A woman died yesterday.

The whole village gathered to make offerings to the Gods, to deliver her to their arms and ease her transition into new life. I was greeted by her husband, who offered apologies for the noise of ceremony. I stood dumb-founded, assuring him how absolutely welcome it all was. He honored me with an invitation for coffee that I couldn’t refuse. I awkwardly brought rice cakes and marigolds… and you.

My neighbor was in a state of shock I recognized immediately. The death of his beLoved was so fresh. He languidly spoke of all the preparations, educating me on Bali death rites~ the women would come on the first day to make the offering baskets (channa sari), beautiful decorations from palm and coconut, and start to bake. The men come on the second day to make sacrifice and cook the meat into sate. On the third day, they make processions with her body to the cemetery and prepare for cremation… His eyes were disengaged as he spoke, and I could see that he was only barely nibbling the truth of what each of those steps actually meant to him. I could see that she still stood beside him, still held his hand. You had not yet come to replace her. He still did not know.

Mingling in the varied displays of flowers and candies, lace and colored sashes, I could smell you in a spectrum of incarnations. You were thick in the air.

With my coffee came conversation. I shared a moment with a lovely woman who brought me cakes and spoke of her husband. I could see her tears swell as her own loss pierced the surface of her composure. As her tears mounted, I could feel them like arms around me, protective wings coddling me with an understanding I knew I missed, but being so close to it, I awoke to my own hungry need. I watched those sweet tears swell, begging them to spill over and land on my hand. To know the taste of someone else’s devotion to you, possibly the same flavor as my own??

I could see in her eyes a leaning in, acknowledgment of the sacred Compassion Piece that is taught only in apprenticeship with you. I could see that she yearned also to be seen and heard… but the distance between our languages, our culture maybe… I could guess, but there’s no way to know why she left. She gracefully apologized and excused herself to retreat to the darkness of her own home, to where your familiar arms waited and no one watched.

I sat alone, amidst the crowd of people, with a swelling awareness of my obvious isolation and a sinking disappointment in the wake of being so close to intimacy. Suddenly, I sat not just alone, but painfully aware of my loneliness. Intermingled with the precious gems in my lap was my eager desire to be witnessed holding them, to witness someone else’s naked vulnerability, to share with another heart what it’s like to dance with you, to commiserate our relentless consort, practice our footing maybe, or laugh at our loyal devotion…  The colors and flowers, the bustling preparations carried on around me, whirling in motion, while I sat still, sipping the coffee I didn’t want near as much as conversation. I politely excused myself to no one, and almost made it home to my own darkness, where you waited and no one watched.

Maybe shame is an unfortunate but universal counterpart to our lonely Love affairs with you. No matter how we pray, the fact that we find you, the precious pearl, nestled in each breath is a terrible and beautiful secret we covet. We want to be witnessed in our heightened awareness of the other side of Light, in the rich wisdom and compassion that we’ve found while weeping there. Yet instead, we choose to protect the finite innocence of the world from knowing that it will one day also be ravaged. It’s a strange, counter-intuitive tick we’re all somehow subject to. We walk hand in hand, fingers and heartstrings entangled, in a sacred procession we covet and keep preciously secret… yet at the same time, we deeply long for those who already know you and share our devotion to come forward and hold our other hand.