The Full Moon and the Afterlife

I don’t know what you believe—about souls, an afterlife, eternity… Honestly, I don’t even know what I believe. So, instead, I’ll tell you what I know.

I know that light is one of the first words I think of when I think of Ethan. Despite the fears and anxiety that often shadowed his eyes, he had a lightness to his being that everyone could feel. He was born with that light, and that light could not have simply been extinguished when he died.

He had a literal lightness. His skin was translucent, and as a child his hair was a white blonde mop of curls. It was impossible to keep enough sunscreen on that boy. He had a light, easy laugh and a devilish sense of humor all his life. And, from the time he was a baby, he had a sunny way of greeting and approaching people. As a toddler in his stroller, he would wave and say hello to everyone we passed on our evening walks. He would sit on neighbors’ porches, chatting them up on summer afternoons. He held conversations with store clerks, and servers, and total strangers. People were drawn to his openness and interest. They looked at him and saw depth and light, and he held their gaze from what I can only describe as a place of knowing.

Ethan’s personality was always too large to contain. He was “extra” in so many ways. He was loud, restless, scattered, and a little bit wild. He knew how to push people’s buttons and did so every chance he got. Still…his essence was one of compassion and light. Always. He was intense and intensely bright.

In his twenties, Ethan was settling into his life and finding the way to his center. He made space for love, work, creativity, music, and travel. His began to focus his endless energy on the things that brought him joy. That beam of light narrowed and deepened. Being in the center of that light felt like basking in the sun. It was a privilege to be loved deeply by my son, and I was proud of the way he showed love to others.

Ethan died on April 7, 2020. Early spring. He left us just as the moon was rising in the sky. The moon that night was unforgettable. April’s full moon is called the pink moon, and that night the moon was brighter than any moon I can remember. I sat outside that night, surrounded by family and friends, and watched the moon settle over us, bathing us in its glow. After we went to bed that night, the sky erupted with an incredible thunderstorm. The wind, the thunder that shook the house, the nonstop cracks of electricity that split the sky relentlessly. The serenity of the moon gave way to a night so wild that nobody could sleep.

The next day broke easy, a mild magnolia-scented day. The moon hung like a ghost in the sky, and the energy of the storm left the air charged and clear.

The light, the electricity, the energy—it never disappears. It only changes shape, form, or color. One phase of the moon rolls into the next. Hot, heavy days splinter into tempests. Leaden skies sag until they can no longer hold their weight of snow. E. E. Cummings’ “mudlucious” weeks feed the roots of budding magnolia trees.

And my son. His fiery, feathery, summer-sun, early-dusk, endless, warm, golden light. It is here. It is in the moon and the clouds and the trees and all of the places I look for him. It is in me and around me. It is with the people he loved with such joy. His body died under the light of a pink full moon. His energy cannot die. It can only change shape, or form, or color.

2 responses to “The Full Moon and the Afterlife”

  1. so much light!


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