It was Mother's Day recently and social media was awash in pictures of moms, living and gone, with children tucked close in the circle of their arms. When I find myself wondering 'who am I?' this is where I go in my body memory, to the circle of arms that nurtured me. When I am lonely and wondering about the meaning of my life, I imagine having children celebrated in the circle of my arms.
And it is the circle of arms I melt into when I am embraced by old friends and we hold onto the hug longer than just hello, until we feel our hearts find their rhythm and the years apart slip away. It is the way I recover from bad dreams, curled under the arm of my sleeping husband. It is belonging to the people we belong to.
And when I have had no people to belong to, wrapping my arms around myself in a hug has been the most reliable remedy; to be my own sheltering arms is a gift from the blessing of enough.
Which brings me to shroud making and the practice of shrouding. Our instinct to wrap the dead before burial or cremation is an ancient one, practiced by human beings since before we measured time. In mourning, we walk at the edge of life and death. Through the gentle motions of shrouding we honor this tender place; taking utmost care with the elemental remains of those we love.
Whether the cloth is embellished or plain, when we shroud a person we have loved they rest in the circle of our arms. We belong together still for this sacred time, and by the actions of laying the body in, wrapping, securing, and carrying, we are better able to release them.
Shrouding is a way to extend the shelter of the circle of our arms in after-death care. When the task is undertaken in community with other loving hands, it is a way that we acknowledge death and celebrate living and belonging together.
Sometimes the circle I make with my own arms is the best I can offer myself, sometimes my arms are the one's needed, and now and then I am gratefully held close by someone dear. Sometimes the circle includes all of creation. What I know, dear life, is that in the circle of your arms, I am home.