Last Monday (at the Mars-Pluto conjunction), my cousin’s wife’s young sister was murdered by her boyfriend- who then suicided. Mid-week, we heard sad news of Thich Nhat Hanh’s precarious health. Saturday, my maternal grandmother died.  Though I didn’t know my cousin-in-law’s sister, and since their move to the West Coast, from Ohio, we’re still just getting to know her, my heart trembled with horror. Overnight, jokes about violence have become distasteful. A picture of Annie Oakley on my Facebook feed with the supposed quote, “I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him, either.” I would’ve found this funny, previously. Death changes things.

My grandma’s death, more immediate to me, has thrust me into an alternate universe of not feeling quite myself: of weepy ambition-lessness and memories surfacing that I’d forgotten, or buried.  My mother died in ’98, and my grandmother’s passing has re-confirmed this for me. Grieving is not linear, nor connected to just one person. It’s more like a scatter plot graph, with variables that exist outside our control jolting us into correlations we might not have otherwise made. Ultimate understanding may exceed our grasp, but the hero’s journey into the underworld is one all of us take. My grandmother made this journey her life’s work. A twelfth house Leo Sun who mid-wived her husband, mother, daughter-in-law and two of her daughters to Death’s door, my grandmother made this journey many times that toward the end, her life began to be defined by her losses.  It was frustrating, at times, hearing her dwell on the past when the vibrant aliveness of life and all her great-grandbabies surrounded her, yet amidst all the regret, longing and looking backwards she became a very spiritual person. She had this written in her address book, (which one of my cousins shared with us by text message over the weekend): “Seashells remind us that every passing life leaves something beautiful behind.” She had spent enough time with Death, and the bones of the living sea, to know.

Saturn is breathing its final gasp in the end degrees of Scorpio (Saturn enters Sagittarius on 12/23*), and he wants to make sure we know that he knows that we know. Death and endings loom large, and seems to be everywhere right now. Despite being final, death doesn’t always bring closure, and as often brings more questions. We don’t know why something senseless happens. We don’t always get closure with the ones we love, dead or living, and we don’t get to choose when or how endings occur. Scorpio is a no-man’s land of privacy, and complexity. Since Saturn has entered Scorpio, our feelings, our life, has deepened, but it’s also become less straightforward. We’ve been asked to confront death, loss, tragedy and our own inevitable endings with a level of maturity and level-headed common sense (Saturn). And it still hurts. As Brittany Maynard, the woman who recently took her inevitable death into her own hands, said matter-of-factly, “I don’t want to die. I am dying.”

On Tuesday, the Sun meets Saturn in Scorpio for the last time, not to join again for another 28 years. I won’t be sorry to see Saturn leave Scorpio, but I’m not going to forget what it brought us: intimacy with our interior lives and inner workings, the necessity of looking at how we think about death, endings and loss, and emotional honesty: because let’s face it, no matter how much we want it to be otherwise, sometimes there isn’t a silver lining to be found. There is not always a perky pollyanna version of events for every life setback; and for many, the only door opening when one closes is the one that’s hitting you on the backside on the way out. So I’m ready, for both the Sun, then Saturn, to enter Sagittarius– ready for more philosophical journeys of mind, for the big questions of our time to be addressed and discussed. While Scorpio leaves us with the kind of wisdom we can only acquire through loss of life, Sagittarius re-inspires hope in it.

*save a retrograde period 6/14-9/16/15, when Saturn revisits Scorpio

image: Viking funeral for a cat