Saturday, July 30, 2016

"between here, and gone…"

"Now I'm just wondering
how we know where we belong.
In a song that's left behind
in the dream I couldn't wake from.

Could I have felt the brush
of a soul that's passing on,
Somewhere in between
here and gone..."

For the past year or so, I've sought quiet moments alone, allowing myself to feel the passing of a friend.  When my family was off doing what they love, and I would companion with precious memories. Putting on Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Between Here and Gone," I'd give myself permission to shed a few tears of gratitude, love -- and yes, sorrow.

For such a long time, I didn't know how to do this. I'd bottle those feelings up in a shroud of guilt.  I felt guilty for my sadness. I thought that my sorrow was an admittance of failure. Failure to understand what it means that "there is no death."

My dance with the concept of death came early. A much loved puppy was hit by a car when I was 10. My dad was killed when I was 19.  At 21, a dear young friend passed suddenly. And so it went -- year after year.

No more -- or less, I have discovered -- than most of us. We all face the loss of loved ones. It is not something any of us can escape. But I believe that it's how we navigate this life lesson, that makes all the difference.

Do we see passing as death -- ending, oblivion, a dark nothingness? Or do we see it as simply a transition.  Entering a new laboratory in which we learn something new about love and trust. One classroom leading to another -- new classmates, new lessons, new discoveries.

Does this mean that I do not cherish every moment shared with someone who has gone on? Not at all. 

I remember being a young girl. I was graduating from Kindergarten.  I'd delighted in every day at our little schoolhouse in rural Iowa. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Kearns. I loved books, and learning, and her gentle hand on the top of my head as she stopped beside my desk to examine carefully printed alphabet letters.

I wanted to stay in Kindergarten with Mrs. Kearns for the rest of my life.  That was, until I learned that I couldn't check  out books from the school library -- by myself -- until I was in First Grade. I loved books. I longed to be able to go in and choose my own favorites.  To walk up to the libarian's desk, hand her my card, and carry away a stack of adventures that would inform, entertain, and comfort me in the night.

For a while I felt torn -- as if I even had a choice! Stay in Kindergarten where everything was familiar, or go on to First Grade where I had access to a library full of books - just waiting for me to choose them and take them home. I remember that summer as one of great inner conflict. And then one day, it broke. I knew it was time to become a first grader. I cried for the loss of Mrs. Kearns' daily comfort.  But I was so excited about my new relationship with the school librarian, Mrs. Abernathy.

I think of that summer often, especially when life's transitions seem to shift from the familiar to the unknown. But, I ask myself, would you deprive yourself - or a loved one - of a library card.  Would you want anyone to miss out on a new understanding of eternality, or a long-awaited reconnection with a loved one who had gone on before them?

Today I don't so much wonder "where do I belong…" I trust that question to God. I am here. That is the truth. I am spiritual and eternal. That is the Truth. I cherish my memories with great affection and gratitude. I hold them dear and look forward to seeing my friend again.  I look forward to our sharing new stories. I weep.  But mostly they are tears of joy and gratitude.  And, sometimes longing -- I wish I could laugh with him, I am grateful that I ever did, and I realize that I love him -- still. Nothing can change this enduring truth.

These feelings have taught me compassion for others,  and patience with myself. I love that Mary Chapin Carpenter sings:
"I thought a light went out,
but now the candle shines.
I thought my tears wouldn't stop,
then I dried my eyes.
And after all of this,
the truth that holds me here,
Is that this emptiness
is something not to fear."

Ah, the emptiness, that is not empty at all.  Yes, sometimes it is a cavernous feeling.  But it not empty.  It is the removal of something intractable -- the false concepts of life as limited and material.  It reveals the expansive wonder of life defined spiritually.  For me, it is an "emptiness" that represents my willingness to discover that Life is not defined by the solidness of the flesh, but the irrepressible boldness of Spirit -- of the Love that cannot be stifled or destroyed.

Today, I've taken some time to let the memories draw close. To let them blossom with a new charm.  To laugh and cry with them. To let them dance a two-step with me, and smirkingly reprove me for my left-leaning optimism. I love my friend. I look forward to seeing him again. But we are both where we belong. I am grateful for the sweet brush of his memory -- across my heart.

offered with Love,


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