I returned to St. Francis Church to light another candle. I had hoped that I was finished with lighting candles for the dead in 2009 but no, there was another to light this late October.
My sister and I parted ways in 1994 and with that I lost contact with my nephews and my brother-in-law as well. I thought of them often but lately, especially this past summer, I felt that my sister was trying to reach me.
I had a burning in my legs that my doctor attributed it to stress. I wasn't buying that it was stress. One morning I woke with the answer to my leg condition. I just knew that the burning in my legs was connected to my sister. I was sure of it. I couldn't go to work that day and I was resolute that a message was coming to me soon. The next night as I was sitting in Penn Station waiting for a train, I checked my blackberry and there was a message from one of my nephews that he was following me on twitter. Finally a break in the silence.
It had been fifteen years since there was any contact between us. I thought this was the first connection back to my sister who I was afraid may be sick. I was stunned to find out that she died twelve years ago. My reality was that she was here all through the things that have happened. She was here when we toasted the new Millennium; she was here when we were attacked on September 11th; she was here when I sobbed for Mitch our retriever, when he went to doggie heaven; she was here for my completion of my Masters Degree and she was here when I lit a simple fire in our fireplace at home in Pennsylvania once we moved from our New York apartment.
I often thought of her as I did things grand and small and I wondered what she was doing. Was she enjoying her grandchildren? The ones I imagined she must have had by now. But to find out that she did not see these things, that she was not here on earth for any of it, not even to have her own cell phone, oh, and how we could have emailed each other and had fun on facebook. Then I stopped thinking this way. I realized that I had kept her alive all these years and that was not reality at all. How many other false realities have I created in my mind? I can't think of that now. Now I need to find a new way to think of her.
Why now? Why in 2009 did the truth rise up and grab me from the other side?
My nephews could have found me for years. I've had a website for a long time. But I think it was when I posted the picture of my mother that opened up a channel. I submitted her potato salad recipe on my friend Peter's blog "evenings with peter." I sent in a picture of her outside our house back in the 50's. I remember staring at that photo once it was uploaded and seeing her standing prominently on the internet. It was like she was alive again in a new dimension and not since 1969 had she been able to be seen. This was indeed the way my nephew found me. He was looking for his family ancestry since he had just become a Dad himself and the picture of my mother came through loud and clear. Immediately, a bridge was formed.
I sat in the pew at St. Francis and thought this is what my mother wanted. She wanted me to know the truth about my sister and she wanted my nephew to find me. The gate was open and now my sister was able to get through. I would light a candle for Elaine now that the Mass had ended. I remembered that she loved the Blessed Virgin and often prayed to her. I went to the back of the church to light a candle in the little alcove that housed the Virgin with Christ in her arms. There was a woman there who was standing very still and looking up to the ceiling. I stopped in my tracks out of respect for her privacy but then I a voice in my head said, "go in now, and kneel before the statue." I entered the space even though I did not want to intrude on the woman's solitude but she moved aside and let me kneel under the Pieta.
I prayed that I would find a new way to think of Elaine. I thought of The Spirits Book written in 1857. The book purports that the dead are on a spiritual continuum and that often they need to stay in a space to reconcile unresolved issues before they can move to another level. Maybe my sister entered another level and she or possibly her emissary was able to reach me now, not anytime before. It could be that she was in a room somewhere and it only seemed like a few days to her even though it was twelve years on earth. Then I thought "this is crap." This is something that would be nice to think so I could feel better.
How do I know what is true?
I asked God for a sign to let me know if I should accept what I've learned from The Spirits Book, that the spiritual continuum exists and my sister has moved on. At that moment the woman in the alcove came very close to me. She leaned over my shoulder and placed her hand on the wooden bar in front of me. She stayed very still. After what felt to be an eternity, she left the alcove. I kept my eyes fixed upon the statue and when I looked down, there on the bar was a holy card of the Virgin. The Virgen de Itati. The woman had left this card for me. I accepted it as the sign to accept that my sister indeed moved on and she had reached me through the symbol of the Virgin. This is the time. This is the space. Now I can think of Elaine in a whole new way.
The holy card was in Spanish. Here is a rough translation of the prayer.
Most tender mother of God and men, under the patronage of the pure and clean Conception of Our Lady of Itati looked at with eyes of mercy for over three centuries to all who have prayed for you. Do not reject the prayers of this now your son, who humbly turns to thee. It serves my needs that your better than I know. And above all, Mother, grant me a great love of your divine son Jesus, and a pure heart, humble and wise in life, patience, fortitude in praise, temptations, and consolation in death.
So be it.
I posted "A Candle for Stanley" on this blog and in it I promised God I would return to Church the week following to bring the dollar I owed for the candle I lit. I also pledged that I would light a candle for the other 8 people who died in 2009.
