Why do I teach yoga as a method of grief support? The easiest answer to this question is because yoga helped me after I suffered the death of my partner in 2006.
I didn't see the benefit of yoga right away, but I went to regular yoga classes - more because it was something to do than anything else. Over time, I noticed I was sleeping better, and breathing deeper. When I was calm, I felt more calm...and when I wasn't I felt more aware that I wasn't. I learnt movements, positions, stretches and breathing exercises that I could do by myself and for myself when I needed it. Rolling out my mat, sitting down, closing my eyes and taking a few conscious breaths became a ritual.
Ironically, in the stillness and quiet of the yoga studio, my grief began to bubble up and bubble over. Slowing down in yoga made me aware of everything that I had pushed down and pushed aside to simply get through my days.
I felt awkward in a room full of young, fit, bodies in fancy yoga clothes. I felt disheveled, and haggard. I sat alone on my mat before class started, annoyed at how happy everyone was. During the class, I'd burst into tears during twisting poses. I'd stifle my tears during savasana. At the end of class I'd roll up my mat and hurry out of the room, not wanting anyone of those happy people to see I had been crying. There were sometimes over 20 people in those classes, and I felt immensely alone.
I didn’t understand why I was crying. I didn't know why twists caused it. I didn’t understand why I felt so crazy all the time, and angry about happy people. I didn’t understand the black hole of emotion that opened up when I learned to meditate. And yet, in every class a yoga teacher would say or do something that felt supportive and helpful; and I wished there was a yoga class specifically designed for someone like me. Someone who was grieving.
Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” So I did. I studied yoga. I took notes and wrote down reflections after each class. I went to counseling and grief support groups. I started to learn about grief in MY body and mind.
I took my yoga teacher training. I got certificates in Bereavement Support, and Death and Grief Studies. I applied my knowledge around the therapeutic use of activity from my professional career as an Occupational Therapist.
Over time, I developed a class where grieving people could do yoga, learn the benefits, apply the wisdom and cry if they wanted to or needed to. A huge piece of the class is education about death and grief - dispelling misconceptions, and learning (re-learning) the natural, instinctive response to loss that our society has so carefully tried to avoid.
There is a prayer flag I made, hanging in my back yard, that quotes the Talmud. It sums up why I am so passionate about supporting other people who are bereaved and grieving. This flag is hanging in view of my kitchen window and when I see it I am reminded...
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly NOW. Love mercy NOW. Walk humbly NOW. You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it.”
It’s been almost a year since I wrote on this blog. For those who have subscribed to receive notifications of updates, I apologize for my absence.
I’ve lacked focus here. I’ve struggled with what to write. The topics I want to write about - yoga and grief - are so huge, that it’s overwhelming to distill it down to one coherent piece that is educational, informative and personal.
Over the past few years I’ve pursued more education and training in yoga, grief and end-of-life, and it seems that the more I learn, the harder it is to write about. One of my great Uncle’s who was a famous chemist once said, “The more I learn, the less I know.” I always wondered what he meant by that. Now I know.
I sent out a SOS to my email list, requesting feedback on what people would like to read about. I got one reply – from my friend’s husband – who simply wrote, “I would like to know why you teach what you do.”
It’s taken me a while to condense that suggestion into a direction and plan. Why do I teach what I do?
I like where this could go. It appeals to me to take it right back to the beginning. Right down to the studs. The crux of why I thought yoga would be a good support for grief, and why I created the class I did.
I’m excited about this. It’s given me a new way to communicate how yoga can support grief – from a more personal vantage point – and yet, hopefully universally enough that people can relate.
…I know I’ve said that before, but really…this time I mean it.
“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” -- Agnes M. Pharo
Tenderness for the past
Reflecting on the past year, it has no doubt been filled with change. That, it seems, is the only constant. Reflect back with kindsight, not hindsight. Be compassionate for yourself and your situation. After all, we are all doing the best we can, with the knowledge we have. Over time we learn and change and grow, but the seeds of change are planted in the past.
