I am grateful for the times I’ve touched the other side, I feel honored and blessed. But, it’s not always as you want or would imagine, so I tend to believe it was real. I asked my first husband to come back to tell me if there was an afterlife, a heaven. We had years of dying and our conversations were sometimes inane. He refused and told me that he wouldn’t contribute to the trouble I would get into if I knew more than I could handle. To be fair, he never really had much faith in my maturity or ability to survive. Hopefully, my words on seeing him again will be “I told you so!”
My mind is dwelling on this train of thought, due mainly to the losses others have experienced recently. We connect through shared experiences, we connect through differences and we connect though a common terror. I’ve been blessed to have been close to several loved ones, as they left this life and awed by their journeys. My late-husband and his father were eager to reconnect with their family. They missed their loved ones who went before them. For me, that thought was terrifying. I preferred the Navajo belief that one should never speak of those gone, so their evil side, which remains won’t hear you calling. I wanted to belief that the angry, twisted drink who beat me and caused me so much pain left here a naked soul, a pure spirit of good -leaving behind the rage and cruelty. But, my mother and grandfather changed this fear in me.
My grandfather loved to talk to me about dying and his lack of fear. I was the only young widow in my family for many generations and somehow he thought this gave me insight. It didn’t, what I had was more an acceptance. It left me with a profound reality of the millions, hundreds of millions of my human ancestors that had lived and died, and no one avoided it. And still, we all make some mark on our world. We all pass on wisdom, knowledge or adaption to the strands of DNA we pass along. My grandfather loved my boyfriend, who is now my husband. On paper we were not anyone’s idea of a good match and his family still hates me. But, my grandfather saw how happy we were and how we were better people together. He told my now-husband that he was dying comforted knowing that he was in my life. When we told him we would be moving south to Wilmington, NC after he died, he insisted we move right away, to never put off a chance to do anything in life. I was reluctant and he took my hand and assured me that he’d stop by and say “good-bye”.
Shortly, after we moved, I woke from a disturbing dream. A friend I knew from Boston, who was disabled and had lost her legs and fingers to an infection was in my dream. She’d fallen into the street off a Boston curb and I traffic was coming. I tried to help her up but she told me that I couldn’t help her. She wanted me to know one thing. I agreed to listen. She told me: “It’s not my fault, I am broken and I can’t be fixed.” That whole day I was haunted by this dream. We called our friend who was doing fine, I called everyone else we knew. I went to the beach and stared at the ocean, I walked the surf for miles trying to figure out what it meant. I wanted to save the person who had refused my help. The next day, my sister called to tell me that my mother had taken pills and killed herself. I disagreed with her, I think she could have healed, I don’t think she was broken beyond repair.
When I went home for her funeral, I stopped by to see my Grandfather in the hospice. No one told him and I was under strict orders to not say anything. I don’t usually do as I’m told, but I was too tired to argue. My grandfather held me tight and told me that it was okay. He said: “Your mother is okay. She had to go.” I was under the watchful eyes of others. I wish I’d asked him whether she visited him in a dreamed. Once again, I was reluctant to leave him but he reassured me again that he’d stop by and say “good-bye”.
I don’t know why I believed him but I did. A week after 9/11, when everyone was still so exhausted and soul-sick, I woke a few hours before sunrise and smelled roses. Everywhere was the scent of roses. I got out of bed and wandered around looking for an open window, wondering who was able to get roses to grow on the Intracoastal? All of the windows were closed and we had no flowers, there was no perfume bottles open. It was then, as I stood in the dark of a new moon, looking out to the east. I felt enveloped in rose scent and loved. I slowly realized that it was my Grandfather, he’d kept his word. Sadly, my second thought was that I was naked! I realized that he could see me in all my fat glory! I ran to the bedroom and grabbed a robe. I sat in the dark and laughed. The man who was there when I entered the world naked, left this world seeing me naked -a thought that did not comfort me! Slowly, the scent disappeared and I watched the sunrise. By the time the searing light hit my eyes and made me squint, I was okay with the reality. After all, it’s only a skin-bag that our soul wears. I did regret my reaction and that I wasn’t more focused on being enveloped by his soul.
My first husband’s death broke me, I grieved for too long and could not get past the reality of his death. But, the deaths of my mother and grandfather left me with a calm love in my soul. A sense that we ride a wide river –like dolphins we emerge and submerge along its course. Sometimes the current will beat the hell out of you and other times you float like a leaf in sunlight. I am curious about the journey and no longer fear it. If I were completely honest, I am more concerned about my husband and our dogs. I hope my house isn’t too messy and that the people who go through my things are people who love me and not those who hate me. I also hope if I do receive a Darwin Award, there will be someone here to make sure my husband laughs good and long and hard.
I am not so sure this will be at all comforting to anyone who has suffered a loss, be it recent or long ago. Maybe, I just wrote it for me, to help me find comfort in the pain that I know others are feeling for their recent losses.
May you find an eddy on the river to rest and to heal. Embrace what remains, that ethereal rose-scented, pure energy of love.