I like to imagine that during the short interval of days between her death and my son’s birth on the day of her funeral, they met each other in that mysterious place in-between this life and the next. I envision them together, with heads bent, foreheads touching, sharing the secret of the amazing gift that awaited me with his impending birth.
Posts tagged ‘grace’
I smile and acknowledge ownership of the bag with a nod just as the woman reaches in and pulls out a huge pair of my old maternity underwear. She holds them up with two hands at arms length and tilts her head quizzically. They are so thread-bare and tattered that the elastic is exposed through the frayed waistband. She turns to me with a grin and says,
I have tiptoed across a dark courtyard at 2AM to spy on Greek Orthodox monks floating in black wool cassocks and high hats through a fragrant fog of amber incense. Chanting Vespers in the candlelit chapel of an Arizona oasis, voices carried to God on white smoke through a starry desert sky. My own soul seeming to rise closer to heaven on every note.
My sister Karen is a healer. She is a licensed Massage Therapist and Healing Touch practitioner who works out of a small office in the suburbs. In a recent phone conversation Karen told me about working with a client, Tim, who passed from Cancer. He was the husband of her dear friend, and the experience of his difficult death shook Karen to her core. “It’s been five months,” she says tearfully, “and I can’t move past it.” She is struggling with doubt about her practice she tells me, and she is questioning her ability to offer any real comfort to clients who suffer as Tim did.
As she is speaking, I suddenly remember something that happened to me while she was giving me a massage a long time ago. I had dozed off and dreamt I was being given a message about one of her clients. When I described it to her at the time, she said she did not have any clients by that name. We joked that I was a terrible psychic secretary and dismissed it at that. Now, while still listening to her on the phone, I rummage through my bookshelf to find the small journal I used to keep in my purse. Flipping through the meager number of pages that have any writing on them, I quickly find my scribbled note. I interrupt her to read aloud what is written under the date 4/29/06 (five years earlier). It says; “Message for Karen. “Tim” Your healing is making a difference-it is touching him, changing him. He has the hand of God upon him.” On the other end of the phone line, Karen is crying now, telling me this is what she needed to hear.
Our lives are filled with miracles and mysteries, folded and tucked lovingly into the everyday moments we so often miss, or, dismiss. In the past year, I have written about them often. They are not always the hair-raising, skin tingling events like the message for my sister was, but they are all equally sacred:
“Many years ago during my darkest hour, I held a small grain of hope that there would be days like today. A still, clear, quiet, sun-dappled morning, children sleeping in upstairs rooms, an old dog curled at my feet–a populated solitude. I am alone, but not lonely. A day, extraordinary in its utter ordinariness. I had faith, and I am here and I am grateful.”
They often whisper to us:
“Returning to bed at 4:30am after letting the dogs out, I slip gingerly into the space between husband and child that still holds my shape. I whisper a complaint about my cold hands as I fold them over my middle. Two warm hands reach out from sleep and cover mine. One large, one small.”
They are small, precious gems, easily overlooked if we are not paying attention:
“I walk past the home of a woman I do not yet know and I am deeply and inexplicably moved to tears by the spring bulbs blooming outside her picture window. Little blue Scilla flowers spell out the word “ALIVE.” Years later, after we’ve become friends, I learn she had endured surgery for breast Cancer and, facing chemo treatment, she had planted this beautiful message of hope the previous fall to celebrate spring’s arrival and her survival.”
They are holy moments, all:
“I wake up to a 7-year-old stowaway in my bed. She is cuddled next to me, gazing straight into my blinking, bleary eyes. ‘I think heaven is different for everyone,’ she says to me, ‘like Candy Land or a beautiful meadow. For me it would be just like my life now, here, with my family.’ I nod, smile and pull her close.”
These experiences do not happen to me because there is anything special about me, my life, or my children. They are there in your life too, all around you. I promise you this is true. You just need to be present and aware. It takes practice to quiet your thoughts enough to really hear, see, and feel these glimpses of divinity, but I know they are everywhere. I believe that you feel it too.
Divinity in the Everyday
I understand. All of us are a bundle of contradictions between what we practice and what we preach. But occasionally I run across folks who, when they believe they’ve mastered a higher rung on the metaphysical ladder, use said rung to clobber anyone coming up “below” them.
One morning I slogged down the stairs, feeling cranky and put-upon for having to make school lunches for my kids at 6AM, something I’d been doing for more than 15 years--with another 10 more years of tuna, turkey, or salami on the horizon. (I blame my five children for being born so darn many years apart.) It was with this self-pitying attitude that I tore the clear plastic seal from the top of the cream cheese and saw this smiling back at me.
