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In the garden

Too many funerals lately. I even have a “funeral dress,” a pretty black and white number that I never imagined would be put to such sad use, but there you go.

This past Saturday I attended the memorial of a dear friend who died much before his time. I know he and his family would not mind me using his Irish name here, so I will – Shamus, I miss you.

Shamus was quite possibly the kindest, gentlest man it has ever been my privilege to know. And he loved me – loved my singing, loved my preaching, loved my writing, and thought the sun rose and set on me. Of course it rises and sets on everyone, but no need to tell him that. He was a constant source of affirmation and encouragement. And I believe I blessed him with comfort and joy too. He came to my book launch, front row centre, and said he wouldn’t have missed it for the world. His heart was wide open and he was easily moved to tears. He read from the Passion according to St. Matthew one Good Friday, and could not keep the tremor out of his voice nor the tears from his eyes. As his love, so his wounds went deep, and one Sunday after I preached on forgiveness, he approached me afterward and managed to choke out, “What you said…it’s so hard…” And I told him if he started to cry he’d take me with him and then the whole church after that.

He suffered a stroke a few months ago at the age of 66 and The Mister and I visited him in hospital a couple of times. His right side was paralyzed and except for a few small words – yes, no, but, oh – he was non-verbal, a great trial since Shamus loved to talk. His frustration was evident, but he was so obviously glad to see us, his face lit with delight, his eyes dancing.

He was making progress and was discharged home. But within a few days, took a fatal heart attack and there we were, at another memorial service saying goodbye.

I don’t generally go to funeral luncheons as I have some dietary restrictions that make eating out quite a challenge. So The Mister brought me home and returned to the K of C Hall to look after a disabled friend who needs assistance to get around. Before I went into the house, I checked the plants in my little container garden. They needed water…badly.

“I’m so glad you guys are such a hardy lot,” I told them, “because I am the worse plant mama ever!

I didn’t change out of my funeral dress or jewellery, just grabbed my watering cans and went back outside.

And it was so beautiful! There was a grand quiet over everything, a sacred hush some might call it, just the wind in the trees. Such deep peace entered my soul as I went from box to box, pinching off some dead leaves here, a trailing vine there. I took another minute to stand there and drink it all in, then turned, my hand on the door handle to go back inside. Before I could though, a mourning dove (ironic name) swooped in under the tree right by my shoulder and perched on a branch jutting out from the fire pit only a few feet away. I was startled and froze, staring at it. It stared right back, the usually timid bird cocking his head this way and that, taking me in from all angles. After a few moments a name came unbidden to my mind.


It continued to sit there and gaze at me for maybe a minute before taking flight once more. And I wondered if I had just had a visitation.

I’m reading a book right now by Caroline Myss called Sacred Contracts, in which she posits the idea that before we’re born, we enter into contracts with everyone we’re going to meet in our lives, and these people, the positive and negative, agree to help us achieve our ultimate goal in this life, spiritual transformation. Some contracts are painful, others joyous, all to our benefit if we choose to see it that way.

It seemed to me in those few moments in my quiet garden watching that winged spirit perhaps Shamus was delivering a message to me: “Contract fufilled, sweetheart. Just thought I’d stop by on my way home and say thanks…for everything.”

Godspeed, my friend.

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