Dreams of Kindness, Love and Grace by Carolyn Berry
"Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you sing. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance."
I have known sacred moments in my life. Holy moments so drenched with the Spirit of the Eternal that I nearly drowned in them.
The first was when I saw the ocean for the first time, at the age of 15. I remember feeling drunk on the heavy scent of saline tide, accompanied by surf thunder that reverberated my chest like a skin drum. I was unable to move ... literally awestruck at the immenseness of this living power, this ageless ebbing and swelling force. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't speak. I knew in ancient parts of my bones that I was a small yet eternal piece of a Universe that held me steady and breathed my every breath.
Childbirth was another such consecrated window. The moment that my son first burst from my body-screaming strong aboriginal cries of freedom-I experienced an unspeakable moment of mystical alchemy. The birth of my daughter was equally holy. We women are immeasurably blessed to know the experience of giving life.
Death is the third threshold of the Divine, and the one I have known the most recently. I spoke face-to-face with my father for the last time in October. He visited to say good-bye, relating premonitions of an impending medical crisis. He begged my agreement to come remove him from life support if he was ever determined to be in an irreversible vegetative state. There was nothing he feared more. Of course, I agreed.
"The call" came on November 4th. My dad was in ICU on a respirator. Pupils fixed and dilated. Unresponsive to stimuli. A soaring temperature pointed toward early stages of brain death, as his hypothalamus unsuccessfully sought feedback from the regulatory centers of his brain. I needed to come immediately.
Results from neurological tests catalyzed the most heartbreaking-yet without doubt the most holy—experience of my life. All needles, tubes and machinery were gently removed from my dad's lifeless body, and he was moved to a private room. With the radio tuned to his favorite "oldies," I pulled a chair close in order to hold his hand and stroke the hair on his chest that I loved so much. His autonomic functions wound down quickly. Exactly an hour after disconnection he took one last shallow breath, turned his face straight ahead and—with eyes still closed—smiled a smile that went ear-to-ear. I had the blissful experience of cradling this man who had given me life as he crossed over to life beyond.
My Daddy had no church home, although he was deeply spiritual, and thus there was no family minister to officiate his memorial service. That honor clearly was meant to be mine, and I stepped up to the task. It is something I will never regret as long as I live. But I will tell you that it was the hardest, the most emotional—and without doubt, the most important-public presentation I have ever given. Daddy never heard me speak during his life, but I know he was there for his farewell. The room was packed with friends and family. And his only daughter, who he had for years described to everyone he knew as the "love of his life," led the final celebration of his life.
To endure sitting with my father as he died, and to officiate his memorial service, it was essential for me to push past all comfort zones I had known so far in my life. People witnessed my tears, but also heard me tell stories of my dad that brought smiles and snickers. I know that I was unmistakeably carried through these painful and difficult experiences by deeply soul-directed choices. I was strongly aware of having been given a dispensation of unequaled personal power-much like the power of childbirth. Power that was mine for a specific window of time, to be used for a specific, consecrated purpose. That power was love.
"For what is it to die, but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and see God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you sing. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance." ... Kahlil Gibran
Carolyn Berry serves professionally as a public policy dispute resolution coordinator throughout Oregon. She is also a writer, a social/environmental activist, and a popular public speaker.