I keep returning to this story. This story is pivotal. It’s my transformation tale…
I was on my way to Paris – permission granted from editors, husband and self to spend one month writing ‘the book’. I was so close to finishing. I’d found an adorable rental flat… with geraniums in window boxes and wooden shutters, painted blue.
I’d purchased a new wheely suitcase and assembled a large zip-loc bag of mini-bottles: shampoo, face cream and vitamins.
I had my Plan de Paris - the small red map book that I’d purchased the last time I was in Paris. In its pages, there is still, the small yellow ‘Billet’ – the Metro ticket that I tucked there, 30 years ago.
My itinerary was saved on Travelocity all ready to be paid for on payday – a couple of days away.
And then, he fell again…
… in the driveway. He lay on his back for four hours staring at the sky, unable to maneuver his body to a seated position; invisible to passers-by because he’d fallen behind the car. Finally, the trash collectors came up the driveway and found him there, and helped him up.
When I heard this story a wind arose in me that shook the trees and whistled in my ears: What will I do. What will I do. What will I do.
My husband held me as I sobbed and, speaking over the wind so I could hear him, he said:
“You are free. Help or don’t help. The only thing that matters is that when all of this is over, you will know that you did the right thing – the right thing for you.”
The right thing for me? And the wind told me who I am:
We don’t abandon people.
We don’t leave people lying in the driveway.
More shivering trees.
I didn’t go to Paris.
For the next two years, I lifted my father from the floor.
I argued the car keys out of his hands.
I drove him to the home of a friend who was a nurse and who promised: He can stay here for the rest of his life. I will help him. I will heal him.
And when his needs outgrew that heartfelt promise, I helped him move to a nursing home.
I visited him – not nearly as often as I should have.
And one day, when it seemed as if I could, I began planning another trip to Paris.
And then, two days after Christmas, while visiting my father at the nursing home, my mother clutched her heart and fell against the stainless steel counter at the snack bar.
And I was pulled back into the heart of the wind.
We don’t abandon people.
I sat beside her bed. Writing down every word she said.
And I didn’t go to Paris or London or California or India.This was ‘big, big huge,’ as Caroline, who was my teacher at the time, would say.
I knew. And of course, I also didn’t know. Because you cannot continue if you REALLY know. You would turn to ash right on the spot. You would stop. You would fall to your knees in the sand or turn to salt.
You simply could not go on.
There was only the moment before me. Only the understanding that something wild had risen – and with it, a gift so shattering and un-nameable that it could tear open the fabric of the world, like the tear in the wall of my mother’s heart.
It let the wind in.
It let the light in.
And of course, it let the blood and pus and drama and terror in, too.
One day, after weeks of drifting between worlds, my mother woke, terrified that the doctors were putting poison in her food because she was a saint (which would, she whispered, all become clear when her story was aired on the news that night).
On that day, my sister encountered a homeless woman in the bathroom. “Your mother will be all right,” the woman said, handing her a mass card with an image of Archangel Michael.
“Did you tell her Mom was sick?” I asked.
“No,” my sister said. “Maybe. I don’t know.”
Miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles miracles
When you see the world the way that Albert Einstein and I do: Everything is a miracle.
Pablo Picasso, too, saw this. He said, “ Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.”
At a workshop, I told a room full of people this story. At least I tried to… but how do you explain the way it all fits together? How do you explain that everything – EVERYTHING – really is a miracle?
I told them about devotion and the story about how I shattered into squares of glass on the kitchen floor – I told them how my mother was tearing open my heart so it could open to the fire of pure red hot love.
I told them how, at the same time, I was driving the carpool, making dinner, and going to work every day where I was mainlining miracles – letter by precious letter, like drops of liquid light…
… and that, oddly, or perhaps, as a stroke of grace, there was so much going on around me and in me – all at once together, that I somehow didn’t notice how unusual this was.
how unusual it was to have a job where what I did at my desk, with my cup of tea beside me. was tear open envelopes and release miracles into the room.
It had become so commonplace to me, an integral part of the fabric of the world: Oh, here’s another story about a feather from Heaven, a life-changing dream, a mysterious stranger appearing beside a hospital bed, a set of glowing white twins who rescued a paraplegic woman on the beach.
Angels appearing and disappearing right before our eyes.
Eventually, you shatter.
Your heart takes itself apart.
Eventually, you are the fabric.
You are the caterpillar, the butterfly and the sky. The tree branch, the bird that pokes around the fragile chrysalis, the nut in the squirrel’s belly.
You are the cocoon and the goo inside.
“We are so blessed,” I told the class as I finished my story that day. But there was something I didn’t say, I couldn’t say. Something right on the tip of my tongue.
Two years later, I have still not managed to say it all.
There are no words for this fire that burns but does not consume (at least not so anyone else can see it), no words to contain the vastness of the love in which we are held. It’s so wide, so deep, so generous…
How can anyone explain:
That your every prayer is heard and answered.
That you were born beloved, with a chip of God glowing at the center of your soul.
That it glows there still. Put your hand there. Can you feel it?
Here’s what I now know – now that I am used to the light – here’s what I know, and yet still, even now, I have to relearn every single day:
Each astonishing, ordinary, everyday miracle is designed to open us; all of it designed with the most precise and precious love – a divine love we can only begin to imagine, a love so true that it will do anything to bring us to our knees. Drowning and drowning and drowning until finally, desperately, we yield to love.