It’s a beautiful, stunning Sunday in October. The trees look like they are on fire and the air is sweet, smoky, and faintly chill. I am bustling about the house, getting myself and the baby ready for a 70 minute drive north. No need to rush, I tell myself. I don’t want to set off panic reactions or assume the worst. One of my teachers is dying and I am hoping to say my goodbyes and to help his husband set up altars all around him.
My car is in desperate need of repair. It’s scheduled for the shop the following week, but this trip can’t be put off. I ask friends for prayers for a safe trip. I spend the first twenty minutes on the road petitioning Ganesh and Hermes for safe travels, no traffic obstacles, a swift journey, and clear words to reach the ears of my teacher.
In the late summer last year when I told my teacher that Adam and I were going to try for a third baby, he looked at me and chuckled. “Oh no. You’re already pregnant. And it’s a girl.” I laughed, it was too early to tell! But he was right. I last saw him in June, when the wee baby was two months old. His first and last meeting with her. I am so glad he got to meet her. I am so glad I got to have one last class with him.
I am driving north, feeling a rising panic that I will not get to tell him all the things I want to say. I want to tell him how much he means to me, how much his care of me has shown me what being a true spiritual teacher is all about. For the first months of our meetings he would insist I call or text when I arrived home after class, even though I wouldn’t get home until after midnight. He would call me in between our sessions to ask how the work was going, to ask after my family. He had an affinity for my middle child and worries about the eldest. He read everything I wrote.
I want to thank him for showing me what being a teacher meant. For being so loving. For inspiring in me even greater levels of integrity. I want to tell him that my son is coming into his own; that he’d be so proud of the way my son looks after the baby. He and his partner are, were, are the kind of teachers that one waits lifetimes for.
And then, just north of Tacoma, I have a moment of clarity. Go, I say. Go when you are ready, my friend. If you are at peace, do what you need to do. I begin speaking to Death, to all the Deaths. I pray to Kali, Santisima Muerte, Ana, The Morrigan, and more. Be gentle with him, please.
An hour later I stop a few blocks from my teachers’ house to get gas and flowers. I face the flowers and ask out loud what he’d like. I want something fresh to add to the altars we are going to build. Death wants her offering, I hear. Ok, a dozen red roses it is.
I arrive at his house.
I have missed him by one hour.
Oh, my friend. I will miss you so much. Thank you, thank you for everything.
Niklas Gander passed from this world on a beautiful Sunday morning. He was attended by his beloved. A scholar, poet, musician, liturgist, linguist, lover, and friend, Niklas was all these things and more. An initiate of several traditions, I knew his reputation in the Feri world long before I met him. I am only coming to realize what a legacy he has left in other traditions as well. He was an extraordinary human being.
On this full moon I bid you a safe and blessed journey, Niklas. I love you and I will never not miss you.