Honoring the Dead

Admittedly, things have been a bit more strange and crazy in my world than they usually are, so it comes as no surprise to me when I forget to do things like taking the trash out to the curb or answering emails. Some things are so ingrained into my spiritual practices that forgetting them would be like forgetting to get up in the morning. One of these practices is to honor the dead who have in some way positively affected my life. Typically, I do this on either on their birthdays or the anniversary of their deaths. For a few individuals, both occasions are honored, as they have influenced me not only with their lives, but with their deaths as well.

Over the weekend, I forgot to celebrate the birthday of one such person, a friend and partner from college named Raven. I woke up this morning after dreaming of him and could not believe that I’d somehow forgotten to honor him on his birthday. Raven had more influence on my spiritual path than anyone else I’ve known, as well as future choices about my life path- boyfriends, sex, emotional openness. Furthermore, it was through Raven that I originally met Andy, who as it has turned out came and went out of my life in that same spectacular, bittersweet way that Raven did. I loved and lost each of them in a relatively short time span and my life after each of their passings has been fundamentally altered. Raven’s death became an excuse to emotionally shut down; Andy’s passing, at least for now, has resulted in my heart reopening to some scary possibilities- like the fact that I am still capable of love, no matter how much I might deny it.

How could I forget to honor someone who has played such a role in my life, someone whose influence continues more than a dozen years after his death, someone who still haunts my dreams? How do you forget someone who quiet literally died in your arms? I didn’t forget because I’ve been too busy or too wrapped up in other thoughts. On the contrary, I’ve thought more about Raven in last two months than I have in the last two years. I also check my book of days on a weekly basis and his birthday is clearly noted there. I remember thinking to myself “Hmm, that’s right. Raven’s birthday is Saturday.” No, I cannot plead the excuse that it had completely slipped my mind.

The answer is simple, I think, as to why I failed to offer up prayers and burn a white candle as is my normal ritual…. I don’t need Raven anymore. I no longer need to hold on to the feelings I had for him and the feelings that I had because of him. For too long, he held a venerated place in my mind, a sort of martyrdom for having loved me and for dying at a young age. I hate to admit it, but he could do no wrong in my memories. Interestingly it was our mutual friend, Andy, who gave me a new perspective on Raven, who after all these years, told me some hard truths about the man I thought I knew. Andy opened my eyes to Raven’s flaws, let me see him as a human being again.

We’ve come full circle now, Raven and I. Our work here is done, at least as far as each other are concerned. I have finally let go of all that he was to me and his influence on my life has essentially come to an end. It’s not that I don’t feel appreciative of Raven, but I no longer feel that I need to offer my time and energy in honoring him. I don’t need to be tied to that part of my past any longer. I’ll burn one last candle for him and let him go… for good.


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