Courage for the present
When life is intense, disruptive and painful it is easy to become overwhelmed. In each moment take a deep breath, find your center, and be responsive. Courage isn’t only bravery and heroism. It’s an inner strength and calm awareness, combined with an ability to be honest and authentic about who you are. Remember, courage can be a quiet thing, and found in the accumulation of small steps.
Hope for the future
Hope can be found in your personal search for, and reflections around purpose and meaning in your life. Hope can whisper from the corners of unpredictable situations, or sing from the mountain tops of tried and true strategies that bring you peace. Borrowed hope is hope that you sense and trust in other people, even if you feel hopeless yourself.
As we look forward into 2015, and are met with the mystery of the future, I wish for hope. Hope that every path will lead to peace.
“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” - Lin Yutang
There is a difference between a broken heart and a heart broken open. The broken heart is real but leads to a shutting down on life. The heart broken open creates the possibility for light to filter in. In that open space, there is room for compassion and tenderness to grow. In the end, choice helps to shape your experience. Choose to let your heart be broken open and see what remains to grow. - Ashley Davis Bush
I resonate with the work of Ashley Davis Bush and find her to be so affirming and loving in sharing her wisdom. When I saw the quote written above on her Facebook page and it made me think of all the heart opening practices there are in yoga.
Slowly and gently yoga invites you to notice your heart. To breathe into it, and to create space in it. Enough space to hold all the hurt and all the love simultaneously - perhaps this is what being broken open means. Connecting with the heart's brokenness and openness creates compassion and understanding, and from there, choice. Choice to treat yourself compassionately, choice to make decisions that are life giving and self supportive. There can be wisdom and guidance in a heart broken open.
Below is a short heart opening sequence.
As you move through this practice be open to how your heart is communicating with your mind and body. Notice what thoughts present themselves to your mind. Notice your emotional reactions to them. Notice the subtle (or not so subtle!) sensations in the body. This practice isn't about solving or changing anything. It's simply about connecting and opening to the wisdom and awareness that can reside in a heart broken open. Trust yourself.
Start in savasana. This is my favourite way to start class. Use this time as a time to transition from living your day outside yourself (as is often the case with jobs, families etc) to a "yoga space." A time of awareness and connection with yourself. Allow your body to settle, and bring your awareness to what you are experiencing on the inside. Take this time to allow your mind to settle on the breath, noticing its rhythmic flow, constancy, and availability. There is no rush. Take time to slow down. Take time to practice being open to and with your heart.
Bend your knees and roll onto one side. Resting there for a moment. Pressing up to sitting and setting up for a deeper heart opening pose. For this pose you will need two blankets, folded so it resembles a long skinny rectangle. Set yourself up so that one folded blanket is placed towards the head of your mat, around where your shoulder blades will be. Have the other folded blanket to place under the knees.
You will lay back on the blanket so it touches the shoulder blades. The shoulders must be above the blanket, so the shoulders can release towards the floor. Notice in the photo how my arms can easily fit above the blanket and the blanket is placed below the arm pits. **If the shoulders are resting on the blanket, it will not allow your heart to open. Place support under the head if your chin is lifting up, or if there is tension in the neck or throat.
Allow your upper back and knees to gently cascade over the blankets...hence the name, waterfall pose; Imagine water as it flows over rocks in a stream, smoothly and softly.
Breathe into your heart. Inhale and swirl the breath around your heart with the intention of having the breath nurture and explore the heart. Exhale and relax, sink, soften. Inhale and swirl, nurture, open, explore. Exhale soften.
To move out of this pose, roll over to one side and press up to sitting.
Next, move yourself to a wall. Have your folded blanket ready to use, or a bolster. The easiest way to get into legs up the wall pose is to sit beside the wall right hip and thigh is parallel to the wall. Turn to lay down on your back and swing your legs up the wall. Spend a few moments here, allowing your body to adjust to this position. There is no hurry. Slow down.
Bend your knees and place your feet on the wall. Lift your hips up off the floor and slide your blanket or bolster underneath your hips. You want to feel stable here so adjust the props as needed. Roll your shoulders together behind your back and press them into the floor so your breast bone lifts towards your chin and your chest and heart is open.
