When I was younger and immersed in my Roman Catholic upbringing, I learned (or thought I learned) some things about God and prayer. One point was that every prayer is answered…. The better you pray, the more likely to get what you asked for. Then I learned that every prayer is answered and the answers are YES, No, Not Now.
Somehow I needed to believe that Someone was listening to me …. besides myself … so I went on with the idea that surely god was listening and even ready to respond in some way.
I read about Therese of Lisieux, a girl who cam to be known as “The Little Flower” and her simple life, and how she became a saint by being ordinary in extraordinary ways…. And people who prayer to God with her as a friend had a special inside seat. I loved her story because she was so real… crying when she spilt her lunch tray, worried about her sisters,… losing her mother and adoring her father/Father.
She said she’d send down rose petals from heaven after death, that she would not end her searching for souls in need of prayer – ever.
Once dear Aunt Annie told me about her encounter with “Theresa” in the nursing home, and I realized she probably had encountered the Flower. Was this wishful thinking?
Why did I get into the habit of praying to grandma, and talking to Andy, and all? I supposed, first, because in life they had listened to me. Andy was simply a boy cousin, busy with his stuff and with my brother, who skyrocketed to “holiness” by dying of cancer at sixteen. Idealize, I think they call it…. perhaps a personality disorder…. whatever..
When I was in the convent we had meditation for a half hour in the dark early mornings, and I remember trying to read the stories and think about them, sometimes focus on a line, or sometimes feeling something …. Longing, warmth, but never sharing what happened in that time/space/practice with anyone. Once in a while I would feel really good, and I thought that was what holy people felt. Of course, as a chronic depressive, I looked upon these mood elevations as a rare happening that bordered, at least in my mind, on the miraculous.
When I took up meditation again recently – in the past few years – it wasn’t about unity with God, getting a good rush of feeling, or anything. It was a suggestion from Buddhism … just breathe. Well, not just breathe, but pay attention to the breath – in and out-smile, etc. The in-out is common to spiritual practices – emptying out so you can fill up again…. Emptying out bad to make room for good…. Emptying out guilt to make room for a tiny bit of self-esteem …. Just a smidgeon.
When I was in North Dakota and my friend there whose daughter died told me about meeting with a medium, I was curious and open-mindedly listened and asked questions. During my rides up to Grand Forks or down to Fargo, I sometimes felt a really good calm …. Serenity, perhaps from getting away from the town where I lived in a glass house … or perhaps because there was a thin space there.
Thin space is where the sacred and the worldly are separated only slightly … where the spiritual is close to the surface. Native peoples believe this, and if ever there were a land full of ancestors, ND was it! There was something about the flat roads, which nonetheless had a quiet rhythm in the in-between times when there were neither blizzards nor blazing summer heat…. Something very comforting. I had my clearest thoughts along I 29. One time I felt that Christie was nudging me about a picnic, where she abided…. And needed for me to share this. I felt such an urgency, that she was impatient that I talk to her father – that I actually stopped in and told him about the experience and he nodded…. She was like that … now! now! now!…. Do it now.
I watch Ghost Whisperer for some reason and the more I watch, the more I feel that because I do not have any “special gift” like psychic connection that I’m just not that relevant. I think I believed that if you believed, and if you practiced long enough and hard enough, and if God gave you sprinkles of grace now and then, you could be in touch with more than this world and its limitations. That there was a big reunion in the sky with all the ones who’ve gone before … that they would be waiting for us, after we died, and that we’d never be lonely or afraid or incomplete again. Now I wonder.
Now I think we are as we are, incomplete, partly broken, with some little gifts like kindness or courage or something!!! but why would this life turn right side up only after we died? Are we supposed to be satisfied with hints of joy, a bit of laughter, a shaky hold on contentment, always dealing with loss and pain, and more loss and pain, and a little bit of joy … on and on.
What if there is no afterward? What do those feelings I used to have mean? Are they a manifestation of deep needs never fulfilled, or a desire to be “special.”