For The Living
It is a beauty to behold the darkness being obliterated by the light. Like the finale of the most explosive display of fireworks you’ve ever seen – but all bursting with white light. Read how....
Now that I’m writing stories again it’s becoming astonishing to me how many are cropping up out of the blue. I could have a systematic outline for myself, spreadsheets all color coded with a grand scheme of how I’m going to roll them out, but for me that’s not how it works. It’s more fluid than that. Because the minute I write that outline – the “inspiration fizzles” go flat. I hate flat fizzles, don’t you?
So I pray. I do. I listen as best I can on my walks, in my prayer time. I pray for those who are following this blog and for those who will stumble across it, read a few lines, and then continue on their path. I pray for the Holy Spirit to tell me what story we will tell next. And by “we” I do mean “we”. For I know that there is an element here of the invisible that knows all and has a plan mapped out for the reader. You. And I put my trust in that storytelling.
Which brings me to the story of Brandy, whom I have not thought of but faintly for decades.
Brandy, a toddler of about two or two and a half, was a sweet little playmate of mine. I, at about the age of seven was her little mother, and she my little darling. Brandy and I swam together. Our relationship was centered in the Texas heat at the swimming pool within our middle-class apartment complex, among the hordes of middle-class apartment complexes in Fort Worth, Texas, circa ’78.
Brandy was slightly chubby in the tummy as many tots are, and super squeezable. Brandy had a Texan tan. The same Texas tan that I had (after ten to fifteen burns) as the redheaded Irish hair flies.
Brandy wore arm floaties and sat on my lap at the pool table (with iron furniture and a big umbrella) as I fed her Cheetos.
That’s it. That was our little friendship. There was no talking. Just caring, swimming, the eating of the Cheetos and the licking of bright orange fingers.
Then I went to visit my Dad in Houston; a forty-five minute flight southward for the summer visit. I was usually gone a month.
When I returned, Brandy was gone.
Brandy had not moved. Brandy was dead.
It seems that the pool was Brandy’s enemy.
I’m so sorry to break it to you this way. But that’s how it came to me. Brandy is no longer living.
I asked my mom what happened, and she explained to me why the pool, the green unfiltered smog-filled pool, was Brandy’s enemy.
And of how her father found her.
I cannot go on. Not because of the sadness, though that would be enough. But because I know no more of the story. This is what was given to me, what my mother felt I could handle, and what she could handle giving to me. Brandy is no longer living.
And it was over. It was all over.
(Take a sip of water. Take a breath) I have more. I promise I won’t leave you here.
In my early thirties (read: mid-twenties) my friend had a younger brother who was not mentally well. I’ll call him Paul. In fact, he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I knew only as much about this disease of the mind as what custom told me. Perhaps he heard voices. Perhaps he spoke to himself. But what I learned in actuality was that he would disappear, to his family’s great worry, for weeks or months on end. He was a danger to himself. This I know in hindsight. I didn’t fully understand then. When this all came out in the open it seemed that it was only weeks before we learned the horror.
Paul had been found by police in an alley. He had taken his own life. It was horrible and gruesome, and my friend would never be the same again.
At the time I was into all sorts of New Age beliefs (the spaghetti bowl I talked about) and I spoke to an energetic healer type guru. My friend just wanted to know one thing. She wanted to know that her brother was in heaven. Simple. To the point. Just that one thing.
The guru told me he was being made to feel comfortable in a room. He was being “talked” to.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. The most horrible part of this story is that I, in my ignorance, immaturity and lack of experience in tragedy, repeated this nonsense to my friend. My friend whose brother had just died.
Shortly after, we were no longer friends. Do you blame her?
(Keep going, remember I don’t do discouragement. I’m not the girl I was in that moment.)
Fast forward to my early fifties (read: late forties? I may have caught up a little.)
I have worked extensively and have much experience in the arena of mothers who have suffered from miscarriages and abortion. Woman who reach out for comfort and healing. (Please, Friend, resist any urge to think on politics. Just think on the vulnerable woman standing in front of you needing your love unconditionally. Let’s go from there.)
