When Time Stood Still
It was one of those beautiful summer days you wish would last all
year, but for me it was the beginning of the "long dark night
of the soul." I just didn't know it yet. I only knew when I got
up that morning that something didn't feel right. I couldn't put my
finger on it, but I was uneasy. No matter what I did, I couldn't shake
that awful feeling. By afternoon, my stomach was queasy and my hands
were trembling. Something definitely was wrong.
So many times in my life when someone has died, I had a sense of
it before it happened. This time it was different. The feelings were
all there. Why didn't I recognize them for what they were? Perhaps
I wasn't supposed to. It was a question I would soon ponder over and
Just the day before, I had ordered an expensive piece of equipment
for my music studio. When I woke up with such strong feelings of foreboding,
I thought to myself, "Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I wasn't
supposed to do this," so I called and cancelled the order. "Something
is wrong," I told them, "and until I know what it is, I'm
not going to buy this."
Later, when my husband, Neal, got home from the meeting he had been
attending, I told him about the awful day I was having, how I was
feeling so terribly insecure. He tried to comfort me as best he could,
but it's hard to help someone when you don't know what's wrong.
Desperately I needed him to hold me, so we stood there in the office
and he held me in his arms. What I really wanted was to go into the
living room and sit on the sofa, as we sometimes did, so he could
hold me there. The first time he did that many years ago, it was so
comforting that I fell asleep right there in his arms! He just sat
there and held me until I woke up. We laughed about it many times.
It was sofa holding I needed now, too, but we both had a lot to do,
and students were coming soon, so I didn't suggest it. I didn't think
we should take the time, so we just stood there in the office and
held each other close. I didn't know it at the time, but I had just
given up my last chance for sofa holding, all for the sake of a teaching
Neal, on the other hand, was having a very good day. He'd been to
an important meeting and had been asked to share his vision for the
organization to which he had literally dedicated his professional
life. He had always been "ahead of the pack," seeing how
they could make a significant difference in the world if they just
kept their sights high and strove with all their hearts to truly serve.
That day he was filled with the satisfaction of having shared his
dreams with those he had worked with for so long. I knew what this
meant to him and shared his joy over his having the chance to speak
his heart in such a special way.
When I came up from my afternoon lessons, dinner was ready. Neal
and I shared the cooking, and since I was having a tough day, Neal
offered to fix supper. It was a beautiful meal with all of our favorite
foods. I could see it had been lovingly prepared. It was a special
hour, spent going over the high points of his day, rejoicing in his
good feelings, and ending with words of reassurance for me.
"These kids are so lucky to be studying with you! You make
it fun for them. Look at their faces! Don't you see their excitement?
Their anticipation? How they can hardly wait to come here? So why
are you feeling this way?"
Little did I know, as I kissed him on the forehead before going
downstairs to give one last lesson, that when I came up my beloved
would be gone. And I have no doubt that when Neal went outside to
check the sprinklers after supper that evening, he had no idea he
would not be coming back. Life does have a way of surprising us when
we least expect it.
* * *
It seemed so strange and still when I came upstairs an hour later.
There was an eerie feeling in the air unlike anything I'd ever felt
before. I looked around for Neal, but he wasn't in the house. I looked
outside and he was nowhere to be seen. "He's probably visiting
with one of the neighbors," I thought to myself, and I went outside
to see if I could find him.
We have an area of common ground in which our particular group of
houses sits, but he wasn't there, so I decided to follow the street
up around the hill to look for him there. It was deathly still. Why
was it so quiet outside? Not even the birds were singing.
As I came around the bend in the hill I noticed a rescue squad,
fire engine and police car all at the end of the block. I wondered
if the woman living there had had a problem. I knew she had not been
well. Suddenly a woman ran out of the group that had gathered there
yelling, "Won't someone please help us identify this man before
they take him away?"
Fear grabbed my heart and I started running as fast as I could.
"Oh no! It couldn't be! Please God, don't let it be Neal!!!"
But it was. There was my beloved, lying in the street. I fell to him
and started talking to him, but he didn't answer. The paramedics who
had come so many other times when he was having problems were there
working with him, but there was no response. I wanted to go with Neal
when they left for the hospital, but they told me to follow in the
police car. Never in my life have I prayed like I did then. "Angels
of mercy, please let him be all right. Angels of mercy, please let
him be all right. Angels of mercy..."
