'Secrets Live Inside Me'
It was in 2016, this "goodbye" visit. I had served as the couple's chaplain and was moving on to another hospice.
He 95, or 96, seems he cannot recall; no family member can. There are no official records to verify. She is 88 - they are sure. I have seen the two for nearly a year, three times weekly. He usually sits over to himself on a couch but is alert to his wife, such as attempting to get up and walk by herself. So, if one notices closely, he is right there with her, as he has been for seventy-plus years.
She does not recognize who he is. In a sense, he has lost his wife. With her, he lives knowing this. He is very much alive but seems to be in waiting mode - waiting until the invitation to move from and over to the Other side - he would call that heaven. He has preached about heaven since his early 30's. He says he started preaching when he got right and left all that worldliness behind. Could it be he remains here for her?
He has only a second-grade education; still, as a so-called uneducated preacher, he became known as the Thunder of the East and filled sanctuary after sanctuary in the Southeast United States. That is all over. And they sit quietly day after day. Yet, his silence thunders these days, and his silence is as much a message as he ever thundered when younger.
He now has moved from his couch into a chair beside her. A daughter tells me, as I mention his new place, "She likes him to be beside her." Possibly, through that fog of Alzheimer's, her spirit recognizes him in some subtle manner, though her mind does not.
Their love has prepared them for something more; maybe, they already have it, or it has them. Perhaps, more of who they are has left here, or what is to go has left, while the body has not wound down yet. Regardless, anyone who has tasted beyond death knows there is no one moment in which anyone can be said to have died. Amazing how almost everyone thinks otherwise.
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This couple loved each other with Love's spiritual face. Spiritual Love, often called by the Greek agape, or Divine Love, is eminent of all Love's faces. The Sufi, Kabir Helminski, in The Knowing Heart, speaks of this Love which manifests concretely, for It cannot remain hidden -
Spiritual love ... is not abstract love. We cannot love God and remain insensitive to all the manifestations of life around us. Love of God is also love of His creation. This is done with the wholeness of mind, including its conscious and supraconscious faculties: ... The more we love, the more we are present. The more we are present, the more we love.
The first Christian communities discovered this Love to have appeared through a man's body, one who looked like them, talked like them, and walked with them - Jesus of Nazareth. The book of First John 1.1-4 affirms this Love that clothed Itself with flesh so those with a body could intimately experience It body-with-body -
What was from the start, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands - this is the Word of Life. The Life was shown, and we have seen and testified and announced to you the eternal Life that was with the Father and was shown to us. What we have seen and heard we also proclaim to you, so you may have fellowship with us. Indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Jesus the Messiah. These things we write so our joy may be full.
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A beautiful thing about the couple above is how they were still manifesting Love for each other through their bodies. They knew a Love that seeks to commune with Itself through the physicality of this world, including all the bodies here - not only the human bodies.
I have enjoyed seeing, as a chaplain, this Love appearing through persons with dementia, reminding me Divine Love does not depend on the capabilities mentally of anyone. One can say that a person's mind is completely gone, yet Love still reveals Itself. How wonderful! And we can say that other bodies that appear to have limited cognition or none can be revelations of this Love. Say a flower. Does Love not reach out to us through the beauty of a flower, showing Itself to us, and likewise through other bodies in Nature? If so, we can look around and seen Love incarnating right before us and everywhere.
Recently, after having moved to a new place to live, I met a dog called Hawkeye. Hawkeye is a barker, the most barking dog I have been around. He often is outside, for a neighbor's friend drops him off to stay during the day. For two weeks, he has stood away, barking at me, only once coming up for me to pet him. Finally, he walked up to me again. I bent down. Hawkeye placed his nose near to my cheek and licked the cheek - I call it kissing. Then, he backed off and went back to barking at me. Yet, he did cross the distance between us two. And this is how Love shares, yes, through the tangible body of a dog. If there were not Love inspiring Hawkeye, why would he have reached out to fellowship? And, in time, I anticipate he and I will enjoy fellowship more closely - and without his barking so much at me.
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Our principal means of showing love is through this body. Our desire to show love is for Love seeks to show Itself. For Love to remain abstract would contradict Its nature, Itself. Love loves in a husband sitting beside his beloved to be near and watch over her wellbeing. Love loves in a wife wanting him near, even while she cannot speak his name or show any evident sign she recognizes who he is or that he has been her beloved for over seventy years. Love loves through a dog's wet kiss.
Peace to All!
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.