It’s kind of a personal story…one that is better told through smiles, gestures…tears. Sitting with a cup of tea and a comfy cushion, a nice blanket to wrap up in, a sheepskin to lie down on…perhaps a few candles burning. I would tell you this story on a perfect night like this, the wind whooshing through the cottonwood leaves, a dark sky threatening rain, contrasting with the early summer green. Birds singing their twilight song.
On a cold afternoon on one of the first days of 2012, I lay in my bed daydreaming on the New Moon…making prayers for the new year. Thinking about what I wanted to call in, to invite, to embrace for the year ahead. I asked to open my mind to new thought, to higher consciousness, expansion. I wanted to open my heart to larger love; ways of living, loving, thinking and acting that have been out of reach, beyond my abilities. I wrote in my journal: “I know I have called in something bigger than me – I have asked to be opened up and filled.”
Later that year I loved a man in the most intimate way. It’s hard to describe accurately or to do it justice. My friend’s husband was dying of a brain tumor. She asked me to come over and give him Reiki. I went over to their house and loved him. That’s what I did. I loved him the way a mother loves her child – unconditionally and purely. I let cosmic love pour through me and into him. I got out of the way. I was a channel. I felt filled with love. I think he did too. I know he did. We shared a few intimate hours together over his last few weeks. On the day he died, I held his hand while he transitioned from consciousness to coma. I held his feet and felt his spirit take flight – a hawk soaring fast and free. I lay with him hours after he had passed and stroked his forehead. Alison and I spent the cool hours of the dark early morning with him – this unseasonably hot June, the June that would bring fire upon fire to our mountains. We dozed on the bed with him, burned sage, laughed and cried together. I wrote in my journal how humbled and grateful I was to spend those days with him. I also wrote that I thought I had found my dharma and how grateful I was to Nancy and Lance for letting me in to their lives so I could share what was longing to be expressed in me – my desire to be of service and for my life to have deeper meaning and purpose.
A few days ago, I got a call from my hospice supervisor letting me know a woman was transitioning. They were asking for volunteers to take turns sitting with her during the day while her family members were at work. It had been a few months since there had been an opportunity to sit vigil and I jumped at the chance. First shift. I’m there. I have sat with 4 people since Lance died last year. First I had to go through general training, then a special training to sit vigil. When my supervisor told me of this new person, she mentioned that this woman was conscious. This was new. Something to ponder. It’s one thing to sit with a stranger that’s dying and they’re unconscious. But to walk into the room of somebody I’ve never met before, while they’re going through one of the most intimate (if not the most intimate) acts of their life and sit with them…well, this got me nervous. I prayed as I drove. I prayed to be of service, to connect with my heart, to just BE.
It’s hard to explain, again, words can’t do this justice. From the minute I walked into this woman’s room and she locked her blue-gray eyes on me, there was not one second that felt awkward or wrong. I held her hand. She didn’t speak but her eyes saw my every move. I introduced myself and told her I was going to sit with her. I honored the work she was doing – as she seemed to be laboring – and her body’s wisdom to know when it was time to let go. I told her she wasn’t alone. I never know what I will be moved to say or do with any particular person. It’s different every time. Sometimes I sit in silent meditation. We must have “gazed” for over an hour. It was intimacy on a soul-level.
When I returned the next day for the first shift, I was told that she had just passed. I went in to see her body and touch her forehead. As I sat and waited for her family to arrive, I cried. At first, I was critical of myself…”Stop being so dramatic! You didn’t even know this woman. Why are you crying?” After those thoughts passed, I decided to allow my heart to expand and just feel everything that was surfacing: the ending of this woman’s life, the shell of her body in front of me, the softness of her gaze from yesterday, the imminent arrival of her loved ones. The LOVE my own heart could feel for this woman, for the people that cared for her, for the patients in the facility, and for my family.
Today I looked back through my journal and discovered that the day I sat vigil with this woman, was a year to the day that I first sat with Lance. If grief is a sprial, then love is concentric circles…rippling out to infinity. I am truly grateful for this life and for the meaning that I am privileged to have fill my days and the people I am honored to serve.