Andy’s Flaming Chalice – May 2013

“May Day! May Day!” May Day (May 1st) always has a dreamy quality to me, but not because I was a red-diaper baby, nor did we have regular need of emergency assistance. It’s because I hold delightful memories of making little May-baskets with my mother and leaving them on neighbors’ and grandparents’ doorknobs, then ringing the bell and running away. There are so many fun parts to a May-basket enterprise: gathering lilacs and flowers from the garden, making the pretty baskets from colored construction paper, expressing loving sentiment, and of course, most of all, ringing the doorbell and running away! I don’t know if we did this twice or many times but the sight of a May-basket still gives me happy feelings. Try it! Even if you don’t deliver it by May 1st, it will give someone a happy surprise when you do, and you might enjoy the cheerfully sentimental conspiracy enough to do it again next year.

As many of you know, my mother Lois died this past April 13th. What a learning experience death is, reminding me again that life is at once durable and fragile, joyful and sad, lengthy and brief, complicated and very, very simple, here today and gone . . . today. A well-meaning friend pointed out to me that I am now an orphan, something that hadn’t really occurred to me. It is quite obviously true, but came to me as a bit of a shock.

In our Unitarian Universalist principles we speak about being a part of the interdependent web of existence. It’s a good concept, encouraging stewardship of the earth, our resources and our communities. It also dresses up in fancy attire a question that I have often asked myself about changed circumstances, even ones which are only marginally personal: “How does this relate to ME?” Actually, it’s my favorite question.

Does the death of my last parent mean that I’m old, more mortal? That no one will love me again in the same way? That there is less support in my world? That there is less conflict in my world? Do I have to be/Am I already grown up? (At 55, no less.) My daily experience since Mom died is not much changed, now that I’m home again, from what it was before, yet my definition and my relative position in that ol’ web has changed. Is this only a mental construct? Does it matter? Am I okay?

I’m sharing this contemplation on my mother’s death with you because it illustrates the way life-experience stimulates reflection on that most-religious question: What is meaningful for me? It is an essence of what I want in my church. I value being a part of this UU congregation and denomination, believing that you profoundly respect my unique spiritual inquiry, without assuming that my answer will be the same as yours or even wanting it to be. I value your expecting the same combination of interest, support and deference from me. Come sing a song with me, that I might know your mind.