Leaning over her, in blue scrubs, his red crew-cut and beard shining in the afternoon sun, they were an unlikely dance pair, certainly not candidates on '"Idol." She, with her sparkling, close-cropped, platinum curls framing a mischievous, if not cherubic smile, and he, with serious tasks on his mind -- you would not have guessed that Patricia and Jeremy would be meeting quite this way. We come into each other's lives not because we have nothing better to do. We bring the gift of our evolving story to one another.
Jeremy's a returning Army veteran, with two tours in Iraq under his belt by the time he reached 20. This week, he celebrates his 24th birthday, having seen and experienced things for which there are no words. (I know this, because long ago, when I cared for the injured in Viet Nam, there was no sane way to navigate the terror they re-encountered for years. Back then, often, I brought along a sketch pad to draw the imagery soldiers used to describe their struggle to come to terms with the questions, who are you? What's your purpose? Are you alone in the universe? It seemed to help.)
But, Jeremy had no sketches, just rage he brought home with his duffel. "It's taken me a lot of time to just deal with it all, to just come home and feel like I am home, and to go on." He says this, while handing Patricia her medication, offering water, and adjusting her wheelchair. Jeremy tells us about the 24 men lost in his platoon, how it was to watch his best friend "bleed out," because, as he put it, " ... the medic didn't know what he was doing. I'd gotten to my buddy right away when he was hit, but my job was just to be first there, so I got the medic ... I watched helplessly as G. died. Right then, and right there, I decided to become a surgeon. That was four years ago. I brought back an awful lot of anger. Some P.T.S.D. days are really hard. But next week, I start courses leading to med school."
That's Jeremy's "side" of this love story. Ever heard the saying "physician, heal thyself?" Some casualties of war are invisible, but just as deep. I'm reminded of poet David Whyte's message: it's through the rawness of our wound that we touch the world.
Little does Jeremy know yet that the woman known to him as "patient" is a master when it comes to healing all sorts of hurts. Over the course of her nearly 8 decades, Patricia Boyce has inspired everyone who's been fortunate enough to cross her path. Maybe you know people whose Light shines so brightly in the darkness, that simply being in their atmosphere is a reminder of what counts? That's her. Despite the haze in Patty's azure blue eyes, residual remnant from macular degeneration, she's like a combination sun/moon/stars all rolled into this diminutive package, now seated in a recently acquired wheelchair.
Here's a few Cliff Notes: after having raised 8 kids, and then, lost her eyesight, this independent Florence Nightingale moved in to care for her aging mother with Alzheimer's. A short time later, as Patti realized she felt anxious walking along a busy street to get their groceries, she refused to dwell in fear. Instead, she went to Europe, solo. Patty figured if she could manage an international journey alone, without the benefit of outer vision, she could certainly feel confident to walk along well-trafficked streets at home. It worked. After her mom died, Patricia moved to a new town, again stepping up her game, living independently. Following her own internal G.P.S. (God-positioning-system) as she began a new life chapter, met the locals, became a radio talk-show host, and rode the leading elephant when the circus came to town,. Oh, did I mention she was in her early seventies at the time? A few weeks ago, Patricia realized she'd suffered a stroke, dragged herself to the bathroom, then to the phone, then to the front door to let the medics in, all while her left side was completely paralyzed. Taken to the nursing home where Jeremy works, their paths crossed as they launched a mutually beneficial healing project.
Routinely, we get so distracted by what's awful, that we miss the miracles. Violence, accidents, and negativity have a way of stealing our focus. Not in this room. In either of their circumstances, how many of us would be singing the "ain't it awful, blues?." Unlike them, we tend not to think of our problems as saviors. But, for folks like Jeremy and Patricia, what appears as a setback becomes a portal to the uncharted possibility, to connection, to the One Life of which we are a part.
We, like the honeybee, come with beautiful purpose, even when, temporarily, we lose our way. It's not what we lose, or even who we lose, that defines our future. It's what we do with what we've lost, whether we choose to grow, to step up. Jeremy uses his consciously lived grief to transform his trauma, bringing to Patty's side what she needs. Patty uses her inner wisdom, and life experience to minister to this brave soldier's pain, modeling with humility, an improved way to "see" through eyes of compassion, humor and light. Each encourages the other to accept the baby steps, the sweetness of one another's offering, the mutual respect for their journey, demons, and hope, when it, too, arrives. We come into one another's lives to connect, to grow, to remind each other we are part of a greater Lover Story, if we have eyes to see, minds that are open, hearts that dare accessibility, hands willing to reach out.
Over the past few weeks, I've reported stories that have come unexpectedly. Each week, as I visit amazing beacons like Patricia, and meet the "Jeremy's," "Joeys," "Fiona's," (see Post "How Alive is Your Love,") and the "Dereje's", (see Post "What Is This Thing Called Love?"), I walk away with deepening appreciation for Mary Oliver's sentiment, described in "When Death Comes":
"... I want to be a bride married to amazement ..." Such amazement is the natural end result spawned from returning to what's possible in the moment, if we are willing to stop the whining, and flow with what is. Emerson, put it this way:
" ... our life might be much easier and simpler than we make it; the world might be a happier place than it is; there is no need of struggles, convulsions, and despairs of the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. We miscreate our own evils. We interfere with nature."
The great news is that Master Teachers are everywhere, reminding us of the healing power of flowing with "what is". Perhaps our paths will cross in nursing homes, restrooms, taxi cabs, playgrounds, conference ballrooms, ferry lines, airports, and right here, on the HP, where readers like you show up, and generously share. So often, we believe that avatars live as the exception amongst us. I'm not so sure. Certainly, there are those like Amma, ( see "What is This Thing Called Love?"), carrying the archetype of divine love, impressively. But, what touches me every bit as much, are the "every day folks," out here, "in the trenches," who become masters of love in service to a Greater Love, of which we are each a part, even on bad hair days, even when we are nasty, and should have bitten our tongue, even when we seem pretty clueless as to how we might have made it up to now without being punched!
Perhaps it all comes down to Love, to our choice about our relationship to the truth. Love's time has come. If you see the Master Teachers as the Great Exception, points out Ernest Holmes, then you believe you must seek outside yourself for the goodies, with little begging bowl, in hand. What Jeremy and Patricia model, as well as the aforementioned, is the power of the Law of Attention. People like these focus on what is working, what can expand, how they might grow, not, what is no longer. They have "more" because they are willing to embrace more. Said the Buddha:
"Everything you give out plants a seed."
Theirs is a mighty fine garden.
It is no longer enough to be what's been called "a child of the Universe." We are at a place in human history when we are charged with becoming Sons and Daughters of the One Family that is this world. We are charged with becoming instruments of greater Good, not in a sentimental sense, but through very concrete decisions and acts which are more humane, encouraging, uplifting, something more intimate than we've ever lived before. It's all in how we hold the truth of who we are in relationship to the present moment, trusting that those who cross our path do so with purpose, even if we are unaware of the footprints that have brought them into our lives.
Jeremy and Patricia are what I call "The Love Project" People. Although they've never heard the term (see carabarker.net), they are well engaged.
What's touches you lately? What brings a sense of healing? What inspires you? What message would you be willing to send Jeremy or Patricia? I'm listening. Meanwhile, thanks for passing this along to others. The more, the merrier!
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Coming Autumn 2010, a teleconference program! Follow Dr. Cara Barker on www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker.
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