A couple weeks ago, on April 28 I spent time with my mentor/spiritual director friend, Shirley and we celebrated 5 years of friendship. Our first visit to Botanic Gardens when I was deeply hurting, was 5 years ago! I wrote the following about a year ago and sent it to her. And I share it here now as a tribute to the impact she has had on my life.
Dear Sweet Friend, Shirley:
The following is an attempt to express in words the impact you have had on my life as I have been “becoming.. ” You told me once “becoming is messy and unsettling, but it can be a gift.” I think I believed you at the time, but it was hard to see. You said being in-between was a hard place, but a place for growth – and it was – still is, as I suspect I will always be “becoming .” Now I am in the process of gathering the “story” of these past 5 1/2 years. I have a story to tell and a lot of that story I owe to the your influence on my life.
• You taught me to read scripture and engage it with my heart – to “read for the pause.” And since I find it almost impossible to pause and stay on a topic, I started to write at the pause. it opened up a whole new world.
• You taught me the value of journaling “Dear God . . . ” and then writing “Dear Carol . . . .” and wait for what He might say. He always has something to say if I listen…even if it’s to tell me to sit with the question.
• When my brother died, I knew I had to see you, because I knew you knew, the way no one else would know, because you too had lost your brother.
• You reminded me not to quantify grief. Everyone’s grief is their own and should not be compared to another’s grief.
• You taught me to “Pay attention.” You said “Look up. Look down. Look around. God has a message for you – a message of life,” when we returned to the place he was found 7 months earlier on that cold November night. I did that and there was a message for me, just like you said.
• You encouraged me to go to Gordon’s grave site by myself for the first time . . . You were right. I needed that.
• You taught me that “becoming” is a process and it’s OK to not get answers right away and that it was OK to feel disoriented while I was becoming.
• You helped me understand that God delights in ME- not just me-as-in-all-of-mankind me.
• You helped me discover my contemplative self. Quietness has become my friend. Quiet time with God used to be something I knew I should do, but wasn’t sure how to fit it in. Now I try to figure out how to fit the rest of my life in around my Quiet time, which I want..
• You taught me about breath prayers.
• When we felt betrayed, you were properly indignant and I felt your love and compassion. You helped me process that particular loss and learn from it. A mutual friend told me you were “safe” and you were.
• I quote you frequently – everyone in my life knows about you. They all want to meet you.
• You said when I share with others what I have learned I am passing along the bread I have been given. I’ve been passing it.
In a large measure, I owe my new self to the impact you have had on my life. You were there at the beginning of my journey.
On that day in April, 2006, I committed to a journey I had actually begun the summer of 2005 before I experienced the death of my brother. I am still on that journey.
Your influence lives on, not only in me, but in those who have learned to pay attention, make silence their friend, read for the pause and engage their heart with God’s heart for them. I love you my friend. And my prayer is that I will continue to “pass along the bread I have been given.”
As you read this, are you being reminded of a person who has been key in the develpment of your life and growth I’d like to hear a bit about them…and then why don’t you write them a note and tell them so!