Dear people next door, Welcome to Minnesota. Please write your name here ___ then please send back the card, but before you do that, please write back. You can write whatever you want. From your neighbor Harper and Family. (It included a nice picture of flowers and clouds.)
The year was 1972. I was a shy, awkward eighth-grader at Fridley Junior High in a working-class suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It all began innocently enough when my mother sewed maxi-skirts for my sisters and me one winter. Maxi-skirts were skirts that went all the way down to the floor and were high fashion in 1972; all the cool girls wore them.
Even though my mother warned me there would not be enough of the red fabric I picked out for my skirt, I insisted she use it anyway. The skirt turned out to be more of a red corduroy maxi-tube than the full, flowing maxi-skirt pictured on the front of the Simplicity pattern envelope.
Undeterred by the fact that my stride was roughly as long as that of a Geisha’s, I wore my maxi-skirt proudly to school that fateful day. I was shuffling down the hallway in a sea of my baby-boomer classmates, school books clutched to my chest when my friend Karen swept by me and gave me a slap-on-the-back greeting. That little push sent my torso flying forward at a velocity faster than my tightly bound legs could pedal. Factor in the weight of the books and my 80-pound frame and, well, you get the picture . . . an object in motion and all.
When I tell this story to my kids I insert a little lesson about the physics of this experience just to keep it educational. “Notice how ‘Turning Point’ becomes both a scientific statement as well as an understatement in this example,” I say.
My books flew ahead of me as I slid down the hallway on my belly. To the fast-moving current of students rushing up behind me, I was a rock in the rapids. They were stumbling and lurching trying to avoid stepping on me.
All the while, the tube-like geometry of my skirt and lack of traction supplied by my fashionable, but not-so-functional, ballet slippers made it physically impossible for me to stand up. I was flopping like a fish and polishing a nice, shiny clean spot on the dusty floor as my fellow classmates began parting behind me like the Red Sea, casting horrified backward-glances in my direction. My popularity, already weak and sickly, suffered its last agonizing death-throes right there in the hallway.
Enough humiliation you say? Oh, contraire my friends, this was just beginning. In the midst of my flailing efforts to stand in this sea of inhumanity, I felt two hands under my arms lifting me up from behind. Guess what? Yes, it was the guy I had a huge crush on. (My compliments to God and his impeccable comic timing.) He was a big, handsome, popular, red-headed football player who smelled like Brut cologne, or maybe it was HI KARATE. He was the lead actor in my romantic adolescent daydreams, all of them set to a score of David Cassidy ballads. (Heavy sigh.) What? I’ve already admitted I was not cool. Full disclosure.
After he placed me in an upright position, he steadied me for a moment to make sure I wouldn’t tip over again. He then handed me my books, gave me a quick nod with only the tiniest smirk passing over his dreamy lips before he quickly moved on. I scurried, face flushed red as my skirt, into the nearest girls’ restroom and tried to figure out a way to flush myself down the toilet.
Little did I know when I was experiencing my most humiliating middle school moment back in 1972, this story would become a favorite of my middle school daughter all these years later. She loves to laugh with me every single time I tell it, which she requests I do often. I like to think I am teaching her that seeing the humor in humiliation is all about not taking yourself too seriously, or some other equally noble life lesson. More likely she just loves a good laugh at my expense.
The moral of this story, you ask? I have no idea, but my daughter seems to find comfort in it during her own awkward middle school years, and that’s enough for me. Fortunately for her, I’ve got plenty more stories I’m saving for her high school years!
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
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I was half-heartedly playing “restaurant” with my six-year-old daughter Harper one day. I was there with her, but I was completely disengaged from her and the game. I distractedly placed my order and she busily chatted up other imaginary customers. I was definitely just doing hard ‘mommy’ time, having logged countless hours playing make-believe games not just with her, but with her four older siblings over the past twenty-plus years. I was feeling, on this particular day, more than just a little lost.
As I stared off into the distance, contemplating my existence and my meager contributions to building a better world (something I do much too often for my own good) she placed my meal in front of me and waited patiently for me to notice. When I looked down I saw the special of the day at Harper’s Café smiling back at me.
I looked up into her face. She was looking straight at me with a proud smile as big as the one on she had served up on my plate. That’s when I remembered. This happy, confident, compassionate child is no small contribution to a better world. So I enthusiastically ordered dessert and left her a big sloppy kiss for her tip as she laughed and wiggled in my arms.
This Mammaste moment is for all you mammas, grandmamas, aunties, or mentors to children everywhere, women and men alike.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
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