Anyone who knows me well knows I love cemeteries. I have photos of me dating back to high school, wearing vampire fangs in a local cemetery for a photo shoot I did for a friend. I have SEVERAL selfies in various cemeteries all over the world. (I was definitely that goth girl in high school, and still sort of am.) Both my mom and my stepmom had a fondness for cemeteries, which they passed on to me. I remember walking around cemeteries as a child – they never felt spooky or scary. Cemeteries have always been a spiritual place of beauty for me. They remind me of the finite nature of existence and fill me with a sense of reverence and peace for this precious life. So it was to the surprise of NO ONE when I accepted the job offered to me back in 2016, to help start and run Carolina Memorial Sanctuary. It has literally been my dream job. And so it is an enormously big deal that at the end of this month, I will be leaving my job at the Sanctuary.
The job that I’ve held over the past 7 years, helping run Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, has been hands down one of the peak experiences of my life. As someone who has always felt a calling to be in service, has a deep love of cemeteries, and loves the mechanics of starting and running a business – it’s as if this job was custom made for me. It has been perfect. It has allowed me to be creative in so many ways, as I’ve had the fortune and honor in co-creating the Sanctuary and helping to design and create all of our systems and processes. I’ve been able to do so many different and amazing things, such as digging graves, collecting GIS information for our digital map, helping people select their spots, and hands down my favorite, guide and facilitate burials. This is a short list. I’ve done pretty much everything you can do at the Sanctuary. When I walk around the land and pass by the graves, I have memories of the almost 200 people and pets I have helped lay to rest, including my stepmother Karen and cat Pandora. It’s amazing. I’ve had the rare gift of feeling a deep sense of purpose and meaning from my job for the last 7 years. So how is it possible for me to walk away from something so perfect – a job that has always given me deep satisfaction and joy – that feeds all of the different parts of myself?
In the last several months I have left my relationship (mutual decision that ended on good terms), left my house (by choice), am leaving my job that I LOVE (just one month left), am leaving the country for 5 weeks to hike the Camino in Spain (end of April), and when I return, I’m going to live with my aunt and uncle in Tacoma WA to feel into what is next. I may or may not return to Asheville? A lot of things are coming to an end, all by choice. A lot of dying to make way for rebirth. Why have I decided to leave/end a bunch of things? Because it’s what feels right. It’s where I feel called. There’s an art to knowing when it’s time to let go – even when things are good, things come to their natural end. And I’m just listening to all of that and following where I feel led. I am going through a transformation of sorts. Clearing the way for whatever is next. My pilgrimage in Spain isn’t about figuring out what I’m going to “DO” – it’s to deeply ponder who I want to BE. How I want to show up in the world and the principles and values I want to organize my life around. The doing will naturally come out of a new way of being. I have no clue what is next for me and I’m not worried about it. I’ve been in a beautiful place of trust and surrender (which isn’t always a space I get to inhabit) and I’m excited to see where it all takes me. And don’t get me wrong – there’s been a lot of grief in all of this letting go. But in my being and in my heart, I know it’s what is right. And I trust that.
For the past 7 years, I have poured my heart and soul into the Sanctuary and it has been the greatest honor and privilege of my lifetime. It is not an exaggeration to say that it feels like my child. I started with what was a mostly barren piece of land and helped nurture and grow the Sanctuary to what it is today. I am immensely proud of what we have created and the beautiful offering we have given to our community. The love I feel for the Sanctuary is immense beyond words. To those of you reading this – the ability to be of service to you and your loved ones buried at the Sanctuary has been a gift and an honor and has filled my heart and being with love. I am blessed and grateful to have walked this path with you and you will always be a part of my heart. It was not an easy choice to leave my job at the Sanctuary but I know I’ve done what I was meant to and know that it will still thrive without me. And what is beautiful is that my relationship to the Sanctuary doesn’t end here. It just changes form. Which is true of every death. To the land, to the plants, to the animals, to the beloveds buried in the earth, to my friends/coworkers, to our guests and all of the people I met along the way. Thank you for everything. To Caroline, thank you for believing in me. You have bestowed upon me the greatest gift of my life yet. To the Sanctuary, I bow down to you. Thank you for calling me to you. I am blessed and I am grateful.