June 2007: The Gift of The Stars

Who wants to read a column that says that Death is on the horizon? Hopefully, you do—or will, once you see the benefits of letting Death move out the old and welcome in the new.

In the traditional Tarot, death signifies change. In the Twelve Step Program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, death means letting go. To certain therapists, death refers to releasing the ego or personality. In shamanic communities, death is the beginning of new possibilities, the awakening of spiritual abilities that benefit everyone. New beginnings, you know, are only possible after endings. In June, the stars sprinkle Death—and the healing and hope that it invites, all because Mercury moves into retrograde, spinning us backward in time.

Why We Peruse the Heavens
How can we look to the stars for indications about our personal lives? As humans, we sometimes take our place in the Universe very (or “too”) seriously—starting with the most primal energies, like life and death. We think we can dictate the personality of a birthing child, the day we’ll meet the man or woman of our dreams, or the nature of an emerging government. We think that we can stop an inevitable ending, negotiate for only preordained events, or even select the day and way of our own deaths. We have almost no control over world events, and very little over our own. That’s the scary part of life and death – but also the beauty.

We can’t look to the stars for answers. The planets move of their own volition and stars don’t control our destiny. Destiny is what we make of what occurs in our lives. We can, however, track the surreal of the stellar planes for insight, for there is a guiding force behind the heavens and on the earth.

What We’ll See in June

During June, Mercury goes retrograde, or reverse. Between June 15th and July 9th, Mercury transgresses in the sign of Cancer, stimulating past memories. Be prepared. You might find yourself overly emotional. In all likelihood, your feelings are about the past, not the present, indicating unhealed wounds and injuries of the heart and signifying the need to let Death finish its work.

The energetic result is similar to trying to run with one end of a rope wrapped around your waist and the other end anchored around a pole. But it’s okay. Sometimes we need to travel rearward before we can move forward. Why? So we can free ourselves from what’s been holding us back! In short, June promises the fresh and the novel, but only if we allow the energy of Death—of endings, finales, and conclusions, to eradicate what’s keeping us stale. We can have the life we desire, but only if we complete the true dying process; the act of grieving what was—and perhaps, has never been.

A Story of Death: Speedy the Mealworm

Death visited our house last week, as ironically, I was working on a book about death and the afterlife. The victim? A mealworm.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever been acquainted with a mealworm. From a child’s perspective, mealworms are fascinating, one-inch creatures that amuse easily. They love being dangled from fingers, ushered across tabletops (especially if dinner has already been served and the peas can double as boulders), and stuffed into pockets to surprise grandmothers. From a mother’s perspective, mealworms constitute the most questionable of God’s creations, just above angler worms and way below caterpillars. Their most objectionable trait is that unlike regular worms or caterpillars, they never progress—they only regress. Keep a mealworm around and you don’t end up with the equivalent of a fish dinner or an awesome butterfly: They turn into beetles.

My second-grader, Gabe, had recently finished a science project in school on mealworms and we had inherited two such creatures to raise to maturation. One had already entered the pupae stage, so it wasn’t much more than a lump—nothing much to worry about (yet). Speedy, however, who had previously been named Dog, lived up to his newly patented name. I’ve never met a busier mealworm.

All was fine until one fateful morning, when Gabe decided that Speedy would love to drive a racecar. Gabe toted out a gigantic, remote controlled racecar, set Speedy on top, and began to play Indy 500. The only problem was that Speedy didn’t have his seatbelt on. He fell through a slit in the roof into the pit below.

I tried, I really did. I spent at least one-half hour doing everything I could to rescue Speedy. I undid every screw with a table knife; pulled off every wheel with my nail file; and eventually, sawed off the rooftop with a steak knife. (We’re a little short of useful tools at my house.) Gabe participated by trying to shake Speedy out of the car, an unfortunate choice of technique, as it proved. By the time I pried off the roof, Speedy wasn’t so speedy anymore.

When Speedy was finally pronounced “passed,” Gabe cried for at least an hour. “He was such a good playmate,” he sobbed.