I couldn't make it to Mass that week. Shakespeare was right, "neither a borrower nor a lender be." One of the ShiftShape community, Karen, read the Candle for Stanley, and went to St. Francis of Assisi to hear Mass. She looked around to see if I was attending the same Mass but I wasn't there. When she came into work and told me that she felt compelled to go to St. Francis because of my blog post, and that she discovered "signs" that seemed directly related to her, I felt that writing the blog justified itself. What Karen didn't know was the disappointment I felt that I couldn't make it to Mass that week at all and I was not going to make good on my debt. She also didn't know that I prayed to God to give me a sign that it was ok that I could owe him for another week. When she told me that she decided to put an extra two bucks in the slot for me while she was lighting her own candles, I knew that was my sign. I had my answer and my debt was paid as well. I finally made it to Church and this time I put two dollars in the offering slot, one for Karen, and one for her intentions.
I went to Mass at St. Francis of Assisi near Penn Station to pray for the smooth transition of my friend Brian's father, Stanley.
It was fortunate for Brian that his Dad passed while Brian was here in the states. Brian came in from Brazil to tend to a legal matter and during this precise time, his father died. Stanley was ready to move on especially since his health had declined two years ago and got progressively worse. I hope he is finally with his beloved wife who died many years ago and he missed terribly.
I was waiting to hear from Brian as to the time and place for his Dad's viewing so I kept my blackberry on not to miss the call. As I walked into the back of the Church, my phone went off. I tried to reach it quickly but it was somewhere buried in my large handbag. Fitting as it was, I don't think the congregation appreciated the playing of my ring tone, Bob Dylan's, "knock,knock,knock on heaven's door." I made a quick turn and ran out of the church. I finally found the damn thing and answered it. There was Brian on the other end with the news of when his father's viewing would be and that it would be a bit later than expected because his father's Church was having a peach festival; no time for funerals.
I could hear that Brian still had his sense of humor as he laughed about the church's reverence for peaches. I took the liberty of telling him that his call resounded throughout the church with the Bob Dylan ring tone that he knows very well. He chuckled again. Good, another chance for a break in what I feel is exaggerated piety when I speak with someone who has just lost a loved one.
That's when Brian asked me to light a candle for his Dad. I knew he was going to ask me that. As I walking to Church I thought, "I bet Brian calls me any minute now and when I tell him I am going to Mass, he will ask me to light a candle." I thought of that already, but I didn't have a God damn dollar. I am on this new budget now and I try not to have cash on me. I use my debit card only and it keeps me from buying extra things I see on the street. I told Brian that I had thought of lighting a candle but I didn't have a dollar. That's when Brian burst out laughing and then that was it. The floodgates opened and I went on about the sorry state of affairs these days and that we all need more money and now I will owe God a dollar. I never thought there was a way to actually owe God money. I was certainly good for lighting a candle since I would be back the following week and I could pay God back then. I went on to say that I could light a candle and not owe anything at all since I gave five dollars a couple of weeks ago in the offering basket. Who was I trying to fool? I couldn't negotiate with God, the offering was the offering, and the candle was the candle.
With that I ended the conversation and went into Mass with a smile on my face. During Mass I prayed for many things. First for Stanley, then for the other eight people who died this year so far. What a record year of lay-offs, endings, and deaths. I ran out of sympathy cards I bought at Duane Reade twice already. I also prayed for more money so I could light more candles.
When I finally got around to lighting the candle for Stanley, I remembered my father and how Brian was with me at his funeral years ago. After the service, we were driving back to a friend's house and we passed a school that was having a carnival. I immediately thought of my father who ran the school carnivals. I thought it would be fitting to go to the carnival and have fun that day. Brian, Michael, and our friend Adele ate candy and went on the rides in honor of Mike, my Dad, the man with carny in his soul!
Next week when I will return to Mass I will slip a buck in the slot to pay my debt and I will bring another one to light a candle for all the rest who departed in 2009.
Michael Stiller's mother
Marino Zulich's mother
Cindy Allen's father
Xiang Xu's father
Linda Zatta's step father
Helene Oberman's father
Brian Rook's father
Rita, our young neighbor
Tony's young son
9 is the number of completion, maybe that's it for this year but there are still 3 months to go.
