“Has anyone here had an unusually chaotic August?” Marilee the Shaman asked those of us assembled for the Friday night class. Almost every hand went up. “Well, that would be normal during a blue moon, especially this one,” she said with a chortle. Friday marked the first blue moon since 2009, something I reflected on in my August post, What Happens Once in a Blue Moon?With two funerals and assorted other chaos this month, the blue moon worried me. Everything seemed askew, even up-for-grabs. When I saw the flyer at the European Market in Chesterton for the Shamanic Drumming Circle at East Wind Studios, well, I just had to sign up. I don’t know about you but I had never been to a Shamanic Drumming Session. But like so many “out-there” things in the universe, I quickly learned that shamanic drumming had a following all its own. In fact, there are fascinating explanations of how the drumming affects our brain waves and creates an ideal state for spiritual expression.
Yet, the week before the drumming, another set-back presented itself. My parents and my dear friend Urban Schumacher died. Not only were Urb and his wife Judy our long-time neighbors, we Gallagher children had a Schumacher in almost all of our class years. And, as the local funeral director in Green Bay, Urb helped bury my mother, father and an assortment of dear relatives. After my parents’ deaths, I grew close with Judy and Urb, visiting them often when I returned to Green Bay. Even though he was 81 at his death, Urb’s death was difficult to handle.
It wasn’t a question of whether I would attend, but how early I should leave Chicago to make the 11 a.m. funeral mass in Green Bay on August 30th. If there were going to be two funerals in August, this was something that simply happened ‘once in a blue moon,’ however sad it was.
By 6 am, I was on the road with my son Mack. Mack didn’t start school until the next week and had grudgingly agreed to accompany me on the funeral road trip, the promise of a pre-season Green Bay Packers game that evening as his reward. We arrived early to the funeral mass. “It’s all old people,” Mack whispered as we entered our pew. He was right, there was an older crowd already seated. As the 11 am hour neared, the church filled to standing room only. Ten priests, including the Bishop, brought the casket down the aisle. There was no question of Urb’s place in the community or in heaven — he was a man of great kindness and compassion, remembered and cherished by all. We remembered his wit and great humor at the luncheon following the mass, reminiscing with his wife, six children and many close friends and family members.
When Mack and I left Green Bay the next day, we were ready to take the trek back home. As we neared the Chicago border, I couldn’t help but think of the Toronto funeral I’d attended earlier in the month and the many signs we say on the way.
“Mom, look,” Mack pointed at a long black car pulling up next to ours on the Expressway. It was of course a hearse and I shook my head in amazement. As we pulled closer to it, we both saw the sign in its back window. “Rest in peace,” it read. Unlike the signs in Canada — of overt death, some fear and a glimpse to eternity — this one seemed to signal some much-needed closure. “Quick, take a picture,” I said, handing Mack the camera. He bobbled it a bit and we got only one shot.
Just then, I heard the Shaman’s voice, bringing us back from our drumming trance. “There is a gret deal going on in the universe right now, the energy is very tense as we integrate new levels of consciousness into our world,” she said. “It should all be integrated by the winter solstice in December. Until then, buckle your seatbelts.”
We had drummed and meditated for nearly an hour and half that night. It was August 31st and the blue moon rose high in the sky. In the end, the blue moon had brought me back home to Green Bay for a funeral and reconnected me to many good friends from the past. It made me thing about who I had been and who I had become through the years. Not only had I crossed an international border that month, I realized that the connections through time never really changed, that you could pick up with someone as if the years hadn’t intervened, that as much as we all changed, we all were growing into current selves all the time.
Mack wasn’t sure what to make of the drumming and meditations, which would be only normal for a boy of 14. I’m not sure I knew what to make of them either. The drumming was soothing and the burning sage in the air — meant to cleanse and purify — smelled good. Things seemed calmer as Mack and I got in the car to drive home. The blue moon would not be back for a long time, and that was alright too.