“I’m okay, scariest earthquake ever.” (on Facebook from Oaxaca)
“B & M are in Wyoming. They’re safe.” (email about Florida)
“Pretty shaken up. We’re fine.” (on Facebook from Mexico City)
“T and his sisters have evacuated to GA.” (phone call about Florida)
“O’s dad and family are all right.” (phone call about Oaxaca)
“Mom (who has cancer) can handle the smoke if she stays inside.” (email about Portland)
“It’s 110 degrees. B got dehydrated and is in the hospital.” (phone call from Oakland)
“Everybody’s sold out of sandbags.” (phone call from Georgia)
I’m dizzied by keeping track of my loved ones, checking on hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and extreme heat across the continent. I read rising death tolls in Texas, the Caribbean, the Isthmus of Mexico, Florida. The number of acres burning in the northwest is reflected by the smoky haze where I live in the southwest more than a thousand miles away. I am face to face with the risks of being alive, the reality of our mortality. Death looks over my left shoulder. It keeps clearing its throat to remind me of our impermanence.
I try to remember how to keep my balance. I note the beauty of my maxmilian sunflowers which just burst into bloom today, the red on the wings of a flicker flying past the window. I have my mantra practice, my own breath. I ask for extra hugs from my sweetie. A friend shares a mantra from Thich Nhat Hanh—I have arrived and I am home. Home is a place of safety and like it or not, home encompasses it all, including both life and death.
Years ago, during one of life’s particularly rough patches, a spontaneous meditation arose in my mind. In it, one by one by one, everyone I loved and everything I owned or depended on, was stripped away and completely removed. First, I was alone without family or friends, then I was homeless, yet I was okay. My car died. Walking, I fell to the ground with a minor injury to my leg. Still, internally, I was all right. When my body failed further, strangers took me to the hospital. When I could no longer continue living, I died. What remained was astonishing. Though I was aware that I had died, what I felt was a delicious sense of well-being, that everything was totally fine.
I had arrived and I was home, just as I had been before the meditation, and just as I am now, decades later. Storms, fires, floods, and earthquakes come and go. Life comes and goes. I am home.
Some of you who are reading this, perhaps many of you, may have experienced large losses recently in these natural phenomena or in other ways. May you each find your way through grief and loss to the peaceful center that is our true home.
The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil. To be released by Hampton Roads on October 6, 2017. Pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. Find out more on my Book Page.