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Page 23

Reflections on the Sacred Gateway SACRED GATEWAY CONFERENCE: Conscious Living, Conscious Dying, and the Journey Beyond. Harlemville NY, April 2019

Dennis and Marianne Dietzel and Linda Bergh In November 1996 when our daughters Kirsten Bergh and Nina Dietzel, attending Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in Harlemville, NY, died in a car accident, community members came forward to hold us all. A vigil held in a family home of a classmate and friend of the girls became the place where community could gather as sacred space to hold life and death in light and love during this most challenging and unknown time. April 2019, twenty-two years later, at the Sacred Gateway Conference held in the same community, we, the parents of the girls, were asked to share this story as a way of showing what was created in that time as a deathcaring community. From the beginning we knew this story had to be told from the perspective of the whole community and with music. An early element that came to Linda was a drum beat that would move with the heart beat of the story. We chose to tell the story by having the actual community members involved write their remembrance. We then created a script that told the story so the conference audience could go on that journey. The speakers sat in the center of a theatre in the round, each standing to speak their remembrances of that time before and during the accident, and at the vigil. Drumming, saxophone, singing, and lyre music accompanied the story as it unfolded, like a tapestry being woven by a community of weavers. It was through the re-telling of the “tragedy” in this way, that it became so clear how Love was a container that helped hold grief and transformed death into Light through the giving of each individual. Here is one person’s remembrance of the vigil: Yet in all the awfulness of the moment of walking in to see Kirsten and Nina’s bodies what I found was a welcoming warm space. Grief and shock were everywhere in the room, but it was not a scary place. This community of people that I hardly knew created a space where I felt welcomed and simply allowed to be with my friends’ bodies with no expectations. I am so

grateful for the space that was created. Food, candles, gentle quiet, music, warm hugs, crying together. With the sudden nature of these deaths, the vigil gave me the space and time to say good-bye and be with Kirsten and Nina’s spirits. I spent hours just being there next to the wooden coffins in the middle of the living room. I stroked their hair, sang to them, talked to them and I was made to feel that this was normal and okay, that grieving and death can be part of community life. I believe my grief process was greatly impacted by the way this community held space for the deaths of my dear friends. Thank you! — M.O.B

After this “Container of Community” presentation on Saturday morning of the conference, people shared

L-R: Marianne and Dennis Dietzel and Linda Bergh

that this experience was life-opening for them and that it deepened their understanding of how this threshold can be held, even in a most challenging situation. People also shared that it opened up their understanding of their own life stories in new and surprising ways. This kind of lifestorytelling allowed a moment of being with an experience in such a deep and heartfelt way, that we want to further explore this way of learning from each other. We are grateful to the Anthroposophical Society for supporting this conference on conscious dying, and to the planning committee for having the trust in us to attempt such a new form of sharing. From Linda’s journal entry: Love was the container created here twenty two years ago and re-created here last Saturday We knew it began with a drum We knew it had to be in the round with a center summer-fall issue 2019  •  23

Profile for Anthroposophical Society in America

being human spring-fall 2019