By Diane Donovan Vaughn
Rest in Peace – Abigail Louise Donovan-Vaughn – 2002 – 2017
Once again I spent a long week following the loss of someone I love. Staying in the present and remembering the past jumble together when grief is intense. People said to me, “You should have taken the week off,” and they were right. I thought since I am going on a trip in a couple of weeks that I didn’t want to miss work but in reality, I was not thinking straight. On Monday, I was beyond devastated, suffocating with pain. On Tuesday, back at work, I quickly discovered that since I was seeing thirteen people that I would be repeating the story of Abby’s last day over and over to each new person, with everyone experiencing their own grief about her loss.
I had to tell the children I see that Abby is gone. I could see each face as it fell into the sadness as I shared. By 6:00 on Tuesday night I was ready for someone to just shoot me and put me out of my misery. Day after day the loss repeated. Amazingly, I witnessed the miracle of premonition over and over. A person would know before they opened my front door that something happened. Even a new client who saw Abby one time, knew earlier in the week that she had passed. People would contact me when I was suffering the worst pain and send me love because a few could feel my suffering. For example, Diane Hardgrave sent me a message to pick up Rescue Remedy right before I hit that 6:00 mark on Tuesday. I literally asked Alex, “Can you feel my pain?” “Yes,” she said.
By Thursday, I actually felt like a small light appeared and felt a moment of respite. Friday morning a client burst into tears in the lobby when she realized Abby was not there. This would be how the week was passing and soon I would be sitting here in front of the computer on Friday night thinking about how loss and connection go together, typing a sermon. Grief slows time.
It occurs to me that spending almost every moment with another living creature must be very similar to being connected to all that is. When we come to earth and as we mature, we grow up with the illusion that we have lost this connection and thus go through much of life in grief, looking for something to fill that emptiness that accompanies the feeling of separation. The losses of our loved ones remind us of our existential aloneness, the one that the ego attempts to fill with a person, a substance, an item, an experience. Nothing works because the loneliness is from our illusion of separation. The ego is trying to fill a hole that does not exist.
The problem occurs of course because the illusion feels very real. I no longer have my companion next to me. Her fur is missing for me. David came to me Sunday night and said, “I am taking Abby with me.” I see her prancing around in the room in the sky but she is not here for me in this illusionary world of separation. Grief involves a lot of not liking what reality feels like any more without the one we love. Grief involves wanting to hold on.
I say that separation is an illusion with confidence. The shaman’s knowledge of the ancients and the modern quantum physicists assure us that we are all one connected energy, not in the least bit truly separate. However, our eyes and ears deceive us and our brain chimes in with descriptions of separation, competition and fear.
I thank God for my vision of that room in the sky but even more than that I thank God for the people who showed me again and again this week that we really are all connected by telling me they can feel my pain, by knowing that Abby moved on before they were told, and by demonstrating the connection to all that is. This moment-by-moment demonstration of the true nature of reality is more comforting that I can describe.
I do not like death and loss. I do not appreciate having to feel this pain. However, I am so grateful that Abby stayed with me as long as she did in my separate illusions and now has returned to the oneness. I truly know that I have not lost anyone or anything. I know I am dreaming about separations and one day I will wake up and remain awake, at least for a while.
Until that day, time will pass and day-by-day the grief will decrease. However, never will the day come that I am over the feeling of losing those I love because they will always live inside this heart that even when it feels broken carries their love.
The Lesson for today from The Buddha is Still Teaching (Selected and Edited by Jack Kornfield) is titled “Cleansing Our Perceptions” taken from the book The Work of This Moment by Toni Packer.
Packer said, “ The other day the little stream that runs near the center was gushing noisily downhill with lots of muddy water hiding its depth. Today it is flowing quietly, clearly, exposing sheets of brightly shimmering green bedrock.
“Can we see things just as they are right now? Without wanting them to be otherwise? Without comparing them favorably or unfavorably? Without wanting them to stay this way forever? Without clinging and depending? Without wanting to own and posses?
“Can we human beings share life on earth together without trying to own each other or trying to get rid of each other? The idea of possessing each other gives an illusory sense of security. Along with it inevitably goes the fear of losing what we have become accustomed and attached to.
“What does it mean to see each other exactly as we are? Past memories about ourselves and each other are not what we are right now. Memory is an incomplete and inaccurate recording of the past. Now is something entirely different.
“Quietly looking and listening now is not memory. It is an entirely different mode of mind. It is a cleansing of perception.”
Let’s close with a practice. Close your eyes. Take deep connected breathes, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Every time you inhale, imagine that your life force is expanding. Every time you exhale, relax and release your perceptions of separation. Place your attention in the center of your chest, inside your true self and observe your breathing. Observe your connection to all that is. Imagine that you are connected to everyone in the room. All your energy is shared. Everyone feels what you feel and you feel what everyone feels. Send love, peace and compassion in waves through all parts of your self, including all parts of the selves you thought were separate. Notice that the energy you send around this room is the energy you receive. Remember when you walk into the world that the energy waves you are choosing to carry are the ones we all feel. Make them the best you can and when you cannot, then gratefully receive the love others send to you.