The start of 2020 has been a challenging time.
In my last post I talked about my daughter’s departure to finish her last semester much farther away than she’s ever been for any length of time. I thought that trip up the mountain in LA was my shift toward a new year filled with appreciation, faith and a renewed spirit.
A few days after my return home, a friend’s husband was killed in a helicopter crash. Her husband and the pilot were returning from DC and crashed suddenly in Pennsylvania. It was all over my hometown news because both men were widely known in the community.
My friend and I were inseparable in high school. In the summer before our senior year, I was performing at the local county fair as part of a community theatre production. My friend was working at one of the concessions. I introduced her to one of the guys on the stage crew. They ended up marrying years later, and remained together until his death.
I called her, expecting to leave a voicemail. She answered. I burst into tears. I couldn’t help myself. Her voice was calm and even. Here I was, calling to offer my love and support, and I was crying uncontrollably, barely able to get the words out. I apologized for losing it. I asked her what she needed. I was only 2 ½ hours from the crash site. I wanted to support her in whatever way I could. “What do you need?” I asked. “Pray for us,” she said.
The call ended, and as much as I wanted to jump in the car and go to her, I knew she had support. I meditated, and visualized her surrounded with healing hands. I released the voices echoing in my head that this wasn’t enough. How could this help? Moments like this can easily shatter any faith in a plan or destroy trust that the world makes any sense. We feel powerless. He was gone in an instant. Her journey was forever changed. Life took a raw, sharp turn. It felt senseless and random. My friend lost the love of her life.
Tragedies such as this remind us we are vulnerable, that loss is part of life. I was angry and extremely upset. This chapter was not supposed to end this fast. We assume our partner will pass of old age. We will be prepared. It will happen at an appropriate time. Not like this.
Two days later, I called her, and once again, she answered. We talked for almost two hours. I recognized my job in that moment was to simply be present, to let go of my need to offer advice or guidance. I listened. She told me what she knew thus far, the NTSB investigation taking place, the details of how she had to wait to get his body back home because of the mandatory autopsy. I realized that me being long distance was actually freeing her up to say things she couldn’t say to those nearby. She shared some graphic details about his death. She wanted to move forward as quickly as possible. There were moments when we actually laughed. She was not tearful. She needed to push forward.
My friend is incredibly strong. She’s the best friend you want in an emergency. She is all about handling it. One detail, one step at a time. She was refusing any sort of anxiety or sleep medication or alcohol. She wanted to be clear-headed. Her mission was to support her kids and give her husband the proper send off. She was tired of people giving her advice or whispering about her state of mind, or expecting her to be an emotional mess. She and I both knew this would hit her in time. It would probably happen in the small moments, the little things you begin to miss, the things you take for granted in the everyday rhythm of life.
A few days later, I traveled to my hometown. There was a wake for two days, and then the funeral. I was prepared to stay after once the crowds departed. My friend was surrounded by hundreds. I found myself wishing to get her alone, then realized, this isn’t about me. I practiced letting it go. I gave up wanting time alone with her. I gave up wanting to be the savior, that one special friend coming to the rescue. I am someone who likes to take charge, much like my friend. But this moment required me to be vulnerable and open without clear direction. I was rudderless. I surrendered.
The funeral itself couldn’t have been more beautiful. A Catholic Mass was held. My friend stood at the door greeting people, at times comforting them more than she was receiving. At the funeral, she held her head high. I watched her as her husband’s casket entered the church. She was present. She was witnessing the moment. I was in awe. I kept my focus on her, holding her high, focusing on the love and light. I silently offered blessings to those who cried, I allowed any thoughts of pain or upset to wash over me, but not land. My friend was far from numb. It was an energy of surrender. She was doing what she set out to do: Give him the right send off.
There was a reception after, followed by a gathering at her home. Whenever I found myself judging that there were too many people or that she wasn’t allowing herself time alone, I let it go. This is how she needed it to happen. The following day, she was busy dealing with lawyers and accountants, all part of figuring out next steps related to the family businesses. People needed answers. Documents and checks needed signing. That evening, I went to her home after dinner. Part of me didn’t want to go because I didn’t feel needed and was uncomfortable being around so many people again. I realized this was my story. I released the thought, and drove to her house.
There were still a lot of family members present, and another friend visiting from afar. Shortly after I arrived, everyone began heading out. Suddenly, it was just the two of us. I realized when I let go of my need for a specific outcome, the space opened for things to happen at the perfect time. We talked into the night. It was as if no time had passed. We connected. We reminisced, connecting more intimately and openly than ever before. We talked about our marriages, our children, the setbacks, the sad times, the disappointments, the losses, the joys. Nothing was off limits.
As the evening ended, I knew I had done what I intended to do and it went beyond what I had hoped. It was time for me to return home.
This whole experience validated a few things for me…
1. The energy we bring to any situation matters. When we are willing to let go of the “shoulds” or the “wants” or the resentments or the egoic complaints and insecurities, we shift into a very powerful place.
2. When we get out of our own way, and allow things to unfold with the highest good in mind, the exact right thing happens. When in doubt, surrender and be of service.
3. When we release the need for a specific outcome, we receive something better than we hoped for or imagined.
This tragedy brought with it some deeply beautiful experiences. I witnessed so much love despite the sadness and shock of the loss. I connected with more people in those few days than I have in a very long time. I was reminded how powerfully healing human connection can be.
I received validation that in every moment we have a choice as to how we perceive our circumstances. We can meet the moment with our highest vibration or retreat from it. If we choose retreat, we allow those old stories and beliefs to steal more precious time and energy. We can choose to allow fear, shame, embarrassment or resentments to clog up our lives, OR we can choose surrender and love. It requires a conscious effort. Making the shift takes practice.
How we meet the moment matters. Surrendering can feel uncomfortable. It is the complete opposite of what we think we should do in moments of stress or tragedy. Yet, when we put up our defenses and allow fear to take hold, we actually fuel the negativity and darkness, and we block the support, guidance and love available to us. Choose surrender. Choose love. Your light matters. How you meet the moment matters.