One beautiful autumn day, with the golden sun shining through red leaves that waved their way across the sky, I found my husband dead. He was sitting in his favorite recliner: his skin was cold and pale. He passed with such peacefulness, that when death came to take him away, he didn’t have time to uncross his legs.
I won’t go into the tumultuous nature of our relationship, the anger, the bitterness, the resentment. These things were present on both sides during our life together. These are the things I remember because when his life passed, I spent much of my time holding onto the heavy weight of my own regret. What if I could have one more conversation with him? What if I didn’t argue with him the night before? What if we had allowed ourselves the ability to start again, each in our own way in our own lives? I nearly drove myself crazy with the “what ifs.”
For a long time after he died, I felt like I was standing in a shallow pit with the cool ground under my heels inviting me to sit down, to lie down, to sleep. I stayed there in bewilderment as if I had been coerced into that emptiness but I had entered voluntarily. And I knew there was a chance I’d never leave it.
“Stay here,” the darkness beckoned. “It’s safe here.” But I didn’t want to believe the gentle prod of those words.
I tried digging my way out only to discover I was making my prison deeper and deeper until finally, the thin rays of the sun could no longer reach me and I was afraid I would forget the loving embrace of its warmth.
I could have stayed there in that familiar shade. It takes courage to climb out of self-imposed confinement. Many of us, so, so many of us would rather stay imprisoned than travel to the foreign shores of freedom. But everywhere I went, that dark chasm followed me and I didn’t know what to do.
“Sit in silence.” A voice said to me. It was a quiet voice. Quieter than the bitterness of my thoughts and I almost didn’t hear it. And it only spoke once.
I didn’t listen at first. How could I be forgiven for all I had done? But one difficult day, with my soul still sitting in that dark pit, I decided to follow that advice.
“Sit in silence.”
I drove to a park near my house and found a place to sit in my car with the window cracked so I could smell the fresh air.
“Sit in silence.”
I crossed my hands over my heart and breathed. I had never meditated before and I didn’t really know how so I just sat in stillness like the voice said and closed my eyes. Every time a thought came into my head, I imagined a great hand brushing that thought away. I brushed many thoughts away until my mind was as clear and still as a mountain lake and I felt a little better.
And then I went home.
I did this every day for a number of months until I found myself pulling back the claws that held onto my husband’s ghost. I meditated in a place where I could watch the small birds line up on a branch and fluff out their feathers during a snowstorm. I meditated as the rains fell and the geese came back from southern shores. I meditated as the ducklings waddled behind their mother and the squirrels stole sunflower seeds from the bird feeder, filling their cheeks. I meditated without knowing if I was doing it correctly. But I kept going because, during my meditation I found peace from my self-condemnation.
I found my way out of that pit with silence, allowing the emotion to course its way through me, weeping into the quiet corners of my mind until it became a trickle because the only way to get to the other side of an emotion is through it. And through it, I was finally able to leave my husband in that shallow grave so I could escape my prison.
Once I stepped out of the darkness, I stepped out as a different person than I was when I stepped in. Once I shed the shame that kept me from facing the glow of the sky, I saw that the sun was the same, the clouds were the same, the earth was the same, but I was different; I had awakened.
One day, at that same park with the same birds and squirrels, I sat in my car and closed my eyes. I asked my husband to give me a sign that he was near, that he was happy, that he’d forgiven me. I sat in my truck with the window cracked about an inch. I sat there with the palms of my hands facing up and quieted my mind. I heard birds singing and the wind in the trees. Children were playing at a nearby playground.
Something landed in my upturned palm. I jumped a little when I felt it. I thought a large insect had made its way into the car and landed on my hand. But when I looked, it was a seed pod.
Since there were no trees near the vehicle, it took me some time to see where it came from. It had blown from a tree that was across the street and down the road. And somehow, the wind had taken one small pod and flown it directly into my hand. I held it up and saw the tiniest, paper-thin capsule. At the center was a darkened area, just the size of a raindrop holding all the information it needed to make an entire tree.
There in my hand, I held infinity, the limitless energy that never stops in its quest to live another day.
“Sit in silence.”
Three small words that saved my life. I still have that seedpod because it reminds me that there’s always hope for tomorrow and that there’s always forgiveness.