May 4,1966 ~ September 23, 2021
“What do you mean there is no master key to my son’s room?!” The urgency of my voice echoed down the hallway. The “man of the house” reemerged with a screwdriver in hand. Calling Greg’s name and pounding on the door had not worked. Now the abusive act of destroying integrity to the door began in earnest. Another housemate hovered nearby, “You’ve almost got it!” she hollered. The man angled the screwdriver deeper, prying at the door jam, hollering Greg’s name. Their frantic energy rattled my whole being. I tugged on the door until it gave way.
Finally, terrified housemates fled, leaving me alone. I paused and caught my breath. In contrast to the frenzy, I could now breathe easier and move closer; I needed to take in and integrate what was now apparent. My beloved son was dead.
I found my son lying across the top of his bed. His now–deceased physical body appeared uncommonly “relaxed.” I touched Greg’s shoulders, lovingly caressed his face and kissed his forehead. Tears were yet to fall, as the immediate moment only magnetized my attention. I carefully observed his body and took pictures. Reality sunk in. I noted each nuance of how his body lay over the top corner of his bed. All the information I took in in those timeless moments served me in unraveling the “what” and “how” I knew had occurred.
All Greg’s current medications lay close by, accounted for, none missing. Those he would have taken the previous mid–day were at hand. Neither intentional or accidental drug overdose was at cause. Partially eaten sugary yogurt and coffee sat on the side table. He had been drinking copious amounts of sweetened flavored coffee that eased his pain. He’d had a sugar spike. Now his body lay motionless and in a position uncharacteristic of his usual side fetal position supported by pillows and blankets for comfort. Clearly, more than twenty–four hours earlier Greg’s spirit body released into the Mystery.
Despite multiple texts and phone calls, I had not heard from Greg, as I would have expected. I knew something was amiss. I called his brother, Todd, who Greg kept in touch with to see if he’d spoken to Greg just before I left home. Now, standing over my son, I called Todd again, knowing he had to know. He would call his younger brother Glenn; Glenn would call my “stepson” David. Glenn would early the next day inform Papa Michael. One of them would tell my other siblings, Paul and Gini. My sister Lindajoy had responded to my urgent call. As she lived close by she was quickly there by my side.
“What next…?” Even as a trained and experienced death midwife/doula, I was now in that “other” place. Yes, I felt familiarity of being in the presence of death, knowing fully what to do, and yet needing another supportive presence. I knew whom to call. Soon Jerrigrace and Mark arrived. Their energy was blissful, as they had been walking the labyrinth at “Bees n Blooms” lavender farm, which fortunately was close by. My call shortly after 6:30 pm on that night of September 24th alerted them of my need.
There are not sufficient words to express how grateful I was to see and feel them beside me. In a miraculous way it was like Jerrigrace and I became a co–joined body. Now there was a stronger backbone, a more able mind, a fuller presence, a bigger heart, a stronger voice. Certainly being part of Final Passages training equipped me in many ways. Yet, now I needed someone to fall back on. Lindajoy and I both needed the knowing clarity that Jerrigrace and Mark so easily brought to the moment.
Greg resided most of the time in the confines of this room with rare moments out of doors for nearly two years, including the recent pandemic sheltering. It was a “clean & sober” residential house in Rohnert Park; there he liked his room, was awkward with roommate relations, was proud of the strides he’d made, and loved that I was his IHSS worker. We saw each other three to four times a week. Yet his life was plagued by the chronic, unrelenting, agonizing pain that was ever present in his body. His ambitions and goals were compromised. Life was difficult. The whys and how’s of his situation, buried in his body and psyche, tell the story of accumulated trauma –– physical and emotional.
The entire night flew by in a whirlwind flurry of action; sheriff deputy showing up, my hand raised in a stop gesture to any “official” entry insisting they wait, arrival of the deputy Coroner, explaining to both officers what I knew with evident clarity, eventual scurry as coroner assistants insisted I leave the room while Greg’s body was transferred and moved, my minimal compliance, to the final exit of the gurney carrying my son’s body–in–bag to waiting transport, engine’s sound as vehicle drove off. We were left standing in the dark night –– Lindajoy, Jerrigrace, Mark and me with the lingering spirit energy of Greg.
Previous to the departure I had told the Deputy Coroner, I would pick up Greg myself from the Coroner’s office. His emphatic denial and definitive declaration was that it was not legal. He could easily dismiss me as an assertive mother. However, when Jerrigrace declared with certainty that she knew differently and in fact when the section in the Coroners Department manual dealing with home funerals was written, she had been consulted. His face then registered a quizzical look. He refrained from arguing further. Moments later outside, his attendants confirmed that they knew that such things occurred.
The days that follow blur a bit in memory. Leave it to say, between the counsel of Jerrigrace, and encouragement of our dear friend/colleague and owner of Adobe Creek / Pleasant Hill Mortuary, the autopsy repair was handled at the mortuary.
The day came when we brought Greg’s body home to Lindajoy’s outdoor room to prepare for his home funeral. The presence of Jerrigrace and Mark in their official capacity of Home & Family Funerals was again a saving grace. Proper equipment and ease of handling unique hurdles were made easier by their attention. Constance, another close friend and colleague joined us, helping smooth out the process.
My son, Glenn had been by my side for days. He was there as well to assist in transferring, adjusting and creating an altar space in tribute to his brother. I was deeply grateful for his presence and support those rather tumultuous days. He made all decisions easier by his calm presence.
Lindajoy, Glenn and all present assisted in a sacred ritual and hygienic bath for Greg. Jerrigrace and I washed his hair. We anointed him with Frankincense, his favorite essential oil, using an entire bottle. We dressed him in his new gray pants and his cherished Charger jersey. With a sigh of satisfaction we stood back viewing the release of tension evident in Greg’s relaxed countenance. A sense of Greg’s pleasure filled my heart. Yet evidence of the release of pain, for me, was relief mixed with my sorrow. Greg’s body temple now was lying in honor. There was only a moment to pause and reflect when my son Todd arrived. There was a warm welcome, and yet an emotional moment for him. I was so thankful our preparation had finished just prior to Todd’s entry with his wife, Reed.
The next day we shared a simple ritual with family and close friends, both present and on zoom. Later in the afternoon and the next day we welcomed more friends who came to pay respect and share stories of Greg. Family, friends, Glenn’s wife Jennee and my grandchildren decorated the casket. Nature images, and love messages adorned the sacred vessel that soon would enter the fires of elemental transformation.
Following a weekend home funeral, Jerrigrace and Mark provided technical ease when we transferred Greg’s body into the decorated casket. We filled in boughs of rosemary, feverfew, and chamomile around his body. Lea, Reed’s mother and her brother Sean, joined us this day. A tender spontaneous closing ritual transpired. My brother Paul’s covered truck provided a transporting vehicle. Todd gave the casket a last push into the truck and felt a thankful unseen tap on his shoulder. He recognized his brother’s applauding touch. Once again Jerrigrace and Mark quietly provided a context of ease, supporting our family’s tenderness in honoring one of our own.
The affectionate friendly crew at Pleasant Hill Mortuary greeted us. The temperature was rising in the readied cremator; as heat was declared ready Todd reached to touch his brother Greg one last time. Again he provided a final push to the casket, accompanied with a spontaneous wail. My voice joined his. Out on the lawn we sat in silence. It was now just Todd, Reed, Lindajoy and me. Soon dense vapor spewed from the distant towers, gradually thinning to a shimmering air dance. We breathed in essence of Greg. Greg was everywhere. For me, I felt the caress of my shadow whispering of inner work yet to come. My aching heart quietly spoke to the spirit of my beloved son, Greg.