The words slammed into me with breath-taking velocity, and I felt my body slide right out its ribcage.
You want me to condemn my mother to death, I thought?
"I need to think about this," I said. The doctor nodded.
I was new to meditation, but quite sure I needed to find a quiet place to think, to pray, to listen for guidance. I figured the hospital must have a meditation room. Probably on the first floor, I reasoned, and so I slogged my way down the hallway, through disbelief and doubt, to the elevator.
The elevator, the one that had a mind of its own. It would not deliver me to the first floor, no matter how much I pushed the backlit button with the numeral one. It would not deliver any of its riders where they intended to go. Instead, the doors opened on all the wrong floors, and finally, in resignation, I stepped out on 3.
There it was, to my right. The meditation room. I entered a small room, a space of silence and sorrow and solace.
I sat on a piano bench, and within seconds, all emotional control vanished. I blubbered like the lost child I was. I cried, begged, prayed, stood up, paced, sat back down and beat my hands on my legs until I went numb and could finally catch my breath and wipe my nose and simply slump.
In the midst of my post-sob spasms, a woman quietly entered the room. She was tall, elegantly so, like a model from Africa. Even in scrubs and a poofy headcovering, she floated in like an incarnation of grace. She removed her shoes and drifted quietly to a basket in the corner. From it, she pulled two pieces of cloth and a small rug.
She unrolled the rug, wrapped one cloth around her waist, and the other, she draped over her head. She stepped lightly onto the mat and then she began to pray. Not the way I had, more like a dance. She folded her hands in front of her, bowed her head, and then bowed at the waist. She knelt, touched her forehead and palms to the floor, all the while repeating words that made no sense to me but sounded reverent and soothing.
I watched her every move, mesmerized as she repeated her movements and soft murmuring, and all I could think was: I want to learn to pray that way. I want to dance my prayers, too.
Then she stopped and she looked at me. Those eyes. Those incredible eyes. Such tender compassion. Such pure kindness. I blurted: "Will you teach me to pray that way?"
She smiled, and in her newly acquired English, she said, "I pray for you."
"My mother is dying." The sobs roared back like a tsunami. "I don't know what to do. If I choose hospice, it feels like I'd be killing her. I can't lose her. Maybe more antibiotics. Swallowing therapy. Thicken her fluids. What should I do?" I pleaded to this complete
She tilted her head to the side, walked over to me, pulled me into an embrace, then moved me back in front of her, still holding me. "I pray for you," she said. "We believe one God, too. I pray for you."
At that moment, my head became too heavy to hold up, and between the next wave of sobs and the dawning of understanding, I cannot remember her leaving the room. But it was empty when my composure returned. And I knew exactly what I needed to do.
People talk about seeing angels and long-lost relatives and auras and all kinds of extraordinary things during times when death is near. I can't say I've ever seen a winged human figure in a flowing white garb. But I can tell you without a doubt that I had an apparition that day: I caught a glimpse of
divinity in the finest that humankind has to offer.
And it was only the first of such apparitions that came during the next 3 days.
. . .to be continued