Life and death. The two poles in a magnet. The seed in the swirl of each other’s energy. As soon as we’re born, we’re dying. As soon as we die, we’re waiting to be reborn. For me, Wicca has always been about that balance.
This week has been a marvelous illustration of how that works. I turned 43 today. At 43 I’m officially past the big four-oh, as they say. I have noticed the changes of time in myself the past few years. I am dyeing my hair now, which I didn’t want to do, but the silver streak I so love has now salted the rest of my hair, and enough that if I don’t dye it, people treat me like I’m in my 50s. I don’t mind the idea of being in my 50s; we all get there and for many women, that’s when life really gets interesting – but it feels like false advertising, so I dye my hair.
I am beginning to wrinkle in places I had not noticed before. My skin is starting to take on some of that papery look that we older women get as our hormones and collagen fail, and my menstrual cycle is beginning to fluctuate somewhat. My body shape has changed; it’s harder to lose that ten pounds we all put on in the winter.
But I’ve never been more alive! I’ve started down the career path I’ve always wanted. I’ve been concentrating on writing fiction, science fiction and fantasy, like I’ve been wanting to do since I was ten years old. No more excuses! And I’m meeting people who are my heroes, and rubbing virtual shoulders with them, and getting involved in things that matter to me after several years of bowing out, embittered.
However, a good friend of mine has died this week. We have known it was coming for a long time. Sue has fought a long battle with COPD and we knew that eventually, she would lose. She fought it longer and harder than anyone had a right to expect.
It’s a bit more complicated than just losing a friend. Her family and mine have become very integrated in non-traditional ways over the many years. Her younger daughter calls my husband “Dad,” because he was asked to be her dad-figure in a time when she had none in her life, and we believe you don’t take something like that back, ever – which of course means she also call me “Mom.” Her second-oldest daughter, also my friend, has a daughter with my husband, so we are also the other parents to her children. It sounds complicated, but we all know where we stand, and the love is real.
Sue was probably the first person in my life who gave the name “Wicca” to what I believe. She had long been a Dianic witch. I was still only 19 when I met her, through the SCA as has been true with many of my most enduring friendships. She was recovering from a horrifically abusive relationship, and the PTSD of that trauma continued to haunt her most of her life. It contributed directly to her death, too; wearing on her system, and making it extremely hard for her to quit smoking, as she should have done the moment she got her diagnosis.
She made the most beautiful art. I hope her husband has saved it, because it was a treasure. Beautiful Goddess images in living colour. Once she drew a sketch of me, which I still have.
Her relationship with her children has been strained because of her mental illness. Sometimes she was not able to be there for them when they needed her. It’s been a hard road for her. But in her last years she and her family all worked to make amends, and she found real love in a husband who treated her with dignity, love and respect, and I think everyone managed to make peace.
She was one of the people who brought our little community together. The first ritual of the first coven I led was in her home. I still remember how we all chanted together, and the chant we wrote.
One thing I can say about her that I deeply admire, and it’s gotten her into trouble before too, but she loved with her whole heart. When she loved you, she held nothing back.
And yet, of course, she lives on. Her face is in the faces of my friends, of my children. That’s the nature of life, isn’t it? We leave things behind us, whether it’s the children we’ve made, or the works of art we’ve created, or the memories we’ve built.
I will always remember Sue, and I will miss her. But today, I am especially glad to be alive to remember her.