Sitting in my office today with the midday sun streaming through the window, my eyes continue to be drawn to a small bouquet of white roses from the memorial service of my friend Luanne Blaich, held last night. Their beauty is a perfect reminder of the amazing opportunity that Luanne’s death has been for me and many others. Luanne died after a 3.5 year battle with Leukemia, in which her brave fight deeply humbles me.
To speak about someone’s death as an opportunity is strange and somewhat awkward. And yet, Luanne’s death was an opportunity in many ways. It was an incredible experience to be a part of a community that held someone through their passing. The friends and loved ones of Luanne created a container for us to sing, grieve and celebrate her as she passed out of this life. We were able to honor the cycle of life, the great unknown and mystery of the universe, and feel all of the joy and pain of our humanity.
The biggest learning I have received from Luanne’s death is that to grieve in community is to come back to life. I am blessed to be a part of a community that knows that feelings are healthy and welcome. We are able to laugh and then cry and then laugh again with each other. No one tries to shush or stop the flow of another’s tears. Throughout Luanne’s passing, we cried our grief, we sang our grief and we danced our grief. And through this expression, I found a sweet joy emerge in me; A deep reverence for life, for the treasure and blessing that it is.
Through grieving her passing, I found myself alive in a way that before I was dead. What a paradox that it is through honoring death, that those of us who are living can come out of a half state of walking death. In grieving death in community, we actually become more alive.
One of my favorite teachers, Joanna Macy, brings people together to express their grief about what is happening to our planet. Something similarly emerges through that process. Through expressing their grief and anger and fear together, people awaken to their love and reverence of this life. That’s why she calls it “the Work That Reconnects”. It reconnects us to ourselves, our souls, each other and to the world.
Luanne Blaich was a beautiful woman who walked with grace and compassion. She was one of the most generous people I knew in our community. She was always available to help with whatever I needed. I learned to say yes from her. She was also one of the most authentically polite people I have ever met. I know that politeness is something that we can sometimes get stuck in or that can limit our expression. But Luanne modeled how politeness can be an expression of love and kindness.
Luanne also knew how to hold a safe space for you to vent or express anything you needed to. She held a container of sacred trust and would not gossip or judge you for what you shared. Maybe that’s why in her death, we were able to bring so much of ourselves and bring all of our feelings to be expressed. We all knew that she would love and accept any expression that came through.
Luanne was a great teacher to many. We will continue to express our gratitude for her life and our grief for her passing. And in that expression, we will continue to awaken in our own lives. Her life will be celebrated and remembered.
And what is remembered, lives.