Breathe into the openness of your heart - the center of your chest. As you inhale expand the breath to both shoulders. Exhale and soften. With each in-breath expand the breath further: from the center of your heart to both shoulders and eventually down the arms and into the hands.
When you are ready to come down: place the feet on the wall and lift the hips. Remove the bolster or blanket and roll down one vertebrae at at time. This can be a really nice release for the back so move slowly and care-fully.
Once your hips are back on the floor, rest.
Staying in legs up the wall is a nice way to end the practice. Or, stretch out, lay flat (as in the start) and rest. For the first 10-20 breaths of savasana focus on breathing light into the heart. You can imagine a warm glow or a candle flame. As you inhale, imagine that light growing brighter. As you exhale maintain a sense of a light inner body. Inhale and grow the light brighter. Exhale and maintain.
"The heart broken open creates the possibility for light to filter in." - Ashley Davis Bush.
I recently started reading a book called Full Body Presence by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. The first chapter had me hooked.
In those first few pages she wrote of something that I have known on some level, but seeing it in print made it so much more tangible.
She describes many instances when we don't trust our internal awareness - for example, feeling intense grief over a dear friend moving away but being told by people around you that your grief was not important, and shameful..."Why are you worried about it? You have many other friends, right?" Or having a creepy reaction to someone in your life and being told to stop being so silly and jumping to conclusions.
"In all these examples, your body was telling you something important, but those around you tried to convince you that what you were sensing wasn't real or valid" (page 9).
It was this lack of trust of our inner and deepest self that struck a chord within me.
She further describes how a lack of trust of our inner worlds leads us to looking for external sources to shape, define, solve, remedy our lives.
Take grief for example.
Our grief slows us down physically and mentally. We feel tired, lethargic, numb, confused, disorientated, lost and sometimes even crazy. Our emotions are all over the map. We feel so different, our lives feel foreign. We wish we could go back in time and never let go of the past.
The worst part is this: In the throngs of grief you don't know what to do. You've never lived like this before. If you don't know, and don't trust what you feel inside, you look outside yourself for the answers.
You look to a society that pushes speed, rewards efficient solutions, reveres stoicism, and demands productivity. We, as a society, don't do well with stillness, solitude, loneliness, pain, and hurt.
So here we are.
"Keep really busy," they advise.
"Don't cry. She wouldn't want you to be sad," they scold.
"You need to get back to how you were before he died," they push.
"Don't live in the past," they warn.
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," they say.
"Quit playing the victim."
Need I go on?
We are taught to not trust our grief.
Intuiting the message, reading between the lines, understanding the subtext, we hear this:
"Whatever grief-striken energy you feel inside you is wrong. You feel the wrong things. You think the wrong things. You are doing it wrong."
What I teach in Yoga for Grief Support is this:
"Whatever grief-stricken energy you feel inside you is something to pay attention to. There is wisdom there. Let's learn, together, how to touch those wounds with compassion."
If you feel it, it's real.
If you feel it, it's important.
If you feel it, you can heal it.
Be curious about it. What is it saying? What is it's message? What is it's deepest need?
What if you believed that your internal world is telling you something very important about how you need to heal and nurture your broken heart?
Imagine, just for a second that the grief within you can be trusted - even in it's painful.
I mean, you are hurt, afterall. Let's spend some time there.
Say to it, "I will take care of you."
This is what moving towards your pain is. You must move (gently and with no rewards for speed) towards (and through) your pain to heal.
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana writes that our bodies are "incredible navigational systems that inform us constantly, from our gut instincts to our heart's deepest yearnings" (page 5).
Let's shift our relationship to our instincts and our senses from one of mistrust and doubt to reliance, and connection.
I'd love to hear your feedback on this book if/as you read it.
Please feel free to post comments under this blog.
'And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been' - Rainer Maria Rilke
Well, there goes 2013.
Another calendar page turned, another year is upon us.
The Rilke quote above is one of my favorite New Year's quotes. I love the truth and reminder that the coming year is "full of things that have never been."
