Slipping Away

March 25, 2010

When I was in the jungles of the Yucatan and Chiapas last month, I contracted a nasty double dose of parasites and bacteria, and became very ill.  I have traveled in Mexico for most of my life and have never been this sick.  My agent suggested that maybe I am so comfortable there that I let my guard down.  Perhaps I was so depleted by this winter’s travails that I had no resistance.   Whatever the explanation, I developed a high fever one night and in my delirium I had a vision of my daughter, Jenny.

Here’s what happened.  I was in a great deal of pain.  My joints were on fire and I couldn’t sleep.  At one point, as I was writhing in the dark of night, I realized I could call out to Jenny for help.  I wasn’t asking for anything in particular.  I simply remembered that she was available to me, and so I reached for her.  The instant I called, I felt her rushing in to surround me with her love.  I felt enfolded, as if by great wings.  And then she just held me.

After a few moments, I felt her begin to slip away.  I cried out: “Jenny, don’t leave me!”  I began to wail.  She returned and wrapped herself around me again.  “I will never leave you, Mom.  I am always with you.”  Finally, I felt strong enough to let her go.  I thanked her, and surrendered to our separation, as I have done a thousand times.  And then I lay in my steaming bed and wept.  My husband woke and held me.  “Jenny was here!” I told him.  “She was just here!  Can you feel her?”  What he felt was me, burning up.  The next day he took me to the doctor.  I am recovering from the disease, but the gift Jenny gave me that night will be with me always.

Yesterday I had the honor of sitting with one of my heroes, Kate, whose beautiful young free spirit daughter, Nina, was murdered in January, two days after her sister’s wedding in the Caribbean.  As the weeks unfold and Kate’s heart blazes with love and longing, her mind, as minds are designed to do, seeks understanding.

As with every single grieving person I know, Kate felt her daughter very close to her in the first days following her death.  Now, two months later, Nina’s presence feels increasingly tenuous.  Kate senses that Nina is continuing on her journey, and she can’t help but wonder where that journey leads and if her loved one is okay.

As we were talking, I saw a light stream into Kate’s heart.  I do not usually experience psychic phenomena, but I knew in that instant that Nina was flowing into her mother’s heart in response to the intense love and pain Kate was feeling.  And suddenly I had an epiphany.

I realized that the feeling we have of our loved ones being close to us immediately following their death might have more to do with us than with them.  In the wake of a profound loss, the limitations of our ordinary perceptions are stripped from our consciousness and we are given a glimpse of that which lies beyond the mundane.  When we love someone deeply, we cannot help but try to follow them when they’ve left this world.  At first, propelled by shock and supported by grace, we are successful in parting the curtain and stepping through.  As time goes by, we, the living, must necessarily return to this world.  This distancing may feel like they are moving away from us, but, as with Einstein’s train analogy, that’s an artifact of relativity.  We’re the ones who, in spite of our deep desire for connection, are slipping away, back into life.

This reminds me of an interview I read with Leonard Cohen years ago.  He was talking about falling in love, and how popular psychology describes this state in pathological terms as a matter of our projecting onto the blank screen of another all our hopes and dreams about romantic love, rather than seeing the person for who she or he really is.  Leonard disagreed with this analysis.  Rather, he said, when we fall in love, we are seeing truly.  As time goes by, the veils of our ordinary conditioned consciousness begin to drop again and obscure the clear vision we were gifted with at first.  Isn’t that beautiful?

I think a similar thing is true with grief.  The loving connectedness grieving people report in the wake of fresh loss is sometimes labeled “denial” and is attributed to the shock of losing a loved one.  However, I have always perceived people in that state as being filled with grace.  Their sense of connectedness to their loved ones does not feel delusional to me, but quite the opposite.  Grief and loss have lifted the illusion of separation, and, for a moment, we experience the boundarylessness of love.

6 Responses to “Slipping Away”

  1. Jo said

    Oh sweet lady, you have brought me to tears. Your words are oh so true. Oh so beautiful. I cannot respond in any other way. I must just sit and steep.

  2. Doug said

    Mirabai, yes, I think that’s true, through our own suffering, or in the case of being in love, we lose our day to day “self centered consciousness” and are allowed to see and experience things differently. I had a Sikh friend who use to say, “anything that gets us outside of ourselves is a good thing.”

