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Il a Pris le Chemin de la Lumière

Two weeks ago I could not have written this. Even now I am not sure, reluctant to follow the thread of my thoughts but at the same time aware that it is time to reach out to my yoga friends. There might even be some yoga lesson to emerge from this, yet that is not certain. What follows is intensely personal, raw feeling that I am holding very close. It is always there, behind every smile, every laugh, every activity that I have thrust myself into with enthusiasm this past month, because life continues to flow. I am in that flow right now, even as I am drowning in a sea of grief.

I arrived back to Dublin very late on February 27th, on one of the last flights into Ireland before the snow set in. For the next few days, snow continued to fall, blanketing everything in white. Transport stopped. Schools and work places closed. I was supposed to start my Philosophy Module at the Elbow Room on March 1st. It did not happen. Instead, I was home by the fire, enjoying the silence, the uncertainty about what was happening next, the time outside of time and the serendipitous space it made. What I had so carefully planned and anticipated had been derailed, and though rescheduling would be a hassle, the snow days brought peace.

I reread James Joyce’s story “The Dead” for the last pages that I love so much. I cried when I first read them forty years ago . . . and have cried every time since. Haunting words about old love growing stronger with death, about lives passing into shades, and about snow—the great equaliser—obliterating all into formlessness. As I would discover in the morning, it was fitting in more ways than I thought at the time.

“One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt that way towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, falling softly into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

With the snow still thick over my garden, I went to sleep peacefully with those words, Saturday evening, March 3rd. Then very early Sunday morning, my phone rang with news from France to shatter everything. My first husband had passed away the evening before. “NO,” I cried to myself . . . the suddenness, the shock, the disbelief, and then the overwhelming tears of grief. I wondered strangely at the thought that had led me to reread “The Dead” the day before.

Roland was a beautiful soul—loving and loved, kind, intelligent, funny, with a boundless generosity of heart—yet wounded too, tragically, though in his pain there was beauty too. He was my youth, a time when hope and possibility feel endless. And did we have the adventures together! I was twenty-two when I met him, and though our marriage ended before I was thirty, he has been a part of my life ever since. More even than a dear friend, he is my brother.

It is very difficult for me to write all this to you, but also therapeutic—even though I can hardly see the screen for my tears. “Tu pleures comme une Madeleine,” he used to say . . . and today is Good Friday, dismal and dreary outside, Magdalene at the foot of the cross . . . it all somehow connects. Last March my dad passed away. This March my first true love has passed on. It is strange, but this one feels worse. With Dad at least there was time to say good-bye, and he had lived a long full life.

But Roland was too young. He left too suddenly. We did not have closure. In fact, he was supposed to come visit me in Sardinia this spring. That was our plan. I would take care of him in the sunshine; and I had things I wanted to say too. The last texts between us were on that subject, details about travel and flights. We were going to make it happen. But the cosmos had a different idea.

Two days after my Philosophy Module should have finished, I was on a flight to Paris. It was exactly one week after I had arrived back in Dublin airport, ready to execute Plan A. I was numb with the shock of Plan B.

IMG_0173At his funeral, I saw family and friends whom I had not seen in forty years. Time collapsed into a point. That bald “50-something” man was the little blond cherub I had known. A recent friend of Roland’s whom I did not know before came up to me, saying how much he had heard about me and how important it felt finally to meet me. Something in that man’s eyes met mine with an electric quality that I will never forget. I believe it was the shared knowledge of Roland—in all its beautiful complexity—in both of us.

Those four days in France were also time suspended, this time by grief not snow. It was a comfort to me to be back with my former French family, with his sisters who also belonged to my youth, but also with his two children and their mother. I spent most of my time together with them, hugging and crying, laughing and reminiscing.

Regret compounded my grief. I had known Roland was not well. Thoughts about what might have been plagued me. I should not have been waiting for the spring. I should have gone to see him before Christmas. I had actually been in another part of France in early October–though with too many other things to do, so was happy (so I thought) to wait for the spring and its promise of sunshine. I trusted that all would be OK. Yet I should have been paying attention to certain signs. I should have been watching his Vedic chart, because when I studied it afterwards, I saw how the extraordinary line-up of energy on Aquarius in February and early March—which was exhilaratingly positive for so many—for him was hitting the house of death, along with other sinister indicators as well. But I was not paying attention to these things. I was busy with my “Plan A”.

As you all know, I write a lot in this space about free will and destiny, with the pointlessness of regret being a logical conclusion. I do believe all that. I understand it deeply, my friends. It is clear to me without a doubt how all happenings occur according to complex configurations of cosmic law, outside the control of anyone. There is a karmic necessity in the unfolding of events, also known as the Will of God. At every juncture of time in my communication with him these past months, I remember why what happened through me happened, the reasons and the triggers; and if selfish motive was a part of it, it is because myopia belongs to this framework of mine. I know very well that the body-mind instrument that I call “me” is too often on the lookout for personal advantage and misses important signs outside that horizon. I did not drop everything and run to him when I could have, when he was still alive . . . when maybe, maybe, something happening through me might have made a difference. And so this element of regret is with me now, a layer of sadness even though I accept it could not have been otherwise.