This is one of the many harsh realities of grief - life has never been like it is now. Grief picks you up and plunks you down in a world that is changed, volatile, unfamiliar and painful; you have never lived your life without the person(s) that you have irrevocably lost. The grief you are experiencing now is a new and unknown experience for you.
And yet this, somehow, creates the space to heal grief. This mysterious unknown is the ground in which you can plant a healing intention.
The intention to heal grief is a positive commitment you make to yourself. A deliberate and personal responsibility to take action in your life that is self sustaining and supportive. A willingness to move gently towards your pain.
Perhaps this feels like an oxymoron - a positive intention that requires you to embrace pain? How can this be?
It is one of the many paradoxes of grief. Healing grief requires you to touch that which is painful. By moving towards your pain and your loss, you open yourself to how your loss has changed you. This changed, painful world is wildly unknown, and healing grief invites you to explore this mystery.
Grief invites you to live with questions that may not have answers, to experience emotions that seemingly arise out of nowhere, to live in a holding pattern - the life you knew before no longer exists, and the future has not yet come. This liminal space (this threshold, the betwixt and between), is fertile ground for healing. Setting a healing intention recognizes that there has to be a willingness to stay open to this state of not knowing. To embrace the darkness of grief and be touched by your loss and pain is how you begin to integrate you loss into your life. It is only by living the mystery that you will learn about the mystery.
An example of a healing intention may be:
"In this moment, I will stay open to my pain for it is both a testament to my love, and my teacher. I don't know what the next moment will bring, but I will embrace myself with compassion learn how to live with my new reality."
"I am willing to go into the unknown of my grief, I trust myself and my process."
To close, here is another quote by Rilke that speaks to the necessity to live through the mystery to find your way....
'Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.'
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Taking wisdom from the Cherokee culture today...this is a wonderful story about the importance of making space for ALL of your experiences; whether you perceive them as positive or negative. This rendition of the story I got from ServiceSpace's weekly email called InnerNet Weekly (February 5th 2013) and it's called "Beyond the Conflict of Inner Forces."
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
You might heard the story ends like this: The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
In the Cherokee world, however, the story ends this way:
The old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right, they both win.” and the story goes on:
“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.
"You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing.
"How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”
Here is a moving rendition of Amazing Grace. It's the Cherokee version, done by Walela. Best experienced with the volume turned up, and headphones on.
From my heart to yours,
I can’t be the only person on this planet who has struggled with holding the pain of grief and “thanks-giving” at the same time.
Just today, I heard an ad on the radio outlining the things we should be grateful for. That one word, “should,” got my back up. Gratitude has become a buzz word, and I’ve often wondered how many people (myself included) really understand what gratitude is? In our busy distracted world I wonder if people really do feel and experience a deep sense of thankfulness and appreciation instead of just saying they do? Especially in the face of loss and grief.
Back in October 2006, I attended our annual family thanksgiving dinner fill with dread. All 40 of us circle around the room and state what we are thankful for. That year, I had nothing. Cam died 4 months prior, I was overcome by the largeness of my loss. As CS Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed, about his wife’s death, “her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
There was a lot I should have said, and even could have said, but I didn’t. I could have said, “I am grateful for my health,” but instead I agonized over, “Why wasn’t he healthy?” I could have said, “I’m thankful for having him in my life,” which simply reinforced how much I lost and how much I still wanted him in my life. I could have said, “I’m grateful for my family,” but the only person I was looking for in that crowded room was him.
Gratefulness felt trite. Empty. Impossible.
Earlier that October day I had been sitting outside in the fall sunshine. I closed my eyes and absorbed the warmth of the sun. I could smell the crispness of fall in the air. I heard the flap of a bird’s wings as it flew overhead and stared in awe at the mere fact I just heard a bird flying.
I felt something in those experiences. I absorbed, smelt, heard, and felt awe. But, I can’t say I took the time to appreciate them. And yet, looking back, these glimpses of experiences that were so small brought large amounts relief and reprieve.