Did you ever notice how working in the city on Fridays in August is eerie? Doesn't it seem like one of those Armageddon films where you and some other random folks are left behind? You see remnants of activity that used to be and traces that much has happened here but somehow it all stopped. I shut down my computer, walked around the aisles and felt a sorrow that the past was trying to hold on but the world had shifted already. It was lonelier than other August Fridays in years past since more people were permanently gone from here and so many others gone from other floors and gone from other buildings in New York. Outside the streets were equally as empty. It was 6 o'clock and I had an hour to get to Penn Station, way more than enough time to get there. I kinda sauntered across the block between Park & Madison while I imagined a big hand coming down from the sky to scoop me out of this cardboard model of a city and place me somewhere else. I needed to focus so I decided to read an ad that I must have passed many times. It was about John Lennon, The New York City Years, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex in Soho...exclusively created by Yoko Ono. It was a limited engagement that started in May. I wondered if it was still going on. It was so hot and humid standing there taking in the poster. I felt like I was in the center of gravity and I couldn't stop looking at those letters YOKO ONO. God, I thought life is changing here like another force is around, just like the one that breaks things up and can't be stopped...just like the force that broke up the Beatles back then. At that point I breathed in deeply and slowly. Finally someone was passing by me, another random survivor on planet earth. Unlike "the end of days" movie where the last survivors don't recognize each other, I at least recognized the stranger left behind as the other Beatle, Paul.
Here we go again, I thought, one of my nocturnal premonitions is playing out and I probably won't know why. I walked behind him a bit until he sat on a bench. I stood by a traffic light across from Tabla and contemplated. Years ago I dreamed that I was in a conversation with Paul McCartney outside a park. I warned him that he would marry a woman who he could not trust and his family would not like for him and she would have a baby. Once the baby was born he would start to see the danger. He asked me what career coaching was and I was trying to answer. That was it. Now here he is at Madison Square Park and I have him all to myself but I just couldn't get myself to approach him. Instead I called Michael and played a guessing game with him as to what famous person was sitting on a bench near me. Once Michael guessed that it was his favorite musician ever he convinced me to take a picture. I forgot that my blackberry has this feature. This was a hard one for me. I loathe disturbing celebrities, but a legend as well, this was going to be a real stretch of my personality. Maybe that was the significance of the dream, that this is a time when I need to be more assertive in all things and it begins here. I pretended I was talking on my phone when I snapped the image. There, I did it and I survived, and Michael will be happy, that's nice. It was time to move on.
As I entered the park, I saw a little girl who was reaching out to pet a bull dog who was there with his owner. The blond girl was standing next to who I presumed was her mother and I heard a growl and I saw the dog lunge at the child. The owner pulled back on the leash and the child was spared. I thought it odd that the mother did not react much to the threat of her daughter getting attacked. Then I watched the woman and child walk over to Paul McCartney where the little girl was delivered to her "weekend Dad." Father and daughter showered each other with kisses.
The rest of the way to the station I thought about the peculiarity of premonitions. They are like variety packs that have many items in them. We can open them, chew them, digest them, and release them into a story. How significant are they?
I reserved my deeper thoughts for the train ride. The pattern of the motion of a train moving at the same speed for long stretches of time induces the alpha state, perfect to ponder a premonition that has collapsed onto reality.
Once we pulled out of the station I let myself relax and reflect. I dreamed of something that did happen to Paul McCartney. Why? I have no real connection to him.
The dream could have been a foreshadowing of this day, but why? In Larry Dossey's book "The Power of Premonitions" he considers that premonitions are mostly about chaos. People who have premonitions usually see disasters, deaths, illnesses, or danger in general.
He also questions what can one do about a premonition to change the outcome. Could you imagine if years ago I tried to get in touch with Paul McCartney and warn him about his future? It didn't matter anyway, his kids warned him and he still followed the path that brought him to Madison Square Park on a summer Friday in August.
Could it be about the force? I was reading the poster about Yoko at the time he walked by me and I was focused on the force that creates chaos. Could the dream be a warning that when this seemingly innocuous event occurred , something chaotic was stirring in the air. The only way I would recognize it was by seeing the celebrity I dreamed of years ago. Maybe it had no meaning and it was just one of those time experiences. But I did dream of the coming personal upheaval for the Beatle back then. Could he be on a verge of a another transition?
Could it be that something was going to happen to the child since the dog lunged at her? Again, what maniac would I be to think of saying "your daughter is unsafe."
Then there was the detail of the dream where he was asking me about career counseling. That could be a sign to reconsider this practice and come to terms with a way of changing it. Another indicator of timing.
It could also be a basic life lesson in seeing that my life has problems because it is supposed to. The dream could have indicated a time when I would be in transition and that I needed to see that we all are here to make mistakes including legends who seem to have everything.
Premonitions indeed are like a variety pack of possibilities. Some premonitions are about big events, some about small stuff. Some are about people you know, or people you don't know but think you do, like celebrities. What all premonitions do have in common is the revelation that everything is connected, it is only shrouded in symbolism and the illusion that we are separate.