by Anita Just
...........And though I close my eyes, I see La Vie en Rose.
Last summer both my parents died. And in that, they gave me an amazing gift - the gift of the experience of everlasting life.
They died five days apart, lived five hundred miles apart and it had been thirty five years since they lived together in marriage. Still, it was the first year ever, to my knowledge, they both sent flowers to one another for Mother’s and Father’s Days. They were both anxious and fearful over their waning vitality, and neither one was able to call upon a power greater than their own to comfort them in their hour of need.
My brother called me on Friday morning to tell me our Dad had died the night before. We had been so preoccupied with our mother’s condition we were devastated he went first. I was going to pay more attention to him once Mom died. Funny how you discover these strange thoughts. But the next morning my sister called to report that Mom was no longer eating or drinking. As I rushed to her side I began to take on a sort of altered state and as I prayed for help I could feel my Dad supporting me. He was always a “take charge” kind of guy and I was so relieved to feel him coming in strong. He had kept close tabs on Mom’s condition, mostly through us kids and had been a real comfort to me in recent months.
I arrived in her room about ten o’clock that night, my brother so distressed with all of it and relieved to have me there. We had gotten so close in those last years, Mom and I, and we all knew I was a comfort to her. What I knew was she was healed simply by my presence. You see, in these last twelve years I have devoted myself entirely to the mind training of A Course in Miracles. I believe that what is reasonable is this: Everything I see is a construct of my own mind, and I once thought this world and the things in it could bring me happiness. Now I know my only happiness is the awareness of Love’s presence and I am in a transformative process to broaden and quicken this awareness as Jesus teaches: with love and forgiveness.
Yes, my mother took comfort in my presence. She could tell I was able to see beyond her desperation over her failing health and it was a refuge for her, this peace that I have found.
For the next five days I stayed with her in the hospital room and along with my brother and sister and niece, we accepted visitors all day, watching tennis on TV and trying to keep it light. But at night I had her all to myself as we drifted through the night hours. It was strangely beautiful, this place we occupied in those last days. I played music on the portable player for her – Duke Ellington, Eddie Howard, or sometimes classical guitar. We had always taken a little player on our trips to Italy together. Sometimes I would sing to her. She liked that and often asked for it. I slept there, pulling the bed over to hers so I could hold her hand all night. I would put a blanket over the light to get the subdued atmosphere I wanted and still allow the nurses to see, for they wouldn’t turn the overhead lights on – too bright and harsh. I would sleep an hour or so, and then look at my Mom to see if she showed signs of needing pain medication. Then I would turn the music on again - the music of her youth and our own happy memories, and it seemed a magic spell had been cast, something like La Vie en Rose;
“And when you speak angels sing from above,
Everyday words seem to turn into love songs.”
Sometimes I picked up her tiny arms and danced with her, and I would talk to her, mostly thanking her for every little thing I could think of. Or I would reminisce about our happy times. Once, when she was near the end of responding physically, I thanked her for knowing that I had been loved, really loved in my life. She threw her little stiff arm up onto my shoulder and looked at me with tears in her eyes. She must have remembered telling me, months before, the same thing – that I should always carry it with me that I had been really, really loved by another soul in this life – by my mother.
But even though there were tears, there wasn’t any sorrow or guilt on our time together then. We were just in love. We were high above it all, knowing what words could never say. It was everlasting life and it was now. I knew she heard and saw everything in spite of appearances. It was more the feeling of a wedding, really. When a wave of emotion would come over me I just wore it “like a loose garment” and soon it would pass and I would feel sort of clean and shiny again. I didn’t need one thing to be different…it was all tenderness and acceptance and calm. Never had I been more aware of Jesus’ presence. When I spoke to him I could imagine seeing his arm next to mine as I bent my head to hear his mild response.
I thought of John 11:25, 26:
In that moment I knew it. No longer just a reasonable concept – I was feeling the experience! If you believe in the Christ, the thing which connects us with each other and with our Father God, and you live your life as an expression of that belief, then you are in the experience of eternal life now. If you do not, you are just another of the walking dead, trying to find completion in ways that only cut the wound deeper.
When my mother stopped breathing I knew she was still there. Half an hour later, when I could no longer recognize that body as the thing I had called Mother, I realized what I had always been seeing - not her body, but her life force. And not with my eyes either - more like with my heart and mind. And I could feel both my parents there with me, loving me more and stronger than ever.
Over the next few days I talked to a lot of folks, some of whom said the strangest things. They all seemed to want to share a real moment with me; because of Shirley’s death, or because of her life, or the love or the loss they felt over it all. Soon I knew I was “on assignment” and my job was to stand open, in front of all who came before me and show them how beautiful they really are – to reflect that back to them. Let them feel how it is to know you are truly loved, loving and lovable.
Well, we had quite a party for both parents. I read from the Course a little. Both my brother and I sang songs for our mother at the funeral. Yes, I sang La Vie en Rose. I felt the uncertainty of the folks there – I seemed happy and they were a bit thrown by it. Some asked me directly, “What is it about you? You seem to possess a calm certainty in spite of the sad circumstances.” And I would say to them, “I have found out who I am and what my true purpose is, and Jesus and A Course in Miracles helped me to do it.”
Something happens when your parents make their transition out of this world – something you simply can’t prepare yourself for. So now, when I am tempted to feel guilty over love that was left unexpressed, I just remember it wasn’t really like that at all. Eternal life is a place only the guilt-free mind may go, and spending those five days there, in that place, with my mother and father, taught me something – that time and space – [death and bodies] – can never keep us apart. Only thoughts can, and I can choose which thoughts to hold dear. Simple as that.
Words can never say how grateful I am or how I love them so much more for it. But, I’m sure somehow, they understand.