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Rev. Meg Riley Headshot

An Autumnal Equinox Prayer

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It's the autumn equinox, a day of balance. A day when summer gives way, formally, to fall, even though the leaves have been a dead giveaway of what's coming for a few weeks now in Minnesota. A day when light and dark balance each other just right, in some way, with light and tilt of earth that I can't quite call up right now. And maybe you can stand an egg on its head.

It's a day of balance, and I am off-balance. I learned that an old friend committed suicide on Monday -- not a close friend, not an inner-circle friend, or I would not be writing a piece like this today. I would be holed up in gauze someplace with others, as her dearest ones surely are now, staring into cups and saying "huh?" to one another's asked-but-unheard questions -- Would you like more tea? Did the kids have breakfast?

I have been in that room, and today I am grateful not to be. We will all be sending notes and cards to the people in that room, and if they are like me, they will cling to those in the dead of winter when there is nothing else to hold. Now that she is out of pain, they are in its epicenter; their only relief is the temporary fogginess of its shape.

For me, she was an old friend, a housemate when I was in my twenties, someone I ran into and caught up with occasionally. We each lived in multiple cities over the years, and saw each other when both of us were in the same place. We would not have gotten on an airplane to find each other. But we held each other's histories. We wished each other well. We kept up when it worked.

There was distance between us. Yet I feel in my bones this morning how distance is not the same as separation -- there is no separation from grief, or loss, or the bewilderment that suicide always leaves in its wake. Could I have done something? Should I have said something? Thousands of us today are wondering this, waking up knowing something is amiss, putting our finger on it only as we regain waking consciousness. Even some of us who hadn't spoken to her in months, or in years.

This morning, when I woke up with that sore-tooth feeling, I knew that somehow I need to knit my universe back together, to hold together the place where she apparently is no longer on the same planet that I am on, to reconstitute the atoms and molecules in some way that is complete without her. I didn't even know she was in some of the places I need to revisit -- there she is, in the background of all those photos, having her own life but still affecting mine.

The people from my friendship group at that time are finding each other over miles and years, retrieving scraps of our lives with her, laying them out next to each other. Together we piece together a memory quilt that honors in some tiny fashion the magnificent quilter she was, without the art or the sheer beauty she could create, but with the function of covering ourselves, keeping ourselves warm together. There is healing in this.

My bruised tenderness this morning, my experience of the egg that didn't stand on its head but fell over and broke into tiny pieces, is my recognition of the interconnectedness of thousands and thousands of lives over time. May we all know, even in our brokenness, that we are connected, and that each one of us matters profoundly.

We are bound to each other in a vast network of care and connection no less complex or choreographed than the planets and the stars -- our orbits, our cycles, the shapes of our constellations fixed for each others' eyes over light years in the night sky.

This is my equinox prayer for us: May we know the depth and width of the patterns that hold us today. May we recognize the preciousness of each atom that, by being right where it needs to be, creates balance and stability and wholeness. May we be awed by the sheer beauty in the wholeness of it all.

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