They did their best at the hospital, too, but there was nothing
they could do to help him. Everyone on duty that night was grief stricken.
There were so many times when we'd come close to losing Neal, but
they were always able to pull him through. Now he was gone. ...
Accepting the Divine Design
... If someone had asked me twenty years ago what I thought I would
be doing now, I have to confess my answer would have been nowhere
close to where I am. I think life is like that for most of us. We
make plans, but life does not always listen to our plans. Life has
plans of its own. While we may not always welcome what life brings,
there is one thing of which we can be certain - whatever life brings,
it always comes bearing a gift. I know I've said this before, but
it is true. It may be a while before we find the gift, but it is there.
Finding the gift is part of the journey. I never thought that would
apply to the "separation" that comes with death, but it
All my life I've watched others live with grief and sorrow. To a
large extent their loss became their identity, but I found I could
not do that. I knew I had to let go of the pain that grief wants to
impose if I was going to move on with my life in a way that would
honor those who had gone on before me. It was a gradual, but necessary,
process. Eventually I realized I did not need the pain any longer.
Moving beyond the pain allowed me to see what I still have, what I
never lost at all. The wonderful, indescribable, nurturing love we
shared expanded and resolved into a presence that filled my days.
In changing form, our love became even more. Day by day I grew into
the realization that our time together here was just the beginning,
that the best is yet to come, and all that follows will be an expansion
of that love.
Accepting the inevitable and making peace with it enables you to
find a Way when there does not seem to be a way. It allows you to
reach for the heights even while your spirit is at the depths of its
grief. Accepting life on its own terms makes it possible not only
to move on, to find new meaning and purpose for your life, but to
do so knowing that all is not lost, only changed. While that change
can be shattering, strength can be forged from the crucible of our
grief as we learn that death is never the end, but rather a beginning.
... I read recently that many times our serious spiritual work doesn’t
begin until life puts us in a position where we have no choice. Dr.
David Hawkins says when that time comes, we’re either going
to go up or go down. He is right. It was definitely sink or swim for
I’ve never been a very good swimmer, but I was learning. The
crises that confronted me forced me into a time of becoming. Of growing.
Of finding the new, and yes, the miraculous right here in my daily
One of the most miraculous experiences for me was finding out that
we are loved - and accepted - so fully, so completely that there is
nothing left to forgive! This is true for all of us, and that is why
I’m sharing my story, because the challenges I’ve faced
are universal. We all have our mountains to climb, both inner and
outer. No one is exempt.
Life is a school, and what we learn through that school are the lessons
we are ready for, things we could not really know until we lived through
them. I’m talking about experiential knowledge, not just head
knowledge. “They” say you don’t really know something
until you become it. “They” are right. And that is how
I found out that relationships change, but they do not end. Physical
death is definitely not the end of the story.
Our trials and tribulations are so rich with promise. It may not
seem like it at the time, but they are. Nothing is ever wasted. The
potential for growth - and new life - is hidden in even the most difficult
of situations. Especially in the most difficult ones, because all
things do indeed come bearing a gift, if we can just hang in there
long enough to find it.
It helps if we can accept and embrace what is. That means being open
enough to let go of judgment – of yourself, and others, and
even the challenge itself. It means letting go of our expectations
so we can be open to the higher plan. Surrender fits well here. Not
my will, but Thine.
Eventually, you find out that your life isn’t just about you.
It’s about all of us. That means wanting for others the same
things we yearn for so deeply. May we all be blessed.
As I said earlier, it’s been quite a journey. The more I’ve
learned, the more I realize how far I still have to go, but this much
I know: life isn’t about “things.” It’s about
be-ing – being your highest and best.
As I look back, I think Neal knew we were on the cusp. We’d
loved each other fully and completely through thick and thin - and
there was a lot of both, with all his physical challenges. We’d
taken each other as far as we could, and probably as far as his physical
body would allow. Now we were both ready to move into a larger way
of being. It was time for both of us to spread our wings and fly.
Of course, I didn’t see that then, but I do now. In fact, I
can’t help wondering if perhaps this was the plan long before
we found each other, and that’s why I think Neal knew this was
That last year especially, there were so many times when Neal said
he wanted to buy me something, but what did I want? All I could answer
was, “I only want you, honey.” He must have known how
short the time was getting, but he never said so. He just lived each
day wishing there was one last thing he could do for me.
Well, he got his wish. What I’ve learned has been the greatest
gift of all. ...