When I was turning twenty-seven, I had to get on a plane, travel all day long and make a very deliberate journey to say goodbye to my father by myself. He had asked for me to come alone. He had asked my sister to come with her husband first, and then he wanted me to come after. I spent four days with him (after his 5 1/2 year long battle with cancer), saying goodbye.
He no longer looked human at that point. He was completely jaundiced and he was so frail that I had to be very careful with how I touched him, for fear of breaking his bones. But he was still there, inside the vessel he was inhabiting. He was alive. And we spent a lot of time speaking about death.
He was very frightened by it. He wasn’t peaceful. But for some reason, I was. Looking back, I can see the gift in that. I see that I was able to usher him forth with kindness and dignity and with courage by being a source of steady love for him.
My father was a very erudite man. He was both an academic and an elitist.
He asked me what was going to happen to him after he died. He asked me this question with a great deal of trepidation.
I remember telling him that I believed we were beings made up of energy and that energy never dies. And therefore, it just transforms and becomes something else. And then I told him that the take-away was that since we are energy and energy never dies, we always get to be with each other.
I remember my father smiling.
It was the last time I ever saw him smile.
What is important now is that I need to remember this.
We always get to be with each other. We are always with each other.
We are never alone.
I often feel deeply, profoundly alone. And I am sure this is a big part of my self NOT believing what I told my father all those years ago, but rather, giving into the belief that people leave and our spirits die with them when they go. I know, intellectually, this is not the truth, but when heartbroken or grief-stricken, it can certainly feel this way. And then when either or both of these things become cumulative, even moreso.
When I was six years-old, I saw a Christmas special on television about an orphaned girl named Roseanne. And when she began to sing her song with the lyrics “I’m all alone in the world,” I began to cry and I was literally inconsolable.
There was something that became activated in me that was already unhealed at that young age and my mother could not pacify or assure me in any way out of the pain I felt. It had already become a tsunami.
I worried deeply for little Roseanne. Who would help her? Who would take care of her? How would she ever be okay? I didn’t have the language then, but the song was a very painful mirror for me.
I recently had lunch with my favorite friends from the years I spent when I lived in California. They told me about a mutual friend who was having surgery the following day. It was a very serious condition requiring eight hours of surgery and no guaranteed outcome. I immediately launched into worry. I asked the questions I asked at age six.
“Who does he have to support him?” I asked.
My friend said, “He has us.”
“But you two live in California!” I shouted.
Then the tears came. I realized what I had just said. I pulled my friend close to me and hugged her.
“I’m so sorry. I- You’re right. I just don’t come from that perspective. You’re right. He DOES HAVE YOU. It’s so important to acknowledge that.”
My friend paused. “Both things are true, Jill.”
I think what is important for me to recognize is that I come from a place of scarcity. I have experienced so many losses in my life and I often don’t think I have enough support in my life in practical terms.
But in spiritual terms, I have EVERYTHING I need. I know that. In spiritual terms, the universe has quite possibly, even removed people from my life, as painful as that has been, in service of my healing.
If I could get on board with the idea that the universe is actually conspiring to help me, then maybe, I would find myself actually healed rather than in need of healing.
Three months ago, I ran into a colleague who said she had been following my progress, post surgeries, and reading my posts, occasionally my blogs, and she wondered if I actually believed the things I wrote. I am always in the process of writing what I am in the process of coming to realize. Sometimes it is humbling. Sometimes, it aches in a place I am awakening to for the very first time. Sometimes, it is a sweet remembrance. Sometimes, it is a healing.
Today, it is a reminder. I was strong and young and I helped my father when he needed it the most because I was steady and somehow, the universe held me there... then. Now it is reminding me. I don’t think it matters how long it took me to remember. I think what matters is that I do.
My father escaped Germany when he was nine. His father was sent to Dachau. In Hebrew, the word “ZAKHAR” (זכר) means “REMEMBER.” I state it in this context because it is held as a word largely in reference to the six million lost during the Holocaust. I state it again, because it is time for me to REMEMBER.
None of us are alone.
Let us each remember.
It is our birthright.