“I am a rock. I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.” I Am A Rock – Paul Simon
She’s gone. My only sibling and beloved sister (Mary) just died. We were fortunate. We always had a positive and loving relationship. We laughed together more than anything else. Growing up, we’d just look at each other and laugh. She believed in me, and I always knew she was in my corner when I needed her. It felt more like friends than siblings, which is remarkable considering we were 10 years apart (Mary being older.)
The last two years have been rough for her. When her cancer came back, and treatment wasn’t an option, I was fortunate to have had the time to say what I needed to say to her. I was able to communicate the following messages to her.
You are on a journey home to love. What you struggle to let go of has served it’s purpose.
You are not your body. Your body is what your soul used to have the experiences you’ve had. The real you (soul) cannot die…You came from Love. You were here to learn about love, and you return to the Great Love.
I’m so proud of her. Mary was always (forgive me), a die hard Lutheran. She loved the tradition and formality of worship. The music, the pomp, the order, the stain glass windows, everything. But in her later years she worked hard at opening up to the new. She studied and began a daily practice of meditation, which for her was a big deal!
She listened to me talk about this “new” spiritual journey I was on. It was funny. She’d let me go on and on, but when I got to certain things like reincarnation, she would put up her hands and say, “OK. That’s enough! That’s too much!” And we’d just laugh and talk about the Minnesota Twins or family stuff. She even came to a class I led at Echo’s Center on Chicago Avenue. And brought a friend! Holy Martin Luther! And I know all of those discussions helped her in the end.
Our last 5 minutes together were beautiful and perfect. As a pastor I had the privilege of being at many “death beds” with families. Death is a most wise teacher, and life is down to it’s essence in that sacred space: “I love you. I love you, too.” Nothing more needed to be said or could be said, because that’s what life was always about.
In the death of a loved one, if we’re open to it, we can say, “I remember now.” I had the same experience with my Mary. “I love you,” and the faint whisper from her, “I love you, too.” I told her I’d see her on the other side, and to say hi to Mom and Dad for me. My wife tenderly and beautifully sang, “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children, in your tender care. And fit us for Heaven, to live with you there.” It’s a family song that Mary loved.
It was beautiful, perfect, and it was so hard. When we left I had to sit down in a chair in the lobby of their apartment building, and I cried. I cried like I haven’t for many years. Which is amazing because, for all my talk of dealing honestly with emotions, I rarely cry. To be honest, at times I’ve felt like a hypocrite, and have wondered if there’s something wrong with me. My beautiful wife just held me. When I could, I said, “I think part of it is my family is gone now. The family I grew up with has passed. It’s just me now.”
What you struggle to let go of has served it’s purpose. Sometimes we may want to use spiritual truths to try and keep the pain away. To escape our humanity. When I told Mary about letting go, and you’re not your body but a soul, I said it out of love, to comfort her and to help her in her transition.
But the struggle of being human births our True Divine Self into our consciousness. Being human is a wonderful gift.
What you struggle to let go of… We cannot receive what letting go of someone can bring us, unless we first attach to them. Our struggle to let go of someone we loved, gifts us with knowing more deeply what we had with them. They sink deeper into our bones. As a pastor, I saw a thousand times that over time, grief can birth an ever growing sense of gratitude. That has always been my wish for all those in grief who have had the courage to love.
You may be reading this and thinking, “Tim, you were lucky. I wish I had that kind of relationship with my sibling(s).”So many times as a pastor, I was around people who were grieving more what was not, than what was. My heart goes out to you. I’ve known relationships like that too. I’ve been grieving for years over the things that were not in my relationship with my sister.
But here’s the truth. Those relationships serve their purpose. They provide us the tough lessons we came into this world with that person to learn. We are actually perfect for each other, in all our imperfection! In fact, we couldn’t come to know our Divine perfection without the experience of our mutual imperfections! The magic is in the struggle. Don’t miss any of it. Feel it. Listen to it.
I know. I know. Another platitude. But it’s just the truth. Dammit! And it’s not intended to take away the struggle, but only to put perspective on it. Couldn’t there be an easier way to get there, God?
Paul Simon wrote a song about someone who lost their chance for happiness or love, because they were afraid to be hurt. They were afraid to be human. But the only way through is not avoidance. The only way through is through. That’s true with any emotion, experience, and life itself.
To walk effectively through this world, we hold both our humanity and Divinity at the same time. They each serve each other.
Yes. I know in my bones the reality of the spiritual truths I was able to share with Mary. Now they give me perspective and strength. But that doesn’t make it all fine for me. It’s not fine! I still deeply wish my Mary was physically here. I don’t like it at all that she’s gone. When our parents died, we still had each other. NowI’m sad and feeling like an orphan.
Now it’s just me. I sit with both my humanity and my Divinity. And they are speaking to each other, helping each other out, and as Ram Dass taught, “walking each other home” to the Great Love.
The tears are so healing. We are Love, Mary!
Pastor Tim Tengblad
Does this hit home for you? firstname.lastname@example.org