by Karen Kalle, www.livingenergyworks.com.
5:11 A.M. January 4th, 2011, my cell phone silently announces as I fumble to answer its ring. My mind snaps to attention as my feet hit the floor and I hear, “Your father’s breathing patterns have changed, he is now having 45 second periods of apnea.” The nurse’s kindness and compassion are palpable and wash over me even as her words land heavily in my heart. Cold darkness wraps around me as I hurriedly dress and make my way to the nursing home wondering once again if this will be the last time. Eight years of wondering about this very question has lessened over time, but the last two months events brought the reality of Dad’s passing more clearly into focus. The last few weeks deepened that certainty.
Once inside Dad’s room, I take up my station just as I have in recent days and nights. I mindfully connect my head and heart with his and am aware that they never really were disconnected especially in these last weeks since his passing has become more immediate. One of the nurses that I knew well entered and asked if there was anything she could bring me. My shaky composure gave way to tears as I said, “Some courage.” She wrapped me in a hug and the warmth of her caring somehow passed strength through me. Many times through these days and weeks I was the recipient or observer of such loving kindness inside those walls that I came to feel that there truly was a spiritual process at work in this most unlikely place. My Dad’s doctor had spoken to me about the love that flowed in that old building the evening before. On that same evening previous to her comments I had seen a golden mist permeating the air throughout the building. It felt to me like a rare glimpse behind the curtain of an everyday perspective…a glimpse of the loving energy that lived there, a backdrop to the busyness, pain and tasks of caregiving that took place routinely. Every elder deserves to be surrounded by that kind of loving care in their last days.
Back at Dad’s side, I talked to him about there being only love and light, no punishment, only forgiveness and Big Love. Through my tears I tell him that I know he probably does not believe what I am saying, but ask that he please remember to look for the light if he gets confused or frightened. I have been very concerned that he would be afraid during his transition and so I decided to control and direct the process! What good is a rescuing daughter if she can’t help you have a good death that she defines, tries to control and guides you through? These last few years have provided many such glimpses in the mirror to help me get over myself!
My Dad’s humor was always his strength and I am sure if he were conscious or could speak, he would be laughing at me and bring me up short with one of his unexpected bits of wisdom that made me wonder who he really was.
Suddenly through my impassioned chatter I heard in my mind, “Shush, be quiet, stop, it’s ALL alright”. I looked up and there was Dad’s one good eye open and softly gazing on me. He’d hardly opened his eye in days and when he did briefly he was not able to focus. He had not been present or conscious in days, but now here he was fully present and directing his gaze softly, but with unmistakable purpose. His breathing which had been ragged and erratic was peaceful for several minutes. Gazing back into his one eye felt startling, but at the same time I was filled with a sense that I can only describe as awe and wonder. As I returned his gaze, I had a feeling of vastness like I could glimpse eternity and I felt enveloped in love. Along with all that I was also aware of great peace and kept hearing, “It IS ALL alright”. This lasted for many minutes and just before it stopped I heard, “Remember the first time I saw you”. His eye then closed and it never opened again in the eighteen hours until he died.
I do not pretend to truly know all of what that experience was or what it meant. I do not want to make it something it is not. What I do know is I revisit those moments often now and relive the feelings of timelessness, peace and the love transmitted through our hearts. It was clear to me that there was more than Dad’s love present. I knew with utter certainty that a window had been opened for me to be able to experience the love that is the fabric of the universe…a love he was already being received in and that is there for us all.
I wrote these words as a result of being in a writing class during the time of my Dad’s passing. Part of the feedback at the time was that I would come to learn more about this experience as time went on and my grief subsided. That has turned out to be true. Something in me knew better than to force anything about interpreting the experience. As I allowed myself to be with all my feelings knowing and Truth emerged for me.
The tools I had learned over the years regarding the mind-body connection, spiritual realities and energy and consciousness had served me well through my Dad’s illness and long confinement. I learned how to stay truly present (most of the time!), hold strong conflicting emotions without resistance and allow the full gamut of feelings to wash over and through me without getting stuck in mindless ineffective loops.
I believe I was able to move through an amazingly difficult eight years and big loss clearly with relatively little unfinished business to drag forward into life.
I learned about powerlessness, what authenticity really means, the importance of human connection, support and care. I learned about the reality of Big Love…not just the love between father and daughter but about the reality of love as the basic fabric of the universe, how we are each a conduit of that love and that it is there providing a soft landing as we pass from this life into the next.
“Remember the first time I saw you”….these words have reverberated throughout my mind and heart for the past three years. At first I thought they were about my father’s return from the army and seeing me for the first time. That never seemed to fit for many reasons. As time has passed I have realized that it was about truly being seen at a soul level and it happened for the first time with him in that early morning as he was passing.
I had experienced something like this in workshops as we were guided to go beyond the human into the spiritual level of reality with each other. However, to experience it with my father who never set foot into those workshops or in the world of spiritual psychology or philosophy was beyond profound for me.
To be truly seen is an amazing experience. It is something that occurs beyond our conditioned human reactivity…beyond words, seemingly arriving on the wings of grace. Trauma and grief can open us to being available to this grace but I have come to know that that feeling of Big Love can emerge at other times…when our turmoil drops away…when we are in free and clear space. Getting there is a practice…an ongoing practice throughout the human journey.