Remembrance II

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June 29, 2012: Remembrance of Dad

I held your hand in the driveway, right where you fell.

The same hand that had once changed my diapers, given me a bottle, taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car, that fed me my first (and last) piece of liver, that cut my hair into a pixie, that held onto me when I crossed a road, that gave me away in marriage, that slipped me money at the beginning of every month, that signed the checks for oh-so-many years of education, that taught me the importance of giving…

I held your hand in the driveway, right where you fell.  In disbelief.

That Friday morning, ready to leave for work, the phone rang.  Dad probably couldn’t wait until my Bluetooth call while I was on my way to work; he must have had something important to tell me that happened on this date, from the calendar he kept with all family events (big and little) catalogued.

Something very important.  My sister’s voice – hysterical, sobbing – “Dad’s dead.”

I calmly called Michael, who told me to wait until he got home from the office; he didn’t trust me to drive.  On our way there – on our way “home” – I knew it would take at least an hour – I prayed that you would still be there when I got to the house.

How could I have prayed for what I saw when I arrived?  The State Trooper was just leaving as I flew out of the passenger seat and ran across the lawn – the same lawn that you mowed on your John Deere, a special handle screwed into its casing so you could drive your grandsons around with you 30 years ago – to the figure half-hidden by the hedge, covered with a thin white blanket.

I heard someone wail in anguish and didn’t know it was me – your baby of 58 years.

Where was the dignity in this?  Dad – my father – a World War II veteran – lying in his driveway, in the sunshine.  (Thank goodness for your being covered; lupus doesn’t like sunshine, remember?)

I held your hand in the driveway.

It was right where I had seen Mom standing at your side, oh-so-many years ago after she died, as Steve, Alex and I pulled out of your driveway; by the flowering tree Mom loved that nestled the bird feeders you kept filled for the songbirds and squirrels.

The diamonds in Mom’s ring sparkled in the sunshine as my fingers entwined with yours, your strong hands, nails neatly trimmed, relaxed…at peace.  My tears fell onto our hands, a baptism, a cleansing of our relationship, joined with Mom in a bond not unlike diamonds that would only strengthen with the weight of time passed.

There was a dignity in this, of a sort…a communion, a joining, rather than a separation…  A quietness…a birth…an arrival upon the heels of a departure.

You were already being greeted by the God whom you so loved, along with Grammie and Grandpop, who sang the words of Matthew 3:17: “This is My Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

A trembling voice echoed off the walls of my broken heart: “This is my Father, in Whom I am well pleased.”

____________________________

Mitakuye Oyasin

In the late 1990s, I traveled to Colorado to take a 5-day intensive course for health professionals in Mind/Body/Spirit Medicine given by Joan Borysenko, a medical scientist and psychologist who brings together science, medicine, psychology and spirituality in the service of healing. Through Joan, I was privileged to meet a friend of hers, a Lakota Sioux medicine man. Sonny was in his early 50s, but looked much older. His hair was thinned, his face lined, his body disabled by rheumatoid arthritis. He was in constant pain, and needed hip and shoulder surgery, but the government had reached its limit of money allotted to the Indian Reservations (Sonny’s exact description for those who strive to be politically correct) for that year. So, Sonny had to endure the pain until they approved his surgery.

That first night, Sonny agreed to speak with our group of medical professionals. As he spoke of his people’s hardship, his eyes met mine. For an instant, I saw all the suffering that had been his life, and that of his people, the Lakota Nation. Tears streamed down my face. The feeling of communion, of shared suffering, was absolute. Sonny started to cry as well. In that sacred moment, in the eyes of this holy man, I saw the face and heart of Jesus.

I also took part in the Yuwipi, a sacred healing ceremony. At the beginning and end of such sacred rites, at the close of a prayer, or as a prayer itself, the Lakota say, Mitakuye Oyasin, which means “All My Relations.” They believe that a person is related to all Creation, and that we come from One Source. The Lakota honor the community of God’s people with compassion and wisdom.

From a healer who could not heal himself, I learned of universal suffering and compassion, through the eyes of the heart.

Tunkashila (Grandfather): Help Sonny to carry his burdens with strength and courage. Let him live a long and healthy life, free of pain and suffering. He is a good and decent man, worthy of your mercy. Mitakuye Oyasin.