Promise me you’ll find me… I have heard this from more than one person who is dying, embracing the idea of never seeing loved ones again, yet hoping that when the other dies, they will be reunited. Promise me you’ll find me… within those 5 little words is a symphony, a song on the lips, singing out a lifetime of the relationship. Say the words out loud, “Promise me you’ll find me…” and let it hang in the air, echoing through you. That statement you have just spoken is one of the most powerful requests we can make of another human being.
This past week marked the one-year anniversary of Janine’s (my cousin) death, and two weeks ago marked nine years since my beloved Frank died. Both of them too young, both of them dying horribly painful deaths, and both of them giving to the world all they had – body, mind and spirit. Both so fully passionate about all aspects of life, about one’s relationship with spirit, and caring for another at the deepest place of being, not clinging to anything other than the wholeness of our humanity and divinity. And both asking me to promise that I would find them.
Then a few days ago, a tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, which is a couple hours south of where I live, destroying a good bit of the town, including the Unity church, and killing more than 120. And fast approaching is Memorial Day weekend – a time to remember those who have died in service to our country. So my thoughts have been on my own experiences of loss, things unknown and what it means to me to promise someone I will find them.
I think about those first hours in Joplin when people were searching for loved ones, for personal belongings scattered for miles. I wonder about the families and friends of those in the military who are never coming home. I see the faces of those who still wait, some for decades, wondering if a family member who disappeared while serving our country is dead or alive, wandering in the great unknowing, yearning for a little peace of mind.
Promise me you’ll find me. I used to think it meant that when I am dead I will be with my father again, or my brother, or Janine or Frank, which I do believe, but why do I need to wait til then? And is this really what someone means when they ask me to promise? I don’t think it is. Any time someone has asked me to promise I would find them, there has been some worry mixed in with my love and sadness because I knew there was more behind the request, but I couldn’t connect to what more it may mean.
As I make my way in life I see more and more how I am called to bridge myself with all life. When I bridge myself and stand naked before death, open to the request of promising to find a loved one, I begin to know what is good, true and beautiful about those I love, and what is behind this most precious promise.
I needed to spend a long time with his song playing, breathing me slowly, and bringing his dying to life. The wings of his life had broken in order to give flight to this woman.
So what did Frank want me to find? I think it’s the unrepeatable expressions of him that are only Frank. There were many things about him that I have never experienced in any other human being. One of the most profound is that more than anyone else I have ever known he was able to love what is – being with all that is, in any given moment, and embracing it to find the oneness in all, whether it was his deepest sorrow, or his greatest delight.
This week I sat in a retreat with a woman who, for decades, had been learning many different modalities to “fix” her brokenness. Like so many of us, there is a belief that we need to transcend the human condition, that this physical world isn’t “real,” or that heaven on earth needs to be something different than the life that is right in front of us.
As I watched her open to a new world, finding those unlived and unloved portions of herself, I could see the torn edges of her years of effort to transform her essential self. For the first time she saw that the torn edges were the most beautiful ones – unique and simply exquisite, not something to fix, but something to embrace. Her deepest sorrows and greatest delights had come to life in front of me.
In the blink of an eye, as I listened to her share her realization through tears of anguish and gratitude – I found Frank. I had promised him I would find him, and I did. I haven’t found him often, not for lack of trying, but simply because I needed to spend a long time with his song playing, breathing me slowly, and bringing his dying to life. The wings of his life had broken in order to give flight to this woman.
I am reminded of words from Winnie-the-Pooh, “Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would I’d never leave.” I promise to find you, and in that promise I give loved ones permission to leave, I am bridging myself with all life, crossing that bridge to a land where you and I are each other.