“Can you forgive yourself, honey?” I asked at one point.

“I don’t know, mommy,” he said. “It’s hard.”

During that day, Gabe passed through the traditional five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. At first, neither of us accepted Speedy’s demise. I actually called a friend for advice, who suggested that we poke the still body with a tweezers, to see if we could restore him. Denial didn’t work. Gabe asked what he could have done differently, as if going through the steps of Speedy’s demise could turn back the clock. Bargaining didn’t help. Gabe got mad at himself, and then at me, asking why I didn’t have better tools. Even with a functional tool set, I doubt I’d had the skills to save Speedy. Anger wasn’t useful. After school, Gabe became morose. Depression didn’t bring Speedy back. Finally, Gabe moved into the state of acceptance.

That evening, Gabe prepared a coffin, using one of my vitamin jars. He wrote a eulogy with permanent magic marker, as “Speedy could read it from heaven.”

“Here is Speedy. He was a good meelworm (sic).

We buried Speedy under a tree that evening, praying that his soul go to mealworm heaven and never be eaten by a fish or a hungry animal.

But There’s More Than the Five Steps…
So far, Gabe had passed through the five stages of grieving that follows every loss. But we can’t stop at acceptance. I believe there is a sixth stage in the grieving process, one illustrated by Gabe after Speedy’s burial. It’s called connection. The morning after Speedy’s death, we asked the teacher for another mealworm. I left the classroom with four new pets; imagine that. Gabe knew that none of them could replace Speedy, and they haven’t. But each lingers in its cocooned state, readied to become something it’s never been before. Death took Speedy away, but Gabe kept his heart open, to the point of opening it for more potential pain—but more love.

When death—or loss—strikes, how many of us adults actually complete a grieving process? How many of us will never enter another serious relationship because we’ve lost the love of our life—or because our loves haven’t live up to our expectations? How many of us will never again reach for a star, because the ladder broke when we first tried? How many of us hide in the past—covering our fear with a bad attitude, persistent obstinacy, or disingenuous disposition, rather than try again? The truth is that most of us close our hearts, rather than feel the feelings that can return us to life or renew a commitment to desire. And life is full of deaths: the endings of relationships, jobs, dreams, goals…decades of our lives.

Death isn’t a bad thing. It can only open us to new possibilities, however, if we let it to its job: if we follow it through its various stages to connection. Look what it did to me. Soon, I’ll have a house full of beetles.

Maneuvering with Mercury
Mercury’s maneuverings present the perfect opportunity to call in Death energy, finish grieving the past, and prepare for the future. You can best utilize this divine gift by following these steps:

1.    Recognize the symptoms. Pay close attention to how you feel and act this month. Mercury will stimulate the past, showcasing situations that you haven’t yet released and keep replaying, over and over. Are you overreacting? Feeling overly bad, shameful, scared, angry, or sad? Feelings that are “too big” for the present are just that: too big for the present. They indicate that a part of you is stuck in the past and haven’t completed the grieving cycle. We won’t receive anything new or different unless we let go of the old and already done.
2.    Isolate the incident. What situation is still recycling? What beliefs are keeping you stuck, unable to move forward? Use guided visualization, meditation, prayer, dream therapy, or traditional therapy until you pinpoint the exact incident or pattern that keeps recycling.
3.    Figure out your grief stuck-point. What didn’t you finish? Did you ever emerge from denial, bargaining, anger, or depression? Have you shifted from acceptance to connection?
4.    Allow Death. Call upon Death to help you finish your grieving. It’s helpful to visualize Death. I use the image of an angel with iridescent black wings. Ask the angel to assist you in moving through the incomplete stages of grieving in a way that is peaceful for your life. You’ll know you’re done when you can say this:
•    I have forgiven others and myself.
•    I can see the gift in the situation.
•    I am ready to reconnect.

As did Gabe, we must remember the love we’ve had, but be willing to open to something- or someone—new. (Hopefully, you get more than beetles out of your relationship with Death.)