I've never written about my sister's death before, but part of creating a wide open space for you means opening up new considerations and perspectives to offer new possibilities of connection to all aspects of life. Rituals around death and mourning have been powerful connection points for me throughout my grieving process and I want invite you into this conversation today, whether you have experienced loss or not, around a specific ritual.
My grandmother, a matriarch in our community, died almost a year ago. A few weeks ago, friends and family gathered at the cemetery to engage in the Jewish tombstone unveiling ritual which generally takes place within a year of death. This ritual- literally setting the stone down by a grave- is about marking the place where a loved one is buried. There are two reasons we do this: so that people can come visit the deceased and so that generally people know it is a grave and should honor and respect the physical space.
Until this visit, I took this ritual for granted.
After powerfully honoring my Grandma Millie at the unveiling ceremony, attendees slowly trickled off and left. Without speaking to each other, each member of my immediate family [see picture above- my dad is behind the camera lens] took a space around my sister Tanielle's grave. She is buried right next to Grandma and Grandpa. Do you see her purple marble tombstone? Purple was her favorite color. Her tombstone has roses engraved on the sides. It's so beautiful. Yes, beautiful.
I saw my sister Asaysha sitting on the ground so I sat down next to her. I love sitting down by Tanielle, it makes each visit feel less formal and more intimate. I looked around at each of my siblings and my mom, who were all standing, and I smiled. I smiled, and intentionally focused on each of my sibling's experiences, knowing how difficult cemetery visits are for them. We stood in silence for a while, all looking at Tanielle's tombstone.
I couldn't put words to it in the moment, but now I know, I felt full. Thirteen years later, we gather here together. This is the first time since we marked Tanielle's grave with the unveiling of her tombstone that we were all here together. I felt Tanielle's joy being surrounded by all of us.
I broke the silence with a joke about something that Tanielle would not have approved of (all of us laughing at the irony) and we continued updating her about my brother Mishael's engagement and how she would have really connected with his fiancé and all of the wedding details in which she would have loved to have been involved. In those moments of laughter and silence, connecting communally, as a family, and individually with Tanielle and my grandparents, the pit in my stomach disappeared- that's the same pit-in-my-stomach feeling I get when I have to steer the "how many siblings do you have" conversation elsewhere after quickly and proudly stating that I am one of six kids. In that moment at the cemetery, I felt like the gang was all together, and being with all of my siblings has always been one of my happiest places.
After that moment, when I got back into the car, I started yearning for what we had all just experienced together. I suddenly understood what I was feeling. It was a wholeness I have not felt in thirteen years. Since 2005, every picture has a missing piece, every family meal a missing plate, there is silence where we are supposed to be *scolded* by our big sister. Yes, we actively bring her along in each of our lives through our actions and stories. The way she lived, pure, selfless, and intentional continues to push me to be my best self every day. And with all of that, the hardest part is the gaping hole that separates us even further because her alive and living presence keeps getting further away. She is frozen in time at eighteen years old. But, in that moment by her tombstone, we knew where she was buried because we marked her sacred space, we all gathered around her together as a whole family and we were full.
There is great power in marking. Marking time. Marking place. Today, I focused on marking a space physically but, I want to zoom out and invite you into this wide open space of where in your life marking can be a gift. It could be something you want to mark once or a repetitive ritual of marking daily, weekly, annually. And, marking does not have to be done with a physical marker, it can be with a chosen action, thought, mantra through movement, music, food... It's all about pausing to think about where marking a certain time or place could bring you more meaning, peace, connection, joy and attaching that intention to your chosen action during your marked time/space.
Where is there a space in your life that you want to mark? Why?
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