Michael Mantas on Grief, Empathy, Compassion & Ritual

Michael Mantas has kindly given us permission to blog his Facebook post of this touching film, showing a little boy grieving for a dead fish – and Michael’s comments on death and empathy which we thought were beautiful, and which we wanted to share.

Michael initially posted with this film:-

‘Some of the earliest human evidences of ritual are death markers, the ochre-stained leg bones of cave bears crossed through the eye sockets of their skulls. It seems grieving is the birth of empathy, of compassion, the crying out that what was there a moment before, what we share with every other being, a spark’s portion of the fire that burns eternally inside and behind every life, has extinguished, and we all share its loss.’

and then added a comment:-

‘I remember as a child my first conscious encounter with death…a dead robin…and I instinctively looked up to commune with the robin’s family, but there was no sign. The robin was on her back, one wing was open and one closed, and I opened the second wing, perhaps to mark the passage with some ritual symmetry, or perhaps because her form then reminded me of a cross, or an angel, or just the symbolism of the freedom of flight, some form that reflected the loss and movement of spirit from her body back to the sky. I remember not crying, but feeling sad, and wishing her well, and I remember understanding in that moment that there’s something greater that we all come from, that we embody for awhile, and back to which we all return. I remember thinking that what we really are never ends, because that robin wasn’t the form she had left behind, she was whatever had left that form, whatever was still moving somewhere. At that age I was attending St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church weekly and I kept hearing the phrase in my mind from the Apostle’s Creed, “…the quick and the dead.”. I think when we’re paying attention, everything we do is a prayer.’

Yes.

Thank you, Michael.

We also thought of John Donne:-

John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” 

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

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