As I sat in Sarah’s yard yesterday, sort of “holding court” in the weird way the universe brings me sometimes, wave after wave of “intervention”, one “coincidence” after another, on the heels of two massive personal losses; my brother three weeks ago and one of my oldest and my beloved friend Rita on Friday.A Zen master and a Sufi master – – all end up in this little yard. The most random group of people and we talk about death and reality and attachment and existence – and somehow we all feel better.
I see the orchestration of something that is taking care of me when I feel broken.
And I am just broken enough to accept it.
It began when earlier I was at work, on the bench on the street, my broken toe aching in the sun trying to play guitar so something would feel normal, but frankly everything felt crappy. I tried and sing a happy song, but the little kid going by in the stroller frowned at me – she knew I was full of shit so I stopped.
I was thinking about Rita my friend of 30 years, who lived not so far away from my work and would often come by for a hug or a bench chat. She had died the morning before. I kept having weird ideas like…
Wow this is the first Saturday without Rita on the planet. That’s really strange. who am I gonna have breakfast with god with?
A woman stops – she knows me from some music thing in the past – I have helped her, she said. And without knowing what has happened to me, she introduces me to her beautiful smiling eyed red haired friend, who immediately looks at me and makes an assessment.
“Oh – you have something…” she says smiling at me.
“We all have something hun…” I said quietly.
In a few minutes she is sitting beside me and talking rapidly – a man, standing to my side. She describes him – smoking, laughing, very funny. Standing right there.
I see no one, but I can see she is feeling something, and I can hope my brother is the subject of her connection.
She tells me two women, one a sister-mother-sister-mother-sister?
She is confused and asks me if I understand this.
I giggle. If you know my story you’ll know that right about now is when I really began to pay attention.
She tell me me the smaller woman says “all the recipes ” are with my aunt.
Wow…I was looking for my grandmothers special “soft vanilla cookies” recipe for a while not but she never wrote down because she didn’t read or write. Incredible. Only my husband knew that.
“Yes the women are saying the recipe is written down…”
and I’m thinking…no it cant be. She was unable to read or write.
But then about three seconds later and out of “the blue”, my cousin suddenly appears at the bench to surprise me.
My aunts daughter.
I am completely stunned. No expecting to see her, in fact she didn’t even know I was working.
With no polite introductions to the other women on the bench I b
“OMG – this is HER!”
I had just mentioned her to the women doing my reading – the second before she walked up.
Followed indelicately with
“Louise! Do you have Gramma’s cookie recipe?!” To my wide eyed cousin.
“Yes of course. I have all her recipes written down. I did them myself.”
I had no idea.
Now we are four women, seconds ago most of us strangers hugging on the street, promising to exchange the magical cookie recipe.
Gramma came back to remind em that small things in love are important.
Those cookies were important.
And breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
For years now, since her cancer got really bad, Rita and I have been having this thing called “Breakfast with God”, where we would meet at the same restaurant in Ste Anne’s where she lived, eat whatever the hell we wanted (pancakes with chocolate chips AND syrup we a perfectly acceptable meal choice) and talk for a few hours about the Big Questions: life, death, relationships, politics, religion – nothing was out of bounds. We talked about things we disagreed on, things we agreed on – and ultimately we talked about God – and what we are , where we come from, where we go to. is there a place to go to? Did we have past lives? Are we here for a reason?
You know – breakfast fodder.
Rita would start…
“Soooo, Josie Brawlt, (she always said my name funny and sang it like a happy little song…), what do you thiiink…?” or something equally direct.
“Think?” I would reply coyly
“oh no no Rita – we have to learn NOT to think – or WATCH our thinking or something. But – apparently not actually spend much time with it – thinking is…pfft – overrated.”
“Well….i don’t agree…” and it would begin. Off to the races.
I love talking philosophy with Rita and these sidetracked convoluted conversations were the fruit of our meal.
I was always honest and so was she. I would watch her face as I spoke as it seemed like she was in a continuous contortion of trying to figure out how to contradict me, even before I had finished. This may have seemed temporarily annoying, but it had the effect of making me watch my words and be very clear in what i was saying. We created a safe “no bullshit zone”.
That’s the great part about a real friend – they can annoy you, and you still wanna come back out and play later. Nothing lingers because it dissolves in love.
I loved the safe feeling of that kind of unconditional love with my friend. I think sometimes we would disagree with each other just to remind each other that we had a vestige of safety when the world fell apart.
In thirty years of friendship, we spent some very long periods not seeing each other at all – and others where we were doing stuff all the time. It was just like that, like the waves of people that cross my path as I sit on the bench at work,remind me that everything happens when it supposed to.
Even if I don’t like it.
I realize that some people have a destiny to be there at exactly when you need them or when they need you. It is a universal law.
That we always get what we need if we stay open to receiving it, which when we are in pain, can be the hardest time.
Everyone is in pain somehow – sharing it with another person makes it both useful and less poignant.
Those years with Rita may have been fruitful but they were in no way easy.
I felt like I was watching a million lives spin around me at the time. Talk about powerlessness. At the same time as we were doing breakfast with God, I was going through my (biological) mother’s cancer. I had friends and family going through cancer. Other friends, on the ironic side of “things that suck in life” were committing suicide. It was a painfully transformative time in my life.
As I write this I realize that there is a nasty finality to these epitaphs, and i have had to write far too many, wrapping up the frayed edges of my grief to see what package I can carry with me of the person that once help space and presence in my life. people that had the potential to create new memories with – are now standing still in time in my mind – unable to move forward, but now can only smile at me with encouragement.
keep going Jo! Enjoy it all! It’s so beautiful – and short.
I hear them calling me. reminding me that I have a privilege in being here and having the choices that humans have to live life.
yes I am grateful. But I miss them.
I am painfully aware that i will never have anything new to write about Rita, or my mother, or my brother or the many many people that have left this life. But here’s the deal – if you have allot of people you love, there is a big big chance you will experience the loss of those or many of them.
There must be a way to manage this, for every person.
The gravity of the loss is linear and proportional to the love and presence you felt.
The suffering = the love?
One is here to teach about the other.
Surely that can be the only answer.
Meanwhile, I have other people offering to have “breakfast with God’ with me – which is cool but I’m afraid one of us needs to be dying – because that gave a clarity and a level of wisdom to our conversation that never would have occurred otherwise.
She reminded me all the time of certain simple things we shouldn’t forget- and I will leave you with what Rita would always tell me:
“Appreciate the little moments – the world is SO beautiful”
“Be nice to people but don’t hang around with assholes”
“Always tell a person when you’re grateful – don’t make them guess”.
“Call your mom every day”
She loved her friends and family very much.
I will very very much miss the love and clarity she brought to my life.
See you on the flip side my sweet friend.
Love you Reeetah Paul.