December 20, 2009

December 20, 2009 10:25 PM

So here is my message for this time of year when people take time off to celebrate holidays:

. . . One can choose to see what is “wrong” and one can also choose to see opportunities and understanding. One can fixate on “criticizing” and “differences” and one can also focus on finding something “beneficial” or at least compassionate.

. . . I will always remember the day my mother took me to a cafeteria at a mall after we had gone to a department store looking for something for me to wear to my brother’s funeral. He had died in a terrible accident and I had been with him at the time. I was in a state of shock so severe that day that I walked and looked like a zombie. My face was expressionless and I was listless and removed from everything around me. No one at that time thought to have me see a trauma therapist and I remained in this state of devastation for years. When I would think of the accident, I would begin to heave and weep uncontrollably for hours.

On this day at the cafeteria, I quietly and robotically put a small cup of egg custard onto my tray and the woman behind the counter brusquely raised her voice to me saying: “that doesn’t come with the lunch special ! you can’t get that for the same price!” I looked up quietly into her face and I remember thinking her words and emotions were behind a glass wall. She looked at me with hostility ready to fight over a simple cup of custard in a mall cafeteria when I had just had the most tragic experience of my life. I didn’t react. I could not react. To my side, my mother with irritation in her voice towards the woman behind the counter for being so petty – said to me: “Oh, come on, J” – and we moved down the cafeteria line and to the register and then to a table.

I write about this to illustrate that when you get upset with someone you don’t know – like another driver you think is going too slow, for example, I suggest to you to realize that you do not know what they are going through in their life. Someone in their family be very sick or may have just died.

So please question what you assume. Until you walk in someone else’s shoes you do not know why they do what they do. Just as the woman behind the counter maybe thought I was a bad girl stealing a custard who must be reprimanded.

. . . And what did I wear at my brother’s funeral? I felt I wanted to wear sackcloth and ashes and not a dress from a department store. Sackcloth and ashes for being the one who had lived when my brother had died. I dressed bereaved. I dressed in mourning. I wore a depression era dress made from rough burlap on the day of his funeral as I stood by his coffin and read On Death from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran aloud to all those who had come to show respect and say their final good-bye. ……….

Than Almitra spoke, saying, “We would ask now of Death.”

And he said:

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the sheered not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

– Khalil Gibran

The Prophet