Now I see that what I needed at the time was to not only understand the power of gratitude but to shift my expectations of it. To forget what the world thinks I SHOULD be grateful for and find things that move me to a natural state of deep appreciation and kindness…and beyond that, recognize that state as gratitude itself.
In wrestling with this over the years, I have learnt some valuable lessons about how to make gratitude a more accessible experience even in the face of grief.
1. Be flexible with your expectations around gratitude. Gratitude is malleable, and your perception of gratitude will change depending on life circumstances. There may be times in your life when your gratefulness spans life-times and relationships, and there may be other times when you are grateful to get through a moment. For example, when you are healthy, it’s easy to say, “I’m grateful for good health.” After a life threatening diagnosis, your expectation of gratitude may change to being grateful for good lab results, or a good report from a surgeon. Your benchmark of gratitude has shifted and this flexibility allows you to find gratitude despite challenging situations.
2. Slow down enough to notice the small things. Think of gratitude as a practice of mindfulness. On my daily dog walk I could go over projects, to do lists, mentally solve all my problems and do all my thinking, but instead of being “mind full” I try to be mindful. I try to get out of my head and into my body. I engage my senses and take the time to notice the beauty around me; to see the slanted light shining through a grove of trees or the red fall leaves against a bright blue sky, hear the crunch of snow under my boot on an otherwise silent morning, smell the pine tree as I walk under it, the relief and release I feel after in my chest and shoulders after a deep sigh. Instead of these small things going un-noticed, they become an intentional exercise in appreciation. Thich Nhat Hanh says, "People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes. All is a miracle."
3. Let it sink in. Take the small things and the beautiful things, and make them big things. Be open to feeling the shift in perception when something sparks that fire of appreciation and relief within you. That spark is what we are grateful for – it’s a feeling, a visceral response that brings us much-needed reprieve…
4. Understand that gratefulness is not about denial of loss and grief. Alternatively, we become more aware of the fullness of life – the beauty and the pain. Holding both means full engagement of the heart, full compassion, full living. Zora Neale Hurston captured both profound life and profound gratitude when she said, “I have been in Sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.”
This thanksgiving, take time to slow down, and notice the small things. Gratitude helps to build courage, resilience, feelings of connection and well-being and sometimes we have to be intentional about finding these moments and letting them grace us.
On the topic of Gratitude, I have found these sites invaluable:
Today, Sept 22 marks the Autumn Equinox. A time of year when the tilt of the earth is neither towards nor away from the sun. We experience this as having equal amounts of daylight hours, to nighttime hours. In fact, the name "equinox" is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).
Equinox is literally a time of balance - the earth is balanced on its axis, and light/dark is balanced. It can also be viewed as a time to reflect upon the metaphorical balance within our lives. The key word being balance – a state of equilibrium, steadiness, stability, and harmony.
Taking a moment to reflect on your life, in what areas do you feel balanced? Unbalanced? In the realms of grief and suffering, do you feel able to compassionately find balance between the darkness and lightness of your experience?
In reflecting on the possibility of balancing the darkness and light of your life, it’s important to humbly remember that you can’t have one without the other. The depth of your grief (darkness) reflects the depth of your love (light). You wouldn’t see the light of the moon if the sky weren’t dark. You would never experience the bright warmth of a spring thaw, if you didn’t endure a cold dark winter. When you think back to a joyful memory of a loved one, you may laugh and then cry because both the joy and the pain are equally valuable representations of the effect of that person’s life on your own.
I’ve come to know that darkness is the chair on which light sits.
I remember the first time I felt “light” after Cam died. It was during a meditation and yoga retreat. We were doing a walking meditation, and I noticed an overwhelming sense of lightness and openness in my hips. I felt like I was floating, but at the same time so deeply connected to my body. I was completely entranced by this feeling of lightness – it felt new, different, and wonderful compared to the darkness that had overtaken my life for the previous 6 months. In those moments, the feeling of lightness and openness in my hips, morphed into such gratitude and wonder at the miracle of my body, and the depth of sensation. It was such a striking contrast to the heaviness and disconnection I had been feeling. I remember feeling both surprised and hopeful that there was joy buried beneath the layers of grief.
