On Saturday, July 25, my son Anthony Mansfield hosted a Leaning into Love reading at Monarch, a dance club in San Francisco. The reading was set for early evening in a downstairs room under the main bar, a place of disco balls and wine cellars.
On the way into the city, my friend Pat and I had gathered supplies–one large candle and many votive candles, 3 x 5 cards, and pens. I’d selected passages to read the day before. During ten months of book readings, I’ve learned that if I show up with an open heart and a few selections or poems to read, it always works.
Manny Alferez who owns Monarch and Anthony arranged chairs, small tables, and a microphone. Manny found a marble table perfect for an altar.
Like humans everywhere, the people who came had lost someone–a grandparent, parent, spouse, friend, or pet. The ritual was made more precious because these friends in their thirties and forties who usually socialize and celebrate together connected in soft vulnerable places.
My son’s friends were joined by a few of my friends, some I hadn’t seen for forty years and some I’d only met on Facebook. Vic and I were close to Rufus Diamant in 1968-69 when he lived in Ithaca, NY. I hadn’t seen him for over forty years, but there he was. Pat Rockwell and I met in a meditation and philosophy class in 1970 and we remain close friends even though she’s in California and I’m in New York. Lenore Olmstead from Oakland was my dear friend and part of my mythology class in Ithaca for twenty years, so we’re nourishing our connection. Cheryl Espinosa-Jones had interviewed me on her inspiring radio show, Good Grief Radio, but we’d never met in person.
On a 3 x 5 card, each person wrote the name of someone they love who had died. We shuffled the cards so everyone had one they didn’t write. One at a time we read our cards and the person who grieved for that person or pet lit a candle for them. As the table filled with light, the energy dropped into sacred reverence.
What rituals bring a sense of community and support to your life? Have you tried creating simple rituals? You might also enjoy Creating a Grief Ritual. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, watch Good Grief! What I Learned from Loss My TEDx talk focuses on lessons learned from grief and the ways we can create ritual to soothe sorrow.
Thanks to Pat Rockwell for photographs.