For Leon, in memoriam, for Deb and for James
Before midnight on New Years Eve, my younger brother left this life. A farmer in Vermont, he had been out clearing brush in the fields two days before and now was taking his regular afternoon nap before friends arrived for the evening. In the waning hours of both the day and the year he took his leave of us quietly without any fuss, as was his way.
In Deuteronomy it is written that such a death is ‘a kiss from God.’ It is not surprising that this dear man – farmer and scholar, musician and activist – received such a blessing as he took off to join the angels. I am the last sibling left.
In a moment, just like that, all is changed. Left behind, I hover between the worlds, following him on his journey in my heart and mind as I also walk across the kitchen floor on my own two feet. I am not sure what is real right now, nor what is dream; I am afloat in more worlds than one.
A few weeks ago I had an odd, similar experience though – perhaps a precognition – in a Goodwill store where I’d gone to find a soup-pot cover, and on my way out passed the Ladies’ Pants section where I stopped to pick up an extra pair of jeans. I found them, checked the tab for the size and saw my married name written on it… ‘Carolyn Strauss.’
No…I took a slow breath and looked down at the tab again. My name was still there. The store was there, people wandering the aisles, conversations, the quiet clack of hangers. I stood very still, feeling as if I were dreaming while awake, not quite knowing where I was. If my name was still there, I thought, I’d know for sure I was dreaming, so I looked down…
“I will try to pay for these, and then I’ll know…” I thought, moving very slowly towards the check-out station. In the dream I paid four dollars. Would I find my car in the parking lot…?
Step by step I followed the familiar routine of unlocking the car, getting in, starting the engine and driving home – very slowly. Only when I parked at home did I look down again at the tab. My name was still there.
In the house, I fell into a fitful nap. When I awoke later, my name was still on the tab and my hands began to shake. Then I grabbed my computer and typed in my name – and discovered a rather chi-chi dress designer in New York City by the name of Carolyn Strauss!
For an hour I couldn’t stop laughing, relieved but also wondering if this experience of hovering between realities might be significant for some reason. And it was, for I’ve learned what it feels like to be between the worlds, experiencing both at the same time and seeking a new kind of balance there. I had been in both waking and dream reality simultaneously, and recognized that both were real, which now helps me relax into an expanded sense of the world we live in.
And accept my brother’s death.
I think it was a teaching for this time in the world, too.
Things are shifting before all our eyes in fact, as we clear last year’s brush from our mental field of vision, as my brother was doing on the farm, and make preparations for what ultimately comes next. I imagine he is there now in the many-layered existence of Time and Space where all Being is woven into a multi-dimensional cloth that contains not only what we know as our world, but even way more than that.
We call the process ‘Death’.
Most of us are terrified of dying and our rational minds cannot comprehend it, but by the peaceful expression on Leon’s face I suspect there is nothing to fear. Herb saw it as he was leaving, and actually reported back while he still could that the ‘worlds and worlds’ he saw were ‘profound’ and his eyes were luminous with wonder. “Oh, the big Love!” breathed my friend Jessica as she passed over, her face radiant.
I trust this, even though I am still a student at loving. Or maybe I’ve gotten more adept at the Big love than I am at the everyday person-to-person variety which, for me, is harder. My brother had a better handle on this than I do, I think.
‘Trust it’ he seems to be saying from wherever he is now, ‘just let go into love.’
‘What if we don’t know how?’ I want to ask him.
The answer I get is that we’d better learn how, and quick, because things are changing very fast in the world now and we have to learn how to move rapidly when it is time.
A few days ago a big earthquake hit Puerto Rico; and fires are sweeping across Australia. England and Scotland are under floodwaters and the ice is melting on the Poles. For those who live on this planet – human, plant and animal – the time to act is NOW!
Resisting the inevitable is not an option.
“We didn’t even have time to grab the family pictures!” cried my friends who fled from the Santa Rosa fires in the middle of the night. “Not even a stitch of clothing!”
They survived, but others did not.
So, given the reality of great changes in the offing, how do we prepare? In my heart, I am asking my brother for advice. ‘What should we be doing, Leon?’ I see a slow grin starting on his face.
‘Well, why don’t you start by planting some sunflowers..?’ he suggests. ‘That always helps. Then remember to sing…music really can make a difference and, uh, love one another no matter what, no matter where, no matter how…’
I take a big breath, and the tears make waterfalls on my cheeks and run down my nose.
Then I hear him add, ‘Y’know, it only takes 144,000 people to tip this world from Big Fear to Big Love – really. Try that – every little bit helps. It doesn’t take that many people to make a tipping point, you know.
I nod, but really, I didn’t know.
‘And,’ he continues while I sob, ‘uh, please don’t forget the sunflowers…’