Exactly two years ago, I watched the fireworks explode over Mt. Rubidoux. My family was there, we were eating hamburgers, and my little neices and nephews were keeping each other entertained. Our hearts were in our throats, but for reasons other than patriotism or the gemutlichkeit of being together on a holiday. We watched the fireworks from the emergency room patio of Riverside Community Hospital, as my brother Joe began his final journey from this world to the next. Nothing like huge explosions of light and sound to direct your attention, if even for a few minutes, heavenward. Fireworks somehow bring perspective – their beauty and power somehow make us feel at once small and yet connected to everything and everyone around us. At one of the lowest and painful moments in our lives, we looked to the heavens and they seemed not so far away. In fact, ‘heaven’ is only real if we can find it in the midst of the muck here in our ‘earthen’ experience. It exists only in the present moment, and being with my brother during those hours before he passed, we were all truly present, to him, to each other, and to ourselves. It was other-worldly, incredibly difficult, but so real that it seemed unreal.
My brother passed just 3 days later on July 7th, and this Thursday marks 2 years since he has passed. His battle with cancer was a bombshell on our family. But I’m sure as so many of you who have experienced devastating loss, time can bring healing, if we let it, along with support from family and friends, and hopefully with our own interior work of pushing through the muck of the reality of death and loss.
So last night, as the fireworks exploded in the distance as I watched with my little girl in my lap from our balcony, I thought of my brother Joe. I realized how deceptive death is – no matter what you believe, there’s always the battle with the unknown. Some of us find evidence that death doesn’t have the final word. And some find comfort that death is all just part of the cycle of life. What is amazing to me is that, no matter what happens after with the deceased, its amazing how they can become even more a part of our own lives, perhaps even more so than when they were living.
I feel a closeness with my brother since his passing. I know and believe we are still connected, as is all life and energy. His life serves as an example for me, and I talk to him in my own mind and heart. I think this is that instinct for prayer that is both as ancient as it is natural. Prayer is connection, at any level, that is done interiorly and conducted through our connection to whatever we understand God to be – Source, Spirit, etc. Being Catholic in background, I have a new and unique understanding of the Communion of Saints. Sometimes things/people/realities that are separated from our view become even more real and potent than when they were physically present. That’s the nature of spirit I guess. And the beauty of being human.