I don’t even know where to start with the Sukhavati Ceremony. In Buddhist traditions, the body is kept for 3 days after death to help release the spirit from the physical body. Just to clarify, I knew NOTHING about this a few weeks before Lance’s death. But a kind, gentle person in my life encouraged me that it might be something I would want to consider. I hadn’t really thought about the process of Lance dying and what that would/could look like. Truthfully, I wasn’t exactly ready to face it. I was still holding out for Divine Intervention.
My first thoughts were “Keep Lance’s body around for 3 days?” “How would my kids feel?” “How would I feel?” Death had always scared me when I was young and still as an adult, I was weary of how I would feel about the dying process and seeing a dead body. But one thing I knew with every ounce of my being was that wisking Lance’s body away right after dying would feel shocking, empty and invasive. Plus, the idea of freeing Lance’s spirit? That was definitely something I wanted to do. I wanted to do everything and anything for Lance. So I opened my mind to the process and only a couple weeks before Lance passed, I met with a woman who guided me through the process of having a home death.
My gut told me that having Lance home for 3 days might be too hard on my kids…especially because during that time you open your doors to allow people who loved him to come spend time with him. That was daunting. So I discussed with a couple close friends what other options I had. The Shambhala center was brought up and being that Lance, the kids and I had a history there, I knew immediately that was the perfect place.
Now I’ve mentioned “the guys” but without these three amazing, loving and completely devoted, get-it-done woman, none of this would have gone so smoothy. I basically handed off everything to them and they had everything ready for when the time came. It was only two days before Lance died that we got the okay from the Shambhala Center. I was feeling the pressure but my girls were all over it.
Initially, I thought being at the Shambhala Center would allow for people to visit and sit with Lance but then Roxanna asked me ever so sweetly, “Would you like to have a little ceremony for Lance?” Trusting in all things that Roxanna suggests, I said yes and quickly met with the woman who would officiate the most beautiful and moving ceremony for my sweet deserving husband.
What this ceremony brought for me, my kids, family and friends was peace and acceptance for the beautiful man who happened to have the most undeniable graceful and peaceful smile that comforted us all beyond words. What he did for me and I have heard over and over again, is he demystified the dying process. For many of the people, it was the first time seeing someone who had passed, and there was nothing remotely scary about it, not even for my kids or the many kids who attended the ceremony.
My kids were able to partake in the ceremony by offering elements to the altar (this was symbolic and something they took very seriously and profoundly) and people got a chance to tell funny and endearing stories of the man we all loved. Even Zach’s 10 year old friend Giacomo spontaneously stood up, in front of 250 people and spoke about how much he loved Lance, what a great father he was and how sad he was that he was gone. If people hadn’t teared up by that point they had now.
We also did a tonglen meditation which is breathing in our own fears, pain and sorrow and releasing it so that nothing hinders Lance’s passage. At the very end of the ceremony Lance’s photo was burned while the entire room chanted Namo Amitabhaya meaning “Homage to Infinite Light” (giving boundless light and infinite life). The ashes and sand from the picture burning were then scattered in the mountains along a trail Lance used to run during a silent walk attended by a couple friends, my kids and Lance’s mom.
There was a sense of joy and celebration for this larger than life being contrasting sharply with the great loss that was felt by all of this beautiful man, husband, father, son and dear friend.
Where there is light, there is darkness and in the dark we instinctively turn toward the light and that is one of the many gifts Lance taught us.