During this time, my best friend's father was dying from cancer. Per his request, he was able to live out his final weeks in Kenya, the country that holds possession of his heart. He had his wife and his son by his bedside during his final days; he was never alone. My friend's brother sent the family from afar daily updates of their father's progress via email. These were in the form of poetic letters beautifully describing the journey from this world to the next in a loving and comforting way.
A week before his passing, her father found himself on the edge of two worlds; this world, and the world beyond. He described the passage as being similar to the birth canal; he was slowly making his way through the canal, leaving this world, entering into the next. For several days, he floundered back and forth between worlds. He would open his eyes from a long sleep, wondering where he was and in which world he was existing. He saw his mother waiting for him on the other side, then, as soon as he was ready to join her, his spirit was pulled back to his family in Kenya.
On the morning of his passing, he called his wife and his son into the room and informed them it was time for him to go. He stared beyond them, at an audience invisible to the mortals and stated that there were so many people in the room with him. He then closed his eyes and peacefully died. His son and his wife had light hearts, knowing that when he passed, he was not alone.
I was married for seven years to an athiest. He held the firm belief that when you're dead, you become nothing more than bones in the earth. For years, I questioned my own beliefs, but always came back to the conclusion that there is the existance of the soul. I always respected my husband's beliefs, even though they differed from mine, then, when we had children, problems arose.
My children grew up hearing two completely different points of view in regards to God and death and anything else regarding matters of the spirit. I always instructed them to consider both points of view, that neither were wrong since they are based on beliefs, but to look inside their own hearts for the answers. My daughter struggled with this tremendously. She wanted so badly to believe in all the things I based my faith on, yet her father's lack of belief instilled doubt. "One day the answer will come and you'll just know it," I told her.
I shared with her the letters about my friend's father. As I read them aloud to her, caught in the poetry of the words, I was overcome by a chill. This made me realize that somewhere inside of me, there still lay a sense of doubt, one I didn't even realize was there.
When I was seven years old, my father died. Since then, I had lost my grandmother, aunts and uncles and several very dear friends. I was told that my loved ones in death would always be there with me, but I never felt them, never sensed they were by my side serving as guardians, giving me comfort during my times of need. They never appeared to me in my dreams, I never saw their spirits, so somewhere along the way, as much as I wanted to, a part of me didn't fully accept the premise that our loved ones are waiting for us on the other side. If they were, wouldn't my father or former best friend have given me a sign?
Maybe they had. Thinking back on this, I now remember several occassions when I heard the song "Paper Doll," a song my father used to sing to me while holding me in his strong arms. It's an antiquated song from the nineteen forties, yet each time I heard it in recent times, it sent shivers throughout and made me cry. Then, there is the voice of my friend Rusty that keeps popping into my mind each time I make a bad decision regarding men. It's been ten years since the anniversary of his death, but I can still hear his tone of admonishment as clearly as if he was next to me.
My daughter's fear of death has waned over the past few days. The hint of fear I had been holding onto has also gone astray. Oddly, this has come at a time when I need this comfort the most. I have one dear friend who is dying from brain cancer. He is hanging on as best he can, but I see how emaciated he now is and I know he won't be with me for long. Then, today, I received the news that another dear friend has been given a devastating diagnosis.
I saved the emails about my friend's father's journey from this world to the next. I know in the near future, the eloquent words describing his birth into a much more pleasing existance will ease my emotional suffering. I find it interesting that certain themes regarding life's great mysteries tend to reveal themselves during the times you need them to the most. I wasn't as fortunate as my daughter. I wasn't blessed with such insight until much later in life. But then, I had a much different childhood than she did. I sometimes feel that I am only now opening my eyes in wonder to all that surrounds me and have the innocence and open mindedness of a child. I perceive this as a gift, especially now, a gift I'm fortunate to share with my children.