Hopefully, you will not find this too personal, but I am feeling a strong need (which will soon be clearer) to share it.
It’s Saturday morning. I did not sleep well last night. Sometimes this happens if I worked too hard physically the day before. The soreness makes me restless and uncomfortable and we prepped and planted four beds in the vegetable garden yesterday. It can also happen if I eat too much too late. The nachos at 10:30 while we were watching The Voice finale is another possible culprit.
No matter how poorly I sleep, I always wake up at the same time. This is a curse of getting older. Sleeping-in no longer seems to be even possible. The best I can hope for is a second sleep in the morning on days when my schedule allows. If I am able to achieve that I typically wake up feeling refreshed. So this morning I woke up at the usual time feeling exhausted and laid in bed a while, hoping I might fall back asleep. When that didn’t happen, I grabbed the book off my nightstand and started reading, which will often help me get back to sleep.
Ever since reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien in the eighth grade, I have been a huge fan of the high fantasy genre. I have a closet full of old paperbacks bought in used bookstores that have dozens of this style of story in them. I am always looking for something new or re-reading something old. This morning, I found myself at a compelling point in a new story (I’ll share an excerpt soon), so I did not fall asleep again. But on the positive side, by the time I finished reading, I felt energized and positive.
I got up to get in the shower. You need to know that the shower is a sort of spiritual cave for me. I have a tendency to take very long showers. My thoughts typically wander through many things spiritual and otherwise and I sometimes experience revelations while in the shower. Yes, I believe that I receive epiphanies as the soothing hot water of a long shower pours over me.
In order to fully understand the rest of this, you also need to be aware that there has been some loss in my life recently. A little more than two years ago, I lost my youngest son, age seventeen, in a car accident. A little more than one year ago, I lost my sister, age forty three, to lung cancer. And in the midst of that, my first spiritual advisor, Sister Gertrude Anne, also passed after a very full life. I pray to all three of these people, along with my mother, who has been gone nearly twenty years, as part of my prayer routine in the morning.
I have an Alexa device in the bathroom and I have assembled multiple playlists that I listen to depending on my mood. Yesterday afternoon, I asked Alexa to play my playlist ………., hesitating before giving her a name. She did not wait and started playing my “Current Country” playlist, which sounded good so I asked her to shuffle it again for me this morning.
(In my series Journey thru John, I often ask you to try and enter the scene. A word of caution here about what follows. Please don’t try that here. I beg you, do not picture me dancing in the shower. If you must, put yourself in my place and think about yourself dancing in the shower, assuming you do that on occasion. If not, you should. It’s very freeing and therapeutic. You should also picture your own loved ones in place of mine, as I think that is part of the reason why this experience had to be shared.)
The music seemed especially powerful this morning and its positive energy was moving me. I soon gave way completely and found myself bouncing and singing along to every song that came up.
And then this happened.
I saw my seventeen year old son Aidan smiling and dancing along with me. To be more precise, he was laughing and I think it was as much at me as with me. He was always a good natured kid, always quick with a smile, always quick to make fun of his dad when the opportunity presented itself. His outlook was even a bit naïve. He was still so very young and did not have enough experience in life for any jadedness to have taken hold. He was laughing so hard, as was his wont, that it interrupted his dancing.
And then I saw my sister Christy with a huge smile on her face and she was dancing as well. Not my sister at the end when she was drawn and thin and wearing a scarf over her head because of her hair loss. Instead, she was the young and vibrant women in her twenties that did not smile as often as I would have liked, but, who, when you could coax it of her, had a smile that would light up a room and have you smiling right along with her whether you intended to or not.
And then my mother was there. She was dancing in a way I had never seen before. It was if she had been young in the 1960s or 1970s, not the 1940s or 1950s. While Aidan and Christy were mostly looking at me with mischievous gleams in their eyes, my mom seemed to be looking beyond all of us. And it seemed that as she looked beyond, she saw something that gave her a great sense of contentment, and her smile intensified. The pace of her dancing increased, and she glanced over at me sideways with her own gleam and then closed her eyes as she let the music carry her. I was sure that her smile had somehow become permanent. Something that had been amiss was no longer so. Something that was unsettled was now finally settled and settled to her satisfaction.
And then even Sister Gertude Anne was there, smiling and dancing. She was still advanced in years, likely because that was the only way I knew her. She started out sheepishly, seemingly embarrassed to be dancing in such an outlandish style, but her enthusiasm increased as the dance went on. By the end, even if her movements were slower, she was also a fully gleaming participant caught up in the joy of the moment.
As this was unfolding, a realization hit me. As I had prayed with each of these people in my morning prayer, I had images of them in my head. But none of them were images of the type of joy that I was surrounded by in this moment. There are pictures of my son, my sister and my Mom in my house. They are smiling, often a little sheepishly and incompletely, certainly not with the freedom and joy that I saw in them now. With Sister, I do not have a picture other than what is in my head, but it’s much the same.
Until now, I had not pictured any of them grinning unabashedly in the context of the joy of heaven, but now I was, and I knew that this was a true vision. I knew these four persons who had impacted my life in such positive ways were actually dancing together in heaven. And I could see in my mother’s reaction a turning point. A transition where all was now as it should be. Where the story, even if it is still unfolding, had found a moment of true peace and a spot where the hurt and pain of the recent past could be deposited and left to wither in the midst of a bright, hopeful future where any joyful possibility one could imagine could unfold.
I found myself dancing and laughing and crying all at once. And when it was over, as it had to eventually be, I found myself thankful and I found myself knowing right away that I had to share this experience.
Two last things I wish to add:
While I was reading, I encountered a passage in the story that left me in tears because of how powerful it was, and the thought came to me unbidden, “you could do that.” I have dreamed of writing for a very long time. I knew that I was called to it but “the world” always seem to be in the way. Now I am even more certain of that call and I know I am in this for the long haul. I think that contributed greatly to the positive energy I was feeling before I even turned the shower on.
I also recently made a comment on the blog Brandon’s Wisdom where I mentioned the loss of my son and sister. When he thanked me for my comment, he thanked me for sharing of myself and my experiences. I had been considering how to write back to him in order to express my opinion that this was how social media was meant to be used. That the sharing I did and that he innocently acknowledged, if done widely, had the ability to have a long term positive, healing effect on a world sorely in need of it.
I can’t help but think that this is how God would have the tools of social media used. Not, as Bill Schmitt’s posts rue so effectively, for self-aggrandizement that so often relies on polarization and discord to achieve its goals.
But instead to spread broad values like peace and unity through the sharing of experiences like this one even if, at first blush, they seem a little too personal, a little too risky, to place where they can be seen by anyone and everyone, completely out of one’s control.