(Written last year, but on my mind once again)
Grandpa and Grandma Busch
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke has been the subject of many of my writings and his words linger in my heart, a constant compass for a wandering soul. Questions will never cease, similar to the steady march of time. I have learned to swim in the depths of these questions without demanding clarity from above, enjoying living in a space with no defined boundaries. It is a freedom of sorts coupled with an understanding of an unspoken knowing.
Knowing my intention, Dylan gifted a mediumship class as an early birthday present. With some trepidation, I stepped into this experience trying to receive all with an open mind. I have never considered myself a medium but rather prefer dwelling in the realm of premonition, intuition and vision. The spirit world has at times challenged this self definition, but in general this is my way of connecting with this space.
During one of the class meditations, we were asked to have a phone conversation with a loved one who had passed. My immediate thought was of my grandmothers who have supported me spiritually on many occasions. As women, we have a strong bond and I naively assumed this to be the case once more.
Relaxing into guided meditation, I found myself in a 1900 era parlor. The cozy warmth embraced like a thick winter blanket and a crackling fire and nearby sofa welcomed me. Behind the sofa, rested bookshelves filled with mysterious titles. Somehow, I knew these were my books, the keepers of knowledge, the gateway to my curiosity. Next to the sofa rested an ornate end table where a candlestick phone sat. Instinctively picking up the earpiece, I heard a distant ringing drawing my attention. The voice heard on the other end of the line was very different from messengers of the past.
Recognizing this voice as my grandfather, his presence filled the room. Grandpa Busch was a constant source of strong and stubborn energy. He was a Popeye of sorts, gruff but lovable. His life was peppered with hardship and he carried that hardship with him, tucked away in the shadows of his soul. Grandpa was not the teddy bear type and I have very few memories of him being openly affectionate with me. Regardless, I knew he loved me.
Shocked by his reemergence into my world, I said a tentative hello. He immediately began to speak, “You are soft Lavinia”. Somehow I understood this to be a reference to my manner, my gentleness and sensitivity. He continued with “Your father and I are hard, we had to be to survive”. This comparison might have been received as unwelcome, but somehow I understood what he was trying to say. He continued with, “We were hard so you can be soft. It is your strength and gift. You are whole just as you are.”
Tears began to well up in my eyes and suddenly I found myself standing at the bottom of a grand staircase with grandpa next to me. He wrapped his arms around me and gave the warmest hug. It was as if he tethered his soul to mine for just this moment, erasing the incessant feeling of being unmoored. It was so deeply felt.
I asked him, “Why must I suffer, I just want to go home?” A question certainly in reference to the hardship, pain and sickness that has followed me with great determination during this life. He pointed to the stairway and said, ” Patience Lavinia. Just take one step at a time.” Even in this meditative state, I could feel the wetness of my cheeks and feel my heart trying to absorb all the love he was offering.
Looking up to what I knew to be “home” was a spectacular light emanating a soul-felt love of the unknown. Wanting nothing more than to be in this light, I tentatively took a step. Just as I did, a gate appeared out of nowhere blocking my way. I looked to my grandfather in horror, feeling the wall of my pain stopping me from reaching home. He smiled tenderly and said once again, “Just one step at a time Lavinia.” The gate faded away and to my great relief, my journey up the stairs continued.
Upon reaching the top and feeling the closeness of the light, and the unconditional love therein, I took a moment and looked back down the stairs. Standing at the bottom was myself. I acknowledged this version of myself from another space and time. The me at the bottom had a look of resolve knowing the journey yet to come. In this moment, my longing heart understood the cyclical path of the soul. We must return to the bottom again and again to learn, and live a flawed and wonderful life in all of its crazy mysteries.
In reflection, this moving experience is a perfect metaphor for the mystics path. It is only in walking the steps with a patient and loving heart in which we walk into the answers. We will often feel lost on the way, but when looking back over a lifetime, all will become clear. We must learn to be comfortable with this uncertain in-between, the proverbial unknown. No labels or assurances. Such is the path we are on.
It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.
Fathers day arrived the next weekend and I called my father to share this vision with him. It was his father who had chosen to speak to me and It felt right to share. After retelling the story, tears once again welled up in my eyes. My father thanked me for this unique fathers day gift. He shared a few stories about his father, further supporting Grandpa’s need to be strong in his lifetime. Grandpa came from a large farming family in Minnesota, had very little education and was a truck driver by trade. Grandpa continued to drive during the teamsters’ strike to support his family and had many run-ins with the teamsters, some violent. He was tasked with carrying the dead off the battlefields during WWI and his first wife died during labor leaving him grieving with a newborn daughter. A number of years later, this daughter was taken by her maternal grandparents in what can only be viewed as a power play. A few years later, my father contracted polio and was paralyzed from the neck down for a year.
All these challenges affected my grandmother deeply and left her fragile in ways a youngster like myself could not clearly define. Later in life, when my grandmother was in the throes of Alzheimer’s, she reverted back to the time she had spent on the back of my grandfather’s truck as a young girl. As if she had scrubbed her memories of hardships to dwell in a place of peaceful love. No, their life was not an easy one, and many walls were erected simply to survive.
I could hear in my fathers voice a slight quiver, understanding by his tone he was deeply touched. He too has held on to vestiges of this stiff upper lip mentality which had inadvertently trickled down to my feelings of differentness. Always sensing that somehow my sensitivity was a flaw, I too buried many of my feelings deep inside until life events forced a reckoning. These untended feelings came pouring out, like a faucet turned on after many years. It felt as if gallons of unacknowledged feelings were flooding my senses.
My father said to me, “Lavinia, you can only be who you are.” Somehow this cryptically echoed what his own father had said when he stated, “You are whole.” My desire to live in the questions, taking a different path than others in my family, is who I am meant to be. Seeing the world differently is neither good or bad, it just is. No apologies are required when being truthful to one’s soul.
“I know you’re tired but come, this is the way.”
― Jalalu’l-din Rumi
Reading Rilke’s quote above, it is clear his work will forever touch the delicate nerves of my sensitivity, unbinding them from places in which they have been hiding. I don’t need to know all the answers anymore. My acceptance of things unknown is inherent to who I am and allows me to walk up the stairway of life unencumbered by walls of uncertainty. While this esoteric sensibility does not provide instructions for the day to day operations of living, it allows a comfortable understanding that “home” will be attainable in due time. Remaining patient during this process is my life lesson and one I have been asked to embrace fully.