Sarah Calvert

"You can't have one without the other." Frank Sinatra

"See My Light" video I made years ago...

The city of Victoria for me meant death. The last time I came here years ago I found the body of a young girl washed up on shore during a morning walk with a lover. The time before that, I came here with Mum after she’d been diagnosed with cancer to meet a doctor who could possibly help us run from death and cure her disease. This time, I came here to meet a spiritual teacher and I realize once again that even this trip is about dying. I might not make it back here again. I might die today, tomorrow, next week. The point is, I’ve been trying to run away from the pain and fear of mortality and I see that it’s actually pointless. And I’m not sad (right now), and I’m not afraid either. I’m simply here. In this camper van parked at my friend’s place in Quallicum Beach. Breathing. Typing. Smiling. Being. 

Before our retreat started, I went for a walk along the beach near Dallas Road and had no idea where I was. I think I’d blocked out a lot about the last trip here when I found the dead girl’s body, and couldn’t remember exactly where it was that I’d been walking and where I’d found her. And so, the other day I began walking and then came to the part of the beach that I’d seen her floating in the water—face down. Instead of feeling panic or anxiety, which is often my usual reaction to trauma or stress, I simply felt a sense of peace. I stopped walking, closed my eyes and made a prayer. To her, to God, to all those who have passed before me. How amazing (and horrible) was it that I was witness to the end of her life, and what a lesson it had been for me. She had inspired me to write a song called "See My Light" after I'd learned a bit about her life, and this process of writing the tune had helped me understand death a little more. After my moment of reflection, I turned around and began to walk back to where I’d been sitting on the rocks. There, I sat down for a few minutes to sit and feel the sun upon my face. A couple of minutes later two women came by with their dogs; I was about to pat one of the pooches and the woman stopped me and warned, “He just rolled in a dead seal so you might not want to touch him.” They then proceeded to tell me that around the corner, on the little beach (where I’d just prayed and stopped) there was a dead baby seal and a dead baby deer washed up on shore, which they’d never seen before. 

I thought it was kind of weird that there was a deer there as well. Then I thought, not really so weird. I had my incident with a deer a few months ago in Nelson where he ran out in front of my car and died (the car died too and was a write off). I began to examine deer medicine and its meaning and discovered that it symbolized gentleness. I needed to be more gentle with myself and with others. Another lesson lay upon the beach for me, not only about how inescapable death is, but that I needed to be gentle with myself about Mum and her death too.

As her primary care giver, I encouraged her to come to Victoria to see this doctor, and to seek naturopathic care, drink juices and eat some crazy foods. She did so and I feel it really improved her quality of life. But it didn’t “save” her, so I have been carrying around the idea that I didn’t “save” her either. I realize that this wasn’t my role. My only role was to love her, which I did and still do immensely.  

This trip to the island I thought I’d be anxious about visiting places we’d been together and being sad. Instead, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the time spent here with her, and this time, without her. I remember coming here with both she and Nana on a road trip when I lived in Whistler and the cream teas we had together, the walks on the beach in Tofino and the ferry rides. Back then I had no idea that Mum would die years before Nana (who is now 98!) and where my spiritual path would take me. Now, after sitting for a couple of days with my teacher Gangaji, and sitting by myself a lot in silence I realize that yes, Victoria does mean death. And it also means life. “You can’t have one without the other” as Frank Sinatra sang in the tune “Love and Marriage”. I have no idea now where this path will take me, but I do know for sure that one day (hopefully not soon) I’ll die too, so until then I’ll just keep on breathing, living, typing, crying, laughing and singing. Sat Nam.

Comments

Hi Sarah, I read recently in the book, Peace in Every Step, that death gives life. I like you, had thought of this before, but somehow the idea is beginning to make more sense (maybe because I am over 50 now?). The leaves that fall from trees each fall give sustenance to the earth below for the tree to continue to grow. Another thing, I visited several Indian monuments in New Mexico and Colorado last week. At Mesa Verde archeologists found that bodies were basically "tossed overboard" when villagers died. They lived in caves on steep mesa cliffs. What I was told is that the Indians who lived there believed in allowing the spirit of the person move on and out of the physical body as soon as possible after death, that to hold dearly the space of a decaying body, the bones, or to have a grave would mean that the spirit would constantly struggle to move on. In their view the spirit must move on and continue to live again. At Chimney Rock I found out that archeologists have yet to find any remains of the lives lived there and they do not believe that bodies were cremated. So, death happened but somehow moved on or disappeared.
Love you darling niece. i miss Glo every day, but I feel so fortunate that she was my sister. You have her big heart and very sensitive nature, so she really does live on through you. Hugs always.

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