My mother died of lung cancer in October, just five years and one day after my sister, Christa, died of complications (pneumonia) from ovarian cancer. What I didn’t know at the time was that with every new loss, one grieves not just the current one but every previous loss as well. And Mom was the center of my life. Without her I felt lost and directionless, as if in a rudderless sailboat in the middle of a becalmed sea — no wind to fill the sails, no sight of land on any horizon, and no way to steer the boat toward it had there been any land in view.
I had graduated from college and moved “home” to my parents’ place just months before Mom’s diagnosis, with plans of finding a government job in Washington, DC, and then applying to law schools for the following school year. Instead, I spent most of the next year caretaking, babysitting my oldest niece, whom my mom had been going to care for, and helping my mother, who was given less than a year by the doctors. So here I was nearly a year later, no longer needed to care for either one, feeling the need to find a job. Into DC I went for an appointment at an employment agency. After the short interview, the agent looked at me kindly and asked, “Have you recently suffered a loss?” Stunned, I told her that indeed, my mother had just died. As gently as she could, the agent explained to me that grief was hanging heavily on me and affecting how I came across. She said she wouldn’t send me for any interviews because there was no way anyone would hire me in the state I was in. “Take time to grieve,” she advised, “and then return.”
Numb, I headed for the Metro train, stopping at a corner to wait for the “walk” signal. As I stood there, right at the curb, a Metro bus came lumbering up the street. Instead of my usual response, which would be to take a step back, for just an instant I thought of how easy it would be to fall forward in front of that bus. All of this pain and hopelessness would be gone. Shocked at myself for having the thought, I spent the rest of the way home with my head spinning. Later that evening, Dad had gone out, and as I sat on the sofa with the radio playing in the background, the weight of the grief came crashing down on me and the flood gates opened. I cried uncontrollably. Even Mom’s cat, who couldn’t abide crying, wasn’t able to comfort me; I was inconsolable.
Suddenly a song playing on the radio penetrated my sobs, as Elton John’s voice softly sang, “Love is the opening door; love is what we came here for. No one could offer you more. Do you know what I mean? Have your eyes really seen?” It felt as though Mom and Christa were singing to me. A profound feeling of peace came over me, and I knew that I would be all right.
I was in love with a man who, coming out of a bad marriage, was in no mood for commitment, resulting in an on again off again relationship. One afternoon I sat thinking about the relationship and how I felt about him, and about unconditional love. I realized that what I felt for him at that moment was close to unconditional but not quite, because I wanted faithfulness from him. As I thought about this, something began that I later realized was a vision. It was as though I was having a daydream or fantasy, but without any control over it, as if I were watching a movie. I saw myself lying with him, the two of us like nesting spoons in his bed. I was talking to him about love, and he was sobbing. Then suddenly I came out of it and wondered what that had been. I only realized that it had been a vision when, later that night, the exact moment I had seen actually occurred.
That afternoon, though, the next thing that happened was that I was overcome with a knowing. Unfortunately, there are no words to accurately convey what I experienced; it was both a feeling and an absolute knowing that love is the greatest power that exists. For just a few minutes, I felt connected to the Source of all that is — God, Om, the Void, the Universe; call It whatever you want. And in those brief moments, I felt the immensity and intensity of Its love filling the universe. I saw — KNEW — that what we consider power — military, financial, political — is puny in comparison to the power of love. I only wish I had the means to convey that feeling and understanding, that knowing, in such a way that everyone could know it. But even after experiencing it, I wasn’t able to hold onto the feeling. Nevertheless, the memory of it sustains me when all else fails.
And that is my bottom line. Whenever, in my spiritual exploration, I feel confused or overwhelmed by what others are teaching, or when I’m trying to reconcile what seem to be conflicting beliefs or ideas, I can come back to center by remembering that nothing else matters but love. I know that I am loved. And I know that all else is insignificant as long as I come from a place of love.