On one occasion, I listened to a woman whose time had come to give voice to a long and hidden past experience: losing a baby. It was a traumatic experience and one she kept close to her heart – or perhaps best stated – her hand close to her vest for too long. And the power and force of what had been kept in the dark for too long sought the light in a manner that her brain and her human power could fight off no longer.
I witnessed the words, the experience, the tears, the loss erupting up and out of her entire being.
It is a beauty to behold the darkness being obliterated by the light. Like the finale of the most explosive display of fireworks you’ve ever seen – but all bursting with white light. It came up like spring water refilling a glass of mud until the last bit of mud had not only oozed out and over the brim, but that so much clean and pure water had overflowed that it had washed away any final trace of outer grime.
This is called being made clean. And I watched it happen before my eyes.
I listened. I listened more.
And then I heard something. This beautiful something bubbled up in me from the overflow of truth coming through her and I found myself asking a question.
Do you know your daughter is in heaven?
It was an honest question. It was a rhetorical question. Bona fide truth. I had zero doubts about this. But I had to know if she knew this truth. And I think, Truth Itself, needed her to answer this, too.
And you know what? She didn’t know. She didn’t know! She didn’t know, nor I think had ever considered this beauty, this goodness, this Place, that her daughter had flown. That there was no pain, no worry, no fear, no regret, no resentment, no guilt.
But there was light, forgiveness, and love.
And pure joy.
And THAT is where her daughter lived.
Which brings me to the lie of death. The guru told me my friend’s brother, Paul, was “in a room”. My mother told me Brandy was “no longer living”. The woman I questioned had never considered the possibility that death here was not an end.
We live. Some of us live on earth. Some of us live in Heaven. (Don’t ask me to be a theologian. If you want that, you’ve come to the wrong place. Sorry you’ve come so far only to spoil that for you here.)
But we LIVE. We are a people of the LIVING. Our spirits LIVE. We are LIFE. We LIVE.
I once, in prayer, asked for a summation of the bible. I heard: Light, Life, Love. Later, I thought about what the opposite of that would be. Darkness, Death, Fear. Now, which do you prefer? Which rings of the Truth?
I never spoke to Brandy’s mother or father but if I could, I would say, “Do you know that Brandy is in heaven? And happy? And filled with joy? Did you know she can’t wait to see you again and that she intercedes for you? Do you know she lives?
I would not seek a guru for my friend. I would listen. I would give her a steadfast, believing “YES” when she asked me “Is my brother is in Heaven?” I would say “YES. He lives.”
By the way, years later I wrote to this friend with my apologies. I asked for her forgiveness of my childishness. I told her the truth. I received a reply that said, “your letter meant the world to me.” I realized how much we both needed that closure and sadly, (and expected), how much that truly hurt her. I would not say we are friends now, necessarily. But I do know that if I ever bump into her, my heart will be full and open. This is what forgiveness can accomplish.
I have a musical still in development called Hushabye, the opening song is called “What The Truth Can Do” in which there are lyrics that read:
The truth is at her best knowing The truth, she knows you most of all The truth, she knows a fool and her gold The truth, she holds you the tightest When she isn’t told
The Truth holds you the tightest when she isn’t told. Remember: light, life, love. This is where the truth leads us.
And we know that when we tell the truth we are set free and that we can be the conduits to setting others free as well.
So, this one’s for Brandy, for Paul, and for the women and men who don’t yet know that life didn’t end when it seemed to end here. Friend, who comes to your mind?
This is for the living. For the living here. For the living there.
L’chaim! Ad vitam! A la vida! Vivre!
Want to read more? Did you know that I have another blog? Currently I’m writing on the topic of dreaming. The most recent blog post is called How To Find Out What Your Dream Means.
One more thing! I’m working on a new storytelling podcast! Keep checking back for the first episode!