Despite this good feeling/bad feeling perception, I have learnt that healing grief requires movement towards your pain and suffering…which means an intentional willingness to embrace your pain and sit in darkness. Dark Night of The Soul stuff. That, however, doesn’t eliminate the opportunity for finding some light. Even if it’s just noticing the warmth of the sun on your back, watching a bird float on the breeze, eating a tart juicy raspberry. In fact, it’s those moments of mindfulness and awareness that can bring much reprieve and calm in the middle of a storm.
It was a wonderful lesson, feeling light in my walking meditation. For me, it has been a practice in “intentional attention,” because, for some reason, it seems that pain is more noticeable, and more easily remembered than feelings of contentment or ease or happiness. Simply making that observation has been instrumental in giving experiences that are light more focused attention. I’m more open to noticing it, and intentional about really experiencing it.
I believe that yoga and meditation are doorways into experiencing balance. You develop physical, muscular and postural balance. You learn ways to bring lightness and openness to the body – through movement and breath. You develop equanimity towards your emotions and thoughts by experiencing their flow, and their impermance. Perhaps most importantly, you are invited to slow down enough to notice it all.
The equinox is the perfect time to reflect on balance in your life. In Autumn, it’s an opportunity to look backward to reflect on the fullness and abundance of your harvest; and look ahead into the next season of fading sunlight and increasing darkness and contemplating what that means in your life as well.
Why is this important? Because when we are in a state of balance we are stronger, steadier and more able to find resilience within ourselves. And I think everyone would agree, feeling good feels good. Part of loving yourself, is giving yourself permission to do just that!
Make space to hold both.
Be courageous, care for others, a hero lives in you.
- Allison Crowther -
I went to our city's 9/11 Memorial Service and Fire Fighters Memorial today. One of the first speakers to speak, made a point that has stood out for the rest of my day and has impacted my perspective immensly. She said, for as much tragedy that there is in this world there is as much help, heros, love and support.
It's obvious, we live in a world where fear, tragedy and loss is all to prevalent and common. You can't watch the news without hearing something devastating. It's easy to get wrapped up, and immobilized in the fear and heart- break of it all.
Seeing all the Fire Fighters at the memorial - both on duty, off duty and retired, was a timely reminder that there are heros in our midst, all the time! There are people who put their lives on the line to save others. There are people who hold hands in solidarity. People who pray. People who hug. People who love. People who protect. People who are in service to others out of altruism and compassion. There is goodness. There is light. There is hope.
It was beautiful and heart warming how members of the Fire Service, families and friends came out today to recognize all those who have lost their lives. All the brothers and sisters who give so much of themselves, for the well being of others.
Time was taken to remember the lives of all Edmonton Fire Department members who have died in the line of duty - their names were called and a bell rung in their honour. All members who have died in the past year - their families were presented with a flag and again, a bell was rung in their honour.
It was such a wonderful visusal to have row after row of Fire Fighters, in their Dress Uniforms marching in formation and standing behind and standing for their comrades, and families who were receiving recognition today.
We remembered 9/11 and all the lives lost. We remembered the 19 Fire Fighters who were killed in Arizona this summer. We remembered. By remembering we honour.
Re-member. We re-organize. We re-live. We re-member ourselves as communities. As families. As co-workers. When we remember, we re-member ourselves and others.
The whole ceremony was so touching. The music of the bag-pipes and drums moved me to tears. Just like it's supposed to - music moves us from our heads to our hearts, from thinking to feeling. The formality of the Fire Fighters in formation was both humbling and awe inspiriing. Seeing the active duty crews and retirees show up and be present was a show of solidarity, and support for one and for all.
I left feeling sad for all the lives lost and acknowleged and remembered. I also felt hopeful. Hopeful that as long as communities such as these come together each year to remember and honour those lives lost through ceremony and ritual, the lives of those whose death affected will be so much more supported and rich as a result. Hopeful that these honouring traditions will take root in more areas of our communities and even families. Hopeful that love can be spread from person to person, city to city, country to country in showing of support in grief and loss.
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