    I had another close friend, Dwight an Irish Setter mix who I had found along with his sister “Free” as pups abandoned at a place I moved into when I lived in Alaska. They both had distemper and were starved and weak. Free ended up dying from the distemper but Dwight I was able to help and we became close friends over the coming years.
    In the beginning he would not let me touch him or allow anyone close to him. When I took him for walks he would follow from a safe distance. When other dogs sensed his fear they would often attack him, adding to the pain and confusion he already felt. I would leave food outside my house for him and he would come out from his hiding places to eat, only to retreat back to them afterwards. Not unlike me at that time, he was alone and needed a friend.
    My own patience with him at times would wear thin and once I hit him for being so paranoid he knocked over a table jumping from an unexpected noise in the house. I quickly apologized, almost crying for being so mean to him, he put his paw on my shoulder and seemed to understand. That point seemed a real turning point in our relationship and perhaps he began to understand something of others pain, perhaps this was the beginning of him “getting outside of himself”……
    In the following years he began to mature into a beautiful healthy adult animal and while still perhaps overly sensitive and thoughtful (two traits he seemed to possess in abundance!), he became very “emotionally balanced.” A favorite image of him is when he use to sit up straight in the front seat of my VW van and with his long ears and me with my long hair while traveling we would look like two hippies going down the road.
    I ended up giving Dwight to some friends for “safe keeping” at a time in my life when I didn’t feel I could care for him, a decision that I have often regretted. He stayed with them for a year until I came after an intentionally delayed visit, he of course had been waiting for me. After I left my friends house he ran away, no doubt to come looking for me. We never saw Dwight again.
    One morning not long after Dwight’s disappearance, as I was lying in my cabin in that state between waking and sleeping when pure intuition is not hampered by sleep or the rational mind he came to me. It was his essence, perhaps his soul, I knew it was him, he only stayed a moment, and long enough for me to know it was him. I knew then he was dead and he needed to go. My friend who I helped guide, and was guided by, allowed me one more lesson, one more insight upon his departure. He had taught me at least as much as I had taught him, at least.
    Many of the lessons I learned from Dwight I have tried to implement in my life. Whether it was working with other abused animals or with so called developmentally disabled adults (which includes about all of us!), I have tried to remember none of us are beyond repair (and on some level feeling like something needs to be repaired can be an illusion in itself), we can all rise out of our at times self imposed schizophrenias and neurosis to experience health and joy, no matter the apparent hopelessness of a situation. Dwight also taught me a powerful lesson in relationships. Whether it is with an animal or a person, we need to first make a connection with and understand what their needs are as an individual. Second we need to try to meet these needs. And third we need to apologize when we fall short of meeting them, which we invariably will. All these things I think effect the longevity of a relationship, both in this life and after, when I make the effort to implement them.
    Einstein’s analogy of us moving away from the universe as opposed to it moving away from us, or Leonard Cohen’s thoughts on being ‘in love” as our true nature, not a temporary phenomenon, are perhaps better insights into our own transitory nature than the universes. Thaddeus Golas tells us when we’re feeling like we need to isolate, or contract, or become small, these feelings may well be telling us we already are contracting too much and we may need to do the exact opposite, we may need to expand, embrace and open up.
    At every turn in this life we seem to be asked to give up our self importance, our “know it all attitudes” in favor of simply being human and to feel. We also seem to be asked to give up our “illusions of separation and negativities” and in the process reclaim our divine nature.
    In regards to missing loved ones, I love the Native American saying “there are no goodbyes.”
    As spring slowly arrives here in Northern Michigan (it was 6 degrees last night), beautiful colors from the sun and its angle to the earth at a time of an equinox gives a unique perspective only seen a couple of times a year. It is a time of new beginnings and possibilities, a time of active energies, hoping the magic of the season is felt by all.
    Thanks for your blog and insights Mirabai…

  3. Babs said

    What a gift to be with your sweet Jenny, to feel her strength and healing if even for a shor time. What a beautiful experience in the midst of such suffering.
    I am praying that you have a rapid recovery from your illness but not from your vision. God bless and keep you.

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