Birth and Death Among Us

Birth and Death Among Us

This life of ours isn’t ours. The brevity and happenstance alone shows us that.

It isn’t a circle, not really. It’s not a line from here to there. They’re fine enough shapes, but they’ve no depth, not much room for mystery and consequence. This is surely a time for mystery and consequences. For them you need a spiral.

A spiral gets you memory without repetition. It wrings wisdom from experience. It’s from the spiral that you draw down the rough magic of being born, the alchemy of Godparenthood, the greying heart of age, the grief love of dying, the awe of all of this coming round, coming down.

Birth/death: not opposites. Not the same. Companions. Ways of loving the world anyway. Patrimony, matrimony, ceremony.

Parenting comes from keeping your awe intact: Who is this one who has come to you? The newborn makes the parent.

A baby needs and deserves a welcome of great elegance and substance. How to make a home for the sorrowing, bewildered little stranger in your midst?

The ability to love a new, unknown child comes a little bit from where the child comes from. What is this unexpected indebtedness of being a parent? Where is that Other World in this one?

While the parent feeds and teaches, the godparent is a companion who guides by faithful remembrance of the mysteries of being born and dying. They’re not honorary parents, or replacement grandparents. They’re there to put the Godness in parenting, their eyes full with what has gone. Limits, frailties, endings: Gods in this world.

The mark of getting older is your life changing without getting your permission first.

An empty house, beliefs unbelieved: that’s the real life after death.

Where does all of this go when we forgo rites for rights? When we trade in tirade when awe is called for?

Jenkinson/Johnson. Older/younger. Death trade/birth work. Man/woman. Reckoning.

It’s time for this.

Stephen Jenkinson


Join us for the first ever in-person weekend gathering around the topics of Birth & Death Among Us with Kimberly Ann Johnson and Stephen Jenkinson at beautiful Mt. Madonna, CA. We will encounter unanswerable questions and make space for the remembering of something we may have never experienced. If you feel called to wonder about culture-making within orphaned traditions and your place in it all, this retreat might be a kind of landing place for you. This time together might just make us more human. Learn more and reserve your spot.