A Solstice Passing . . .

Last night my beloved grandmother died.  My husband, my mother, and I were in my hometown, at her bedside, for the last few days (which is why I haven’t been posting).  She was an amazing woman, my Greek grandmother, and we’ve always had a very special bond.  She was the first person to introduce me to the Greek myths as a child, reading me the myths as I sat on her lap.  She bought me my first book of Greek mythology (which transformed my life in so many wonderful ways), she visited Greece when I was a child and brought me back many stories and pictures of the homeland, and she was one of the few people in my family (apart from my mother and my husband) who completely understood my spiritual beliefs.  Whenever we talked about the gods, the myths, and the ancient religion, it turns out that she even shared many of my beliefs about the gods and the divine.  Before I went to France last month, we spoke on the phone for about an hour . . . we talked about death, the soul, the afterlife, and the gods.  We talked about ideas from the Orphic tablets, Plato’s Phaedo, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Buddhist Pure Land Sutras.  We talked at length about Hermes as the Guide of Souls.  She told me she was ready, that she’d been ready ever since my grandfather died a few years ago (they were married almost sixty-five years, and she honestly couldn’t endure life without him).  Every fiber of my being told me that she was close to death, and I offered to help her cross over when the time came.  We discussed specific rituals and prayers and texts.  And for the past few days (and for the next 49 or so) her transition from this world to the next has been my entire focus.  I am at peace with her passing, and know that Hermes the Guide of Souls has taken her by the hand and is leading her to the Western Lands, to the Isles of the Blessed.  But the last few days have been incredibly difficult, and I am completely tapped out, physically and emotionally and spiritually.  I will definitely write more about her when I am ready (and I will be giving the eulogy at her memorial), but right now much of what I feel can be found in a very special poem.  You see, my grandmother was named after a poem.  She continued this literary tradition by naming my mother after Cathy in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.  My mother then named me Ryan (which means “Little King” or “Little Prince”) in homage to The Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  And my grandmother was named after the last poem written by Edgar Allan Poe.  Her name was Annabel Lee.  My beloved Grandma Anne – the beautiful Annabel Lee.  And while the poem is of course about a bride instead of a grandmother, everything I feel at this moment can be found here:

Annabel Lee
by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love —
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me —
Yes! — that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we —
Of many far wiser than we —
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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  1. She was a beautiful, willful, intuitive, compassionate, and love-filled Matriarch. Her presence, her personality can not be duplicated in this world or the next. Thank you, Annabel Lee, for bringing your amazing grandson and daughter into my life and making me a part of your family. You made me your honorary grandson and I treasured being able to witness and participate in your bond with the love of my life as much as I treasured the bond I shared with my dear grandmother. You are and will always be loved and treasured. May your soul pass seamlessly into universal bliss.

  2. brian

     /  June 22, 2012

    when people we love die the void they leave behind is painfull to us, and im sorry to hear the news, just remember that death and crossing over isnt bad for the person who leaves us. and you write so well i know you’ll give the most beautiful and deep eulogy.

    • Thanks. I am deeply relieved that she is no longer suffering, and that the gods are guiding her to a better place. This will be my third eulogy for a grandparent, and something tells me this will be the most difficult to write . . . thanks for your encouragement.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss, but how fortunate you were to have such a person in your life (and your family), to be able to share such things with your grandmother, and how fortunate *she* was to have a grandson so devoted, who can help guide her to the afterlife. What a special bond.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I am indeed very fortunate to have had such a wonderful person in my life. She was truly my introduction to the gods and the myths . . . I can’t imagine how different my spiritual and creative life might have been without her positive influence. She and I definitely have always had a unique and special bond. Her soul and mine are deeply connected . . . and I imagine always will be.

  4. My heart goes out to you. If there’s anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    • Thank you, my friend. You’ve actually already helped me immensely, as I have been incorporating language and actions from one of your beautiful rituals – “The Recitation for Those Who Are Journeying West: A Greco-Egyptian Memorial Ritual” – into my memorial rites for my grandmother. This is the first time someone close to me has died who actually shared many of my spiritual beliefs, and your memorial ritual has been one of a very short list of rituals and texts that have helped me in this difficult time. Thank you so much for writing and publishing it.

      • I am so happy to hear that that piece came in handy (though, of course, I’d much rather that you never had occasion to use it!)

  5. I’m very sorry to hear this, dear friend…However, I’m glad that she was ready for what was coming in every possible way–probably far more than most people are–and that is a huge boon. I hope you’re as well as you can possibly be in the meantime, and if there is anything I can do to help you in any way, please let me know.

    Side-matter: my mother’s name is actually Annabelle (spelled differently than the Poe poem, of course, but still), and very happily, she’s still with us. Not as understanding as your grandmother, perhaps, but still…

    • Thank you. It’s been a difficult week, but I am coping, and the ritual work I’ve been doing every day has been a great source of comfort. It’s interesting to hear that you have an Annabelle in your life – that specific form of the name hasn’t been very popular in recent generations.

  6. Hugs. I find myself envious of you. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful person. You were both very fortunate to have each other. I can only imagine that ache she leaves behind.

    • Thanks for your words of support. I am definitely blessed to have had such a wonderful person in my life.

  7. Brendan

     /  June 28, 2012

    Mon frere, I am truly sorry to read of your grandmother’s passing. I have recently burned cypress incense and prayed to Hermes Psychopompos to guide her to the Isles, to Leuke/L’isle blanche. If there is anything I can do at this time, please do not hesitate to ask.

    “this is Leuke, / a-drift, a shell but held / to its central pole / or its orbit; / this is the white island, / this is the hollow shell, / this is the ship a-drift, / this is the ship at rest, / let me stay here . . .” – H.D.

    • Thank you for the cypress-scented prayer and the beautiful H.D. quote, mon frere. Hermes Psychopompos is definitely leading Annabel Lee to Leuke . . .

      I’ve been rather withdrawn and a bit more of a hermit than usual of late, but let us speak soon. I hope you and Patrick are well.

  1. My Pagan Grandma « Pagan Reveries

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