We are all here on a sacred spiritual journey. We didn’t come here to get rich, or to command armies, or to die with the most toys. We came here for a reason. The beauty of the adventure is that we don’t get to know why we chose this life. Not while we’re still here anyway.
I had a dream last night that my late wife and I had a baby. A little boy. Scrawny and dark with a complexion and face that held none of the features of either myself or my wife. At three months old he was standing in his crib and telling me who I was. He spoke clear sentences. He was mischievous, funny and full of love. As I changed his diaper he looked in my eyes and joked with me. As we walked down the street he greeted everyone and ran around playing hide and seek with me in wanton joy. He brought bright smiles to all the faces in the crowd.
This short dream triggered a vague sense of deja vu. As if I were being given a little hint of those memories I’d left behind me. In my headlong pursuit of “what I was supposed to do” I seem to have misplaced what I actually came here to do. For what does a tiny child know of life in this world? They know love, they know kindness, they know vulnerability. They know fun, and how to live a life as if tomorrow wasn’t something to dread. They don’t think about tomorrow at all. Today is all that exists to them. And today is enough.
There are big things that need doing in this world. And more reasons than one can imagine for dreading tomorrow. But if we all lived life as if we were little children, would that be so bad? Love everyone, be kind, show your vulnerable side. Bring smiles to the faces of everyone you meet. Make them laugh and pass along some joy.
I think we could heal the world. One lost soul at a time.
She stood in the doorway in that dismissive way a teenage girl stands when she’s feeling put upon. Clearly, she had better things to do and he was just an inconvenient obligation she had to address before she could get on with the important matters of the day. Still, she was nearly transparent. When she looked up and met his eyes, his blood ran cold. For here was Death herself. Not carrying a scythe. Not dressed in black. Nope, not this time. Today, she was just a pretty teenage girl. Albeit, one you literally see through. Not exactly what one would expect to see at the moment oblivion comes calling. No one would ever suspect she held the power of eternity in her hands. That is, until they looked in her eyes. There was no mistaking her identity when those bottomless black orbs caught your gaze.
“Relax”, she said, “someone very important to you asked me to stop by and remind you. You made a promise. And you’re dragging your feet. Time’s a wasting old man. Don’t make me come back here. You know she won’t be happy if you blow it again this time.”
He was just about to say something when she interrupted him. “No excuses” she said, “You have had ten years to grieve. She sent along just about every kind of human being you could possibly need to learn the difference between what the two of you had and what everyone else thinks is love. You know this, deep down. Accept it. And do what you promised to do.”
“But the kids…..”, he said. “Will be fine” she countered. “How many times have they themselves told you that? You’re just scared.” And he knew, to his very core, that Death was right. He’d set an intention in motion two and half years ago. He’d retire, somehow make the finances work and go have that adventure he had always dreamed about. The very one he described to his wife just months before she passed away. It wasn’t just a dream. It was a promise he’d made to be more than an empty husk of a man after all she had suffered.
It certainly seemed like every cause for concern was magically removed whenever he came up with another reason to hold back. The job was outsourced a month before he was planning to retire. It put him in an even better financial situation. Every obstacle just seemed to evaporate, almost as soon as he thought of it. For someone who couldn’t seem to stop worrying about what could go wrong, everything always worked out in his favor. And he knew, it was because of her. It was the gift she gave him in return for a promise that had been made and must be kept.
Something flickered at the corner of his eye. He turned to look. In the mirror on the wall, a flash of black wing and the shiny edge of a sharpened blade passed through his field of view. When he turned back she was gone. A waft of burnt cookies caressed his nose and the unspoken words kissed his soul, “Don’t let her down, you promised her you wouldn’t waste the time she gave you.”
I don’t remember the last time I died. But I sure as hell remember the last time I attended a death.
She could no longer speak. But I sensed her need. Even though I was asleep in the bedroom and she was in her power wheelchair in the living room. She needed to go to the bathroom.
Subconsciously, I had become attuned to her needs. It was something beyond words or sounds. To this day I’m not quite sure when she lost her voice. I remember our interactions as clear conversations even though she had completely lost the ability to speak months before.
Sometime between midnight and three in the morning I woke up. She needed help. I know it was in this time window because by five she was gone. And I had slept even after wheeling her into the bathroom and back out. I remember quietly whispering into her ear as I pushed her along: “You can go now, your father will be there. We’ll be okay.”
It was all she needed to hear. I know I slept for awhile afterwards but I have no recollection of where nor do I remember how I came to be on the telephone with her doctor asking if I could give her another dose of morphine. I know her mother was there because she had urged me to call and she would be there for the rest of her daughter’s life. She was a nurse and she understood these things. Even if she had never in a million years imagined she’d witness her own daughter’s passing.
I can’t tell you how I know. But I can tell you when I came to understand. I was thirteen years old. I don’t know what happened to bring it on but I remember laying in bed and imploring the power that is: “Please don’t make me come back here again.” And I understood, at the core of my being, that life is not what it seems.
There is pain here. And soul searing indifference. Why is that, I wonder? And I realize it’s because people are scared. Of losing what they have. So scared that they will destroy anything and anyone in order to hold on to it. And yet, in the end, we lose it all anyway. The only thing that has any lasting value at all, is love.
Just like I don’t know how my wife communicated her needs to me, I don’t know how I know this truth. But I know it as if the Universe itself whispered it in my ear.
To fear death is like fearing the sunset. We have no control over either. And to pretend that we do is to live our lives in a state of delusion.
My wife was afraid of death. But not for the reasons stated above. She had no ties to the material world. She had two driving forces in her life. The work she did and the children we raised.
She spent her entire working life as a helper. She ran community residence programs for the mentally ill. She advocated for, and made the lives of, so many disenfranchised souls, less tortuous. She understood these people and the difficult lives they were living. Not because she was one of them, but because her father was clinically depressed himself. She was raised in the chaos of mental illness and spent her life trying to improve the lives of people like her father.
If there’s a lesson in all of that for me, and most of us in the world, it’s this: People are NOT fully responsible for the life situation in which they find themselves. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to avoid taking any responsibility for our fellow human beings.
It’s also a lie my wife had no intention of telling herself. Like nurses called to the occupation, she came here to serve. And, like one who is doing what she came here for, she loved life and she didn’t want to leave. Which makes me wonder why she had to suffer such a horrifying death herself?
I can come to no other conclusion than that of unveiling to me the interconnection of all of our lives. And the impulse to write about it. To whisper it into the ears of as many other humans as possible.
Be not afraid. There are helpers. We are all helpers. Each in our own subtle and unique way. All we need to do is to discover and embrace our destiny.