October Sabbatical Journal 2009
I really wanted to help. Any mother who has lost two children needs help and in her particular culture grief is done in very restrictive ways. To lose a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a dear friend- all can be very sad. But to lose a child is the worst burden of grief known to humans. And to lose two- once as a young mother and later as an old woman, this called for the wailing and screams not permitted. She is short and cheery. An immigrant of many years, she speaks little English. She’s heard only a little about me and seen me just a bit but when someone in her family says he might help, she says yes. As soon as my hands are over her, I want to run away in terror. If you’ve smelled death and thought you might retch, or seen too much blood and thought you might pass out, well, think of feeling so much grief that your heart would break forever. That’s what I felt and there are no gloves in this work- only allowing the feeling to wash over me and move through. No flinching, no cowering, stand facing the wave and feel every bit of myself joining her experience as though it were my own feeling. My face breaks into weeping and my mouth is contorted though I am silent. I know anyone with any measure of antenna can feel this down the block and around the corner. Marshall felt it in the kitchen- ultimate sadness he called it. I am a bit out of practice. Eleven months of sabbatical with no hands on work and no teaching has lessened my preparation disciplines. So when I enter the work her wave of grief feels larger than it would otherwise. I am not removed by focusing on the Light nor swathed in reverence as I would usually be. As I moved my hands above her and slowly touch her neck and shoulder and belly and feet and knees and hips, I wonder if my guidance is less or my capacity to hear it is less because this witness happened while I was tired and spontaneously without preparations. I wonder if the heart troubles I’ve been having, which have tired me, will be touched by exhaustion. Mostly I am with her and yearn with all my heart for her relief. I’ve asked her to say her favorite prayer while I work and I can’t quite feel if her spiritual connection is working so as to move the work along. On the one hand, all this is familiar and regular- I have my hands on someone in terrible distress again and I am as completely present as possible and know what will come is not up to me and I will be grateful for any blessings. I hope some grace for her learning will make the way smooth or smoother. On the other hand, I am 11 months into a 14-month sabbatical and some of my muscles, as they should be, are slack. What tension is necessary for full attention? What of my own stuff obscures? I don’t know how long we worked- time seems so unlikely as a measure or something unreal during work. But I feel I’ve touched all places I’ve been led to and it’s time to close. I remove my hands from her feet and stand above her. I swoop my hands in the Tai Chi move of Big Cloudy Hands gathering up all her energy and raise my arms to the ceiling, heavenward, with feelings of thanks and here she is and please give what’s needed. And as I lower my arms hoping some gifts are washed over her, I step back and raise my hands again asking to be washed and to say thank you for this opportunity to love and as I bring my hands down I cross my arms in front of my torso and finish standing straight my feet in good balance position holding my whole body without stress, palms down. I ask her to rest a while and this is translated to her. She nods without opening her eyes. It’s time for me to leave. It was a very large witness. Later at home, I drink a large glass of something very cold and lie down for a nap where I sleep deeply and gratefully the rest of the afternoon. I hear later that she laughed for the first time in a long time. So much here that is beyond words- the gifts, the disciplines, the Light that washes, the reverence.