My friend Arthur died sometime during the past week. We aren't sure when it happened. When he didn't show up at work and his family lost contact with him, the police were called to check on him at his apartment, and he was found in his bed. We are still awaiting details and a reasonable explanation for his death.
Arthur and I met during our first heady days on Pagan Space, when we were each trying to connect with real people in our area just for coffee,conversation and validation that neither of us were crazy to believe in the power of magick. We had chatted back and forth online for about a year and actually knew each other pretty well before we finally met at Magic Mushroom late one afternoon for pizza. I senses we were both a little nervous about that first meeting, but once we were happily munching away, it was like we'd been old friends forever. Because of our online friendship we both were pretty certain the other wasn't an ax murderer...but...you never know. Sitting outside near a busy street late on a Friday afternoon just as everyone was getting out of work seemed pretty safe. The conversation and coffee (later,when we'd adjourned next door to Starbucks) flowed freely. We hated to say goodnight, and in fact, we were back online chatting away later that evening. It wasn't that we were infatuated with one another, it was that each of us had finally found someone to connect with who shared similar backgrounds in our spiritual journey, and who had similar tastes in...well...just about everything. Books. Music. Theater. Art. We'd both come out of the Episcopal Church and found we had many mutual friends. Individually, we'd explored Buddhism and still kept Buddhist principles. And the best part was we had the male/female polarity thing going with no sexual baggage.
We spent a lot of time together the first couple of years after we met: we went to rituals and festivals, worship services, art shows and recitals.We haunted Barnes and Noble. We spent hours on the phone discussing philosophy and religion, the latest missive by (the former)Teo Bishop, and which occult books we thought were a waste of paper and ink. We wrote liturgy and rituals together. Arthur was in many ways more than a friend; he was my brother. We came to be close enough to be able to finish one anothers' sentences and thoughts...and I was heartbroken when I finally decided ( with Arthur's encouragement) that I had no other choice than to move out of the area to seek better health care and housing options. It was not a choice I made lightly; the majority of people I hold dear live in North Carolina. Arthur reluctantly gave me his blessing-and wrote my character reference/letter of introduction to the housing manager for my new digs.
I was now two and a half hours and two hundred twenty something miles away by car, but only a few minutes away by phone, but we kept up on our magickal and mundane lives. Arthur promised to visit when he had a few days to get away. Last year, the holidays had been difficult because I was still very much alone and missing him; we'd made it a habit to spend most holidays together. I was looking forward to welcoming him to my new home and sharing a meal at my table. We talked about making a trip to Asheville-a place I adore, and as it turns out, just happened to be his birthplace. At some point there was a Rick Springfield concert in our future because Arthur was a closet RS freak and wanted his copy of Tao autographed.
In the space of a breath, it was all gone.
My friend, priestess and sister Laurel, herself still in shock, private messaged me on Facebook last night with the news," I don't know a whole lot yet, but please hold Arthur in the light. He died in his sleep..." I immediately called Laurel because I needed to connect and hear her voice. We spoke briefly in quiet voices, two priestesses midwifing this death. Laurel's mother, our Elder and Crone Priestess, felt that Arthur was waiting for us because we didn't know he'd gone. And she's right: that would be like him, he wouldn't just leave us alone.He would make sure we were alright. If nothing else, as a consummate Southern gentleman, he would not take his leave without a proper farewell. I spent a little time grieving with other friends online, then made some coffee and headed out to one of the back balconies of my apartment complex to watch the full moon rise over the mountain and cry in private.
While there I wrote a few words to release Arthur's spirit and help guide him on his journey.
Step into the boat
The Ferryman has been paid
With the tears of those who love you.
Should you hear weeping
Do not turn back-
Sail on and do not stop.
The Ancestors await
Your arrival in Avalon.
The Veil between us closes for now...
We who have loved you
Wish you a good journey home.
Life is impermanent. Dying is inevitable. That is the truth that transcends every religious tradition and indeed is the only thing that is a given in our earthly existence. We are born and die: what happens in between is pretty much up to us. Arthur chose to be humble, gracious and loving. He lived a life of service faithfully to the Immanent Divine and his brethren as druid, priest, teacher and friend to all kindred. He will continue to live on in memory with us until we meet again.