In putting these stories on the Internet I realize that I am also sharing with the unknown multitudes whose life experiences and learning are vastly different than mine, but that's okay. I hope that those who may come here will find something valuable that they can take with them.
So now the difficult part for me. I am keenly aware that my spiritual experiences that I share may sound fictional and dramatic. I can not tell you why they happened to me, I only know that they did. I know that I do not have them the same way anymore. I think it was the absolute childlike faith, the unquestioning belief, that made them possible.
My grandmother was devout. She read the Bible every day; she prayed every night. She didn't eat meat on Fridays; never went to church with her head uncovered. Many of the books that she gave me and read to me were children's Bible stories. She talked to me of God and Angels and Heaven. She was the one who taught me the prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep...."
When I was old enough, I was allowed to stay overnight and some weekends with my grandparents. On warm summer days Gram and I would lie on a blanket on the grassy knoll at the back of her tiny two-room house. Grasshoppers and crickets would leap on us; bees buzzed about the Indian paint brushes, wild daisies and brown-eyed Susans. We would look up at the blue sky and white fluffy clouds and see if we could see Heaven beyond the clouds, because that's where Heaven is. At home my mother was silent with her own sadness; my father bellowed his anger at everything. My grandmother was the only one who talked to me.
One summer day, a neighbor of my parents, Mrs. McLaughlin dropped by invited my mother and us kids to join her and her children at a local beach. My mother cannot swim but she craved the companionship of other women and to leave a forlorn house. She eagerly accepted, packing up a quick picnic and me and my younger brother.
I remember my mother wearing a two piece polka dot swimming suit. It looked like the package of Wonder Bread, white with yellow, red and blue polka dots. I loved it. I thought she looked beautiful in it, and she looked so happy talking with Mrs. McLaughlin, thoroughly engaged in her conversation.
I wandered away, at first only wading in the cool water. I wiggled and dug my toes in the cold wet sand. I could see other children and adults swimming. I could see my mother, face turned away from me, head thrown back in laughter.
I waded deeper. The water was soft, beckoning, inviting me to chase it. A ribbon of water rippled past me and I could not resist and I followed. Water rushed into my ears, filling my head with its roaring. I opened my mouth but I could not scream. I looked up through the water, and the sun and sky waved and danced, but could not claw to the top. The light dazzled and fragmented all around me. Bubbles burst. I looked through the water and saw myself floating and struggling for the surface. I was wearing a blue bathing suit.
How could this be, I wondered? How could I see myself struggling to find the surface? I looked towards the beach where my mother sat, hugging her knees to her. The air was crystal clear and pure, the day shone brighter than it ever had, I did not need air to breath, but I was alive and had knowledge of my surroundings and the people there. My visual perception was so sharp it almost hurt to look; I could see my mother. I could hear her words. It was as if I were standing beside her only I was midair, floating, looking down and out, unafraid, curious. Perfect clarify of vision and hearing but not understanding.
A shout. I saw Mrs. McLaughlin spring into the water. Blackness. I was on the beach. Mrs. McLaughlin gave me mouth-to-mouth until I was awake, dazed, but still not afraid.
I cannot remember my mother's exact words to Mrs McLaughlin, but she laughed and thanked her for jumping in to get me. She seemed untroubled by the incident, more disturbed by the commotion I caused, and returned to her conversation.
I went back to the water's edge and waded some more. The water warm and inviting, but this time I did not listen to its lulling song.
Mrs. McLaughlin never invited us again to join her at the beach.
Many years later, my husband of barely ten years, lay in bed, paralyzed from the neck down from a freak accident in the home. Tubes were running everywhere, machines were tracking all his impulses. He was dying. We were both fighting it.
Dr. Choi patted my shoulder. "Mrs. Shields, your husband is brain dead. It's only the machines that give the illusion of life. If I turn them off, he will stop breathing." In demonstration, he turned them off, the chest rises and falls stopped; I gasped in horror and abject denial, and the machines were turned back on. "You must think about removing the machines."
I could not think! I would not think. Only days ago we clung to ever fading hope, we held hands, and I made every promise to God that I could think of. "Take me," I begged in prayer.
Daniel awoke, saw me, smiled. "You are my favorite wife, " he mouthed over the respirator tubes. I was is third wife.
"You're my favorite husband," I quipped, having been only married to him.
He smiled wearily; blue eyes flickered, lids heavy with the effects of drugs. "I want you to know that life with you was never boring. Even being mad at you was never boring."
"Me, too. I was never bored either."
"I want you to get married again."
"No," I said too firmly. "I will not marry again after you."
He looked sad. "Was it that bad? Being married to me?" A long gasp of air.
I clutched his hand in panic. "No, I only wanted to be married once in this life, and I married you. There will not be any others."
He closed his eyes, as if in thought. "I hope you change your mind. You should not be alone."
Alone I made the decision to turn off the respirators. Alone I accepted the responsibility for never seeing him breath again. Alone the hope was extinguished.
My mother went with me that last night. The doctors felt I should have someone with me as I sat and waited and watched and held to desperate, desperate hope. My mother was silent with me, speaking only to the medical staff as they drifted in and out, She reported my emotional status, "She's doing fine." "She's holding up." Then more silence as she sat.
I recalled that moment on the beach when I was a mere child filled with faith. I knew what awaited him: perfect clarity, vision, understanding where the skies were bluer and the sun shone brighter and the clouds were whiter; he would float, like a feather in the breeze, the quadriplegia only a memory.
I knew all these things, and I still wished he were with me.
I have a distinct recollection of being only thought, no form. I wonder if this is what the new age folks mean when they say we are a perfect thought in Divine Mind.