It is hard to explain how both of these vistas are with me. On the one hand, I trust the wisdom of the cosmos. My heart beats with the mantra, fiat voluntas tua. This truth I know, and it is not a question of my surrender. It just IS. It is unshakeable faith, tested many times over in my life and now a certainty: a solace that puts everything into a larger perspective and brings me peace. Yet at the same time, the “what if” thoughts are still there . . . playing out alternate scenarios in an alternate universe.

The state of mind these two forces create is bringing an almost unbearable poignancy to the present moment . . . as well as a profound urgency around time. One of the most important relationships of my life has come to completion on this earth plane, its beginning and end in time clearly marked by scenes printed indelibly in memory. It began on a bright autumn day in Bagnolet on the outskirts of Paris. I was wearing my brown Scottish cape, which I still have, moth-eaten and worn, a relic. His skin and hair were luminous with the sunlight, which I was walking into when I first saw him. It ended forty-four years later, when I kissed his forehead in his coffin.

2014-03-08 12.15.42Life takes on a shape. Epochs like objects have beginnings and endings, because as the Buddhists say, all composite things are impermanent. Now is the time after, and I feel that a part of me too has returned to dust. My last few hours in France, I did not want to leave. Being with his people, being in his house, was a way of staying close. I knew that when I returned to Ireland, I would be back to a place where all those things had no reality so did not matter. But the clock was ticking. I had a train and plane to catch. The next day I had a yoga workshop to teach in Wexford. All that felt surreal. What mattered was there around his table, the last meal being shared. I was sitting next to the mother of his children, another beautiful soul, his son was holding forth, full of fire and conviction, idealism and courage. She and I looked at each other, laughing, crying and hugging each other, saying at the same time, Roland . . . because there he was, living and speaking through his son, same mannerisms, same expressions, same passion for ideas, same handsome, chiselled face; so alive.

Now it has been almost a month. Bittersweet is memory. Bitter or sweet are the moments of present time, creating a rhythm. Joys feel sweeter—more intense, less diluted by the mind wanting to be elsewhere, moments when I am there with the matter at hand and feeling whatever it is so totally. Yesterday I took my granddaughters out for shopping and ice cream, so beautiful. Last weekend I taught my Pranayama Module at the Elbow Room to a beautiful group of yogis. On both of those occasions, the present moment swept me up with sweetness so pure. It actually happens often, the present moment eclipsing the well of memory. But whenever space opens up—when alone in the car, on a walk, and particularly in my yoga practice, grief floods back, tears flow, and Roland is there, calling to me from the light.

I have been telling myself that I needed to write something before Easter. In just over a week I’ll be gone again, back to Sardinia, and I have not contacted all my dear friends whom I usually see when I am in Dublin. I am sorry, dear ones, I think of you and hope to see you again before too long. But my feelings have been too raw this month. It has been enough for me to carry on with the teachings and readings that I had scheduled.

But Easter is the Feast of the Resurrection, and I wanted to write for this occasion too. I wanted to send all of you my heartfelt wishes for a very Happy Easter. In this moment, I am quite literally in Good Friday, letting go and letting be. Yesterday in the car my granddaughter asked why it isn’t called “Bad Friday”, since it is the day Jesus died. Excellent question, I thought, and tried to answer it for her.

A seed needs to break free of its shell before it can grow into the light. Good Friday is good because it makes resurrection possible, and Resurrection is karma playing out on the grandest cosmic scale. Because death is not the end, because life is eternal, because the Risen Christ demonstrates in a linear way the truth of Divine Spirit or Ultimate Reality or that sublime stillness which subsumes everything and which snow recalls—which never dies because is never born, which just IS, and which is the true essence of all that moves and breathes. The Easter message is the same message that Krishna teaches in the Gita, with different language, different metaphor. It is the vision of Eternal Light . . . and Life Eternal.

According to linear time, a part of me has gone with Roland. I am holding fast to that, savouring it, relishing it, crying over it every day. Yet according to ultimate time, he is here with me now as he has always been, always was and always will be. He has taken a direct path into the light. And it is there in that light eternal, that light of a thousand suns that dazzled Arjuna, that light of the Risen Christ, that blazing light of Surya which keeps this planet of ours whirling through space and time, that light—which if it finds us—is pure Grace, and which if it has not yet— yoga practice is a most peaceful place to wait and pass the time; it is there in that light eternal where his soul—and the souls of all of us actually, living or dead—rest in perfect peace, now and always.

Il a pris le chemin de la lumière. À très bientôt, mon cher. J’arrive.

One thought on “Il a Pris le Chemin de la Lumière”

  1. Thankyou for writing that Marianne.
    It is so beautifully expressed.
    May he Rest In Peace.

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