Stephen Levine left his body two days ago. I’ve known of him for a few years because Chris has told me about him and his wife Ondrea, who have spent their lives thinking about and writing about how to die consciously. Chris tells me about a lot of things – the man is endlessly curious about everything from hunter gatherers to better accounting systems – and so not everything he tells me “sticks.” Admittedly, the Levines did not entirely stick. Still, I vaguely knew there was this couple who were both older and in poor health residing in the desert of New Mexico and waiting to die, while still very vividly living. (Ah, Paradox!)
So when I learned that Stephen had died, I finally found myself on their web site where I sat rapt with this video of the two of them. I’m not sure when it was made – I suspect in the past year. They are bright of spirit here, even though there is a sense of an end being close at hand. Besides from the generous, wise words they share, there is so much to love about the video. I love, for instance, how at the :50 mark he pretends to eat her toe with gusto – making her laugh. I love their vibrant red shirts and their tattoos, which appear to be pretty fresh. I love the cat that comes and goes. Her snappy manicure and long tresses. His insouciance. The clutter of blankets and pillows on the back of the sofa.
Most of all, I love that they hold hands through almost the entire hour. And though they are not looking at one another, they are in total sync, complete harmony. They have clearly lived in deep respect, learning one another and coming to a place where love lives well beyond the realm of the physical container. I imagine that Ondrea is now both sad, missing this lovely and cunning companion’s physical presence, but also at peace, feeling him everywhere.
Here is a poem that Stephen wrote. I have no idea if it is intended as an homage to God, but I certainly hope that it is, at some level, a love poem for Ondrea.
There is a silence between breaths
when the heart becomes a sacred flame
and the belly uncoils which reminds me
how remarkable it is to wake
beside you another day.
Between deaths we dreamed together
between breaths, in that stillness,
which has joined us ever since.
In that first breath
we step onto the dance floor,
and waltz unnoticed through the void.
The sacred everywhere we turn
and turn again, as form so generously dissolves
and only the Beloved remains.
In this moment which lasts a lifetime
there is nowhere to stand
where you are not beside me
where you do not accompany me within.