Angels of Life, Angels of Death
"Be calm. God awaits you at the door.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n my recent flight home from Atlanta, a kind man who checked me in at curbside upgraded my seat at the last minute. It was Mother’s Day and I was feeling kind of heavy. I took my newly assigned seat, and within seconds I connected with the gentleman seated beside me.
When I looked at him, I knew instantly that our souls already knew each other. We were supposed to meet.
Through tearful eyes and transparent pain, he told me the story of how his wife, the love of his life, had just passed away two months prior to our meeting. Cancer took her fast from his world.
As our souls continued their connection for a couple thousand miles at 40,000 feet, we realized that the same group of doctors at the University of Chicago had cared for his wife and my mother.
Having walked the same hallways of that hospital, I knew his pain — the terror that ran through our veins, the helpless feeling that comes from being at the mercy of doctors in pure white coats. A team of angels with stethoscopes.
Three years ago, I could not have even thought about death without breaking down. If only I had known then what I know now.
Cancer courted my mother for 13 brutal years. As I watched her slowly waste away, death destroyed me, too. A year later, I watched my uncle (her brother) die, and the following year, my aunt (his wife).
The owners of the funeral home actually told my family they were praying not to see us for a while. I was becoming quite the professional—with each casket I watched be lowered, it seemed they put another piece of me into the ground.
The Grace in Dying
A Message of Hope, Comfort, and Spiritual Transformation -- By Kathleen Dowling Singh “As we deepen our understanding of the entire human journey from conception through death, we deepen our capacity to live more fully and freely awed by the fact that we are alive.”
About four months before my mother’s death, she landed in the hospital. Though trips to the hospital had become routine, this time would be different. The nurse and her neurologist walked in with the largest needle I had ever seen in my life.
She needed to have a spinal tap.
As always, I snapped into action.
Laughter was the vehicle through which my mom and I had traveled through every tough time. Even with my nerves at an all-time high, I still managed to bring my inner comedian to life. I held her hands and kept her attention on me as they performed the procedure.
I was on a mission to save her, not only physically, but also emotionally.
What happened next defied my wildest imagination. In walked the hospital chaplain to ask if we would like to pray.
“Holy shit!” I thought. “Is someone going to die in here?!?”
Before I could answer, my mom replied, “Absolutely.”
Within minutes, the nurse, her neurologist, my mom and the chaplain were saying the “Our Father.”
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.“
The words echoed through my mind.
Suddenly, the entire room went white. I felt the energy shift as my mom’s entire face changed. Too stunned to speak, I questioned if I was losing my mind. After Amen, tears streamed down my mother’s face. She looked at me through her piercing blue eyes and told me she had just seen God.
Something major — something I saw and she experienced — happened in that room. Never had I thought about “enlightenment” until I literally “saw it” in front of my own eyes.
From that day forward, everything was different. Mom was fearless. The experience left her with an unshakable sense of peace. She began talking to me about death and how she now knew exactly where she was going. Newly transformed, light poured out of her body.
As the months traipsed along and hospice was called in, that light never dimmed. I would lie on top of her and just talk to her for hours. I wanted to know all of her thoughts and feelings about life and death. She taught me, through her ease and peaceful awareness, what was really important.
She had tapped into a higher power, and that power carried her through the final stage of her life.
As crazy as it sounds, it was as clear as day and extraordinarily simple: before my very eyes, she had turned into an angel on earth. And by the way, experiencing something uncanny like this makes the mind digital.
We remember every emotion, every person at the funeral, the kind nurses in the hospital, the love that is directed toward us. These “angels on Earth” are the gifts that keep us afloat when we’re drowning in sorrow.
In their eyes, we can see the face of God. Through their presence, we are reminded we are not alone."
Seated beside a man as heartbroken as I was three years earlier, I saw how my role had changed. Though I have felt the same heartache this man still exuded, I have since grown. Time, in its infinite wisdom, has served me three heaping years during which to digest every detail of my experience.
Time, Transcendental Meditation and a number of angels as my guides have all helped transport me to this place where I find mostly peace today.
I was here to help him, to ease his pain, to reassure him that he too will find peace — and that his wife, God and the whole crew on the other side were going to wrap their arms around him.
I wanted to say, “Don’t cry… you’ll be reunited before you know it,” but, of course, I didn’t.
He and I connected and cried and even managed to share a couple of laughs. When we disembarked from the plane, I gave him a big, soul-felt hug and dived deeply into his heartbroken eyes.
“I promise it will be okay,” I said, feeling inspired by something deep inside of me to offer him up one last bit of encouragement.
And I meant every word.
My mom always told me, “Val, life is for the living. You must go on.” And so I have. I am alive — truly and vibrantly alive.
Because for better or worse, the death of a loved one teaches us to live again.