are pieces required for event planning, and in all situations, his energy exudes compassion.

I’ve attended one too many of all events, and been in charge of coordinating the most painful. It’s always easier to work behind the curtain, but not because I’m afraid to be seen. It’s easier because I’ve seen enough. It’s easier to shut myself off from the world to protect the love within and around me so that my endeavoring remain focused on pouring back into the world, versus fighting off opposing energies.

There are moments when franticness fills me up inside from head to toe, and when I think that going out and making a ‘we’ will take it away. So I’ve gone out in spite of fearing my vulnerabilities to seek and find ‘my’ people, then commenced to gathering. Speeches begin the same way wherever I go, including work. All becomes a calendared event, new and old friendships included. None of it feels correct, real, or passionate. None of it aims to make a significant impact on improving the quality of life, nor will any of its content live after our gathering has died. At our exits and farewells, compassion spontaneously shifts to courtesy, becoming calendarized like the gathering.

The bed is my sensitive place – the space I feel comfortable releasing emotions. More often than I’d like, I sit still and untouched, quieting my anxiety at what feels to be a rising and insane need to make love. At the fear of forgetting what it feels like for someone else to touch me, at figuring out how to make peace in a gathering world that feels to have limited its touch in various traditions of social approval. Anxiety also arises from a need to separate the noise of nonsense to replace it with the hum of peaceful direction; at identifying the sound within first, training the heart to hear correctly; trying to teach the same, like training ears to hear music; then accepting that I hear differently.

I’d been seated but got up to use the bathroom, and on my way back people approached with questions, thinking I worked there. After walking them towards their seat, more people approached with questions, so I became an usher to the line of new arrivals in the back of the room. Above the crowd’s talking, I heard gasps, and looking up saw a group of young girls open my grandmother’s casket and began singing to her, asking her to wake up. No one made a move to stop them, either because it was so unexpected that they opened her closed casket and went into song, or because she was dressed as a princess. When I saw how beautiful she looked, I woke up.

Final Thoughts
My grandmother was cremated, and I didn’t have the opportunity to attend her funeral. I’m not sure she attended either because I’d always felt she’d participated in my gathering instead, which was the same day on the calendar. I’m not sure what the dream means, and whether in contradiction to my thoughts. Maybe I always felt my grandmother should have been treated like a princess, and hold some latent resentment that those who gathered didn’t treat her accordingly. Perhaps she wanted me to know the world’s treatment didn’t change her sovereignty. Maybe she wanted me to see how songs of innocence could reveal the unexpected in places of tradition. Perhaps she wanted me to use my employee face to usher, the one that annoyingly causes others to approach and ask me where things are in places I patron. Maybe the raspberries I ate before bed were bad. Who knows. All I know is I must stop writing now, and attend to my calendar.

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