I recently followed a writing prompt that suggested: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

A tough one, in a year where I mostly felt dead. But let’s see…

The moment that comes up most vividly is a recent event, one that happened during the very first date with the guy I’m seeing. I’d squeezed between tables to sit on the bench seat–something I’m now certain must have driven him a bit nuts since he prefers to sit in view of the door.

As my initial discomfort faded and I began to really want to see him again, I realized I was going to have to tell him about my son, Teddy’s, death. The idea of it made me shake. So I drew a deep breath, plunged in, and as I spoke, everything receded.

We were in a bubble, he and I; no more babbling voices, no awareness of the people on either side of me, so close I had accidentally touched the man next to me when gesturing. My guy reached across the table for my shaking hand as he listened, and then his face, his entire being, became still. His eyes–glistening, intent, looking deep, not turning away like so many tend to do, but with an element of shock reflected within–they held mine, intensely, and when I was through, he said, ‘damn–this is scary’ and then told me about Kelsey, the daughter he raised much like Ed (my ex) raised Erin, who died of an aneurysm just before her 7th birthday.

Sitting at that table, united by our clasped hands, our shared experience, our love of children who no longer grace this earth, I felt everything shift. All of me. And while I’m not sure if I felt more alive in that moment than ever before, I certainly felt more seen. More connected. More hopeful. More sad and at the same time, relieved. And I knew there really was something powerful at work, that brought us together.

I just realized my previous definition of ‘feeling alive’ was associated only with feeling good. A ‘mountain top’ experience, like the births of my three children or hiking to the top of the Apennines with friend Kate and twirling in a high meadow while singing ‘the hills are alive.’ These represent for me the pinnacles of joy.

But what I now realize is that in this experience with this man, in this moment, I truly was more alive–more integrated. This ‘aliveness’ encompassed all of me–us–grief and joy, shared experience, connection and loss, deep appreciation and the possibility of love. The totality. And that is what it means to be alive. At least for me.

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Teresa Luttrell

Teresa Molitor Luttrell's world radically changed July 12, 2009 when her hilarious, handsome, quirky, talented, sometimes frustrating, open-hearted son died of a splenic artery aneurism at age 20, slamming her into a foreign galaxy of unimaginable pain and loss. It spurred in her a search for deeper meaning, an expanded connection to Spirit, and a need to experience the ongoing existence of Ted’s soul. Teresa holds a masters degree in consciousness studies and is a minister with Centers for Spiritual Living. Her training as a minister included studying consciousness from varying points of view--through world religions, mysticism, metaphysics, quantum physics, psychology, mind/body medicine, and more. That training has informed her grief--and her grief has impacted every way in which she ministers. Teresa says, 'I see grief as an ongoing journey that ripens pain into compassion and gives birth to something within us that can be of service to the world, in some way that both stretches us and honors them.' She and her family have established The Sparrow Fund, a scholarship in Ted's memory; successful applicants share Ted's love of music, face scholastic and other challenges and exhibit Ted's deep desire for mastery. Teresa also runs Enliven, a bed and breakfast designed for the chemically sensitive (www.enlivenbnb.com) which is also a haven for those needing support after a significant loss. In addition, Teresa offers small deeply supportive retreats on grief, growth and hope (6-8 participants) at her log cabin in the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington State.

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