Susan's Blog

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Darkness is Inextricably Linked to Light

My uncle just died. My parents were up here because it was clear that his death was imminent. Their visit also coincided with my very first public bellydance performance. They went right from his deathbed to Cambridge, where the performance was being held. My mom wanted to see me dance, and had planned a while ago to be here for it, but now she felt terribly guilty to be going to this colorful, joyful event, to feel happiness and pride, in juxtaposition to what was going on with her family, at the hospice.

But my sister said, “Don’t put off a mitzvah for anything.” She was referring to a practice in Judaism, where even in the face of death you are supposed to take part in joy. For my family, this admonition always brings to mind my wedding, which took place two days after my grandfather died. I remember that time, when the whole family was coming in for the wedding, including Grandpa — my father’s father. Grandpa had been suffering from depression for some time, but seemed to have rallied for the trip. I stopped off at my aunt’s house, where he was staying, and I told him, “We can dance at my wedding!” And he said, “I won’t be dancing at the wedding.” I took this to mean he was still feeling depressed, and I let it be.

But no, Grandpa had probably known that his end was near. I was shocked by the news, and I figured, “Oh well, I guess we won’t be getting married, then.” But my parents said, “Oh, no. You should never postpone happiness.” Their gravity and certainty blew away any reservations I’d been having, and so we went forward. And so the day after my wedding I went to Grandpa’s funeral and then was whisked away to my honeymoon in Italy. Never an anniversary goes by when I don’t remember the Other event side by side with my own. All of my wedding pictures, Dad has a forked vein in his forehead even with the smile in his eyes.

Yet I do not regret what we did. I’ve come to see that this is exactly the flavor of life: sweet and salty together. The happy and sad. They complement each other. We feel happiness more when we have it to compare to pain. The sharp knife, the soft skin. The ripping childbirth, the aching joy of the baby, the full heart, the deep new fear.  We never have a moment where we are just basking, suspended in joy. For if we are aware of it, it is changed immediately by the recognition that it is finite. My children advance into the world, and we say with brightest yellow pride, “Wow, look at him go!” and then followed by the fuzzy shadow of, “I hope nothing bad happens to him.” And that brings to the ready the roaring Mother’s cry, the bellow of the jungle, the Lion ready with bloody teeth. We are all from nature, and it certainly is “red in tooth and claw.”

So I danced, in bright red, dark purple veil flying. My parents and my husband and many friends came to see me, a 52-year-old bellydancer. I discovered my bliss perhaps a little later than most bellydancers, but it wasn’t too late. While we’re living, it never is.




Beautiful post acknowledging the joy and sadness cohabitating in our lives. I agree that you should never postpone happiness. You never know when it will come again. I believe we need the joy to make the sorrow bearable. Thank you for sharing your experience.

— added by Nancy Pearl on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Using different terms, as we come from different cultures…myself Native American, I never cease to marvel at the profound similarities in this belief. Yes it is sad when we lose a loved one but we spend days gathering and remembering and laughing with each other. This tradition also brings great honor to our lost beloved and great healing to those that attend to listen to our Honored Pipe Carriers who take on the mantle of counselor and leader. I remember the wedding of a beloved grandson, the wedding photos have nearly 50 immediate family but for One. Or most beloved Matriarch. My Grandmother was in the hospital very ill, but there we stood smiling faces. There was talk later with new technology of adding her. But, she was already there, and we all knew it. I am happy you found your Bliss!

— added by Kim Treleaven on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Beautifully and sensitively written Susan. So sorry to hear about your uncle. My best to you and your family including your sister and her family.

— added by Susan Kaye on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 3:26 pm

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