Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
The Little Drama vs. the Big Picture
Yesterday I made love to my home. I reclaimed her as my sanctuary. I
got down on my hands and knees and actually reached under furniture,
damp dusted the underside of things where the dog hair clung, carefully
rewound the Christmas tree lights, dragged the tree outside, vacuumed
the pine needles from under the carpet, and put the gasping poinsettias
outside to “go to sleep.”
There are two significant aspects of this; one is that I normally mutter
and spit through a perfunctory swiping of the floor—gathering the
tumbleweeds of pet hair, and not quite reaching the corners. I usually
make a joke that the maid will get the rest—but I am she…and well,
you just can’t get good help these days. The second is that I am putting
my home in order after the first Christmas and New Year since my
beloved husband George’s death, last February.
Three weeks ago I was ready to bolt. I was going to take my sons to
a beach somewhere and let the holiday roll right on past. It was my
younger son who stopped me in my tracks. He said, “I don’t know
why you have a problem with Christmas. Last year wasn’t our best
Christmas, for sure, but this is our home and this is where we should
be.” In those words and in his wise young eyes was the absolute spirit
of George. It is just what he would have said. I hugged him in relief for
his clarity and the three of us chose to celebrate the season by having a
holiday much more joyful and healing than sad.
On Christmas Eve a year ago I knew that George was going to die… soon. On Christmas Day at 11:00PM a 20lb turkey, stuffing and vegetables were dumped into a green garbage bag—no one could eat. At 3:00AM the day after Boxing Day, my older son, Nick, helped me maneuver George into
the car, and I drove my husband to the hospital, where he stayed the week.
He wanted so much to be home for New Year’s that he was released that
afternoon. We no sooner got home than we realized it was a mistake.
As the clock ticked toward midnight, New Year’s Eve, George and I
sat in the emergency room; George in a wheelchair, silent and still,
enduring God knows what kind of pain, and me breathing and praying.
Our two sons, aged twenty and seventeen, were out at celebrations. I
wouldn’t call them until after midnight to tell them I had brought
their dad back to the hospital. They had been so relieved when he had
been allowed to come home just that afternoon. But wait, that isn’t the
point of this story.
That part is the Little Drama as opposed to the Big Picture, as I have
come to view Life over the past several years. My good friend calls it the
“Epic Story.” Like the Iliad. The one that is truly our path to God, which
in my view is manifest in self-actualization, the path of love seeking love.
It is the divine blueprint of All That We Can Be. That path leads us right
through the minefield of the small self with all its fears and rages, and life and death dramas, to our Greater Self—the poet, teacher or leader who resides in the heart of God or divine creation.
Here there is no death. Or rather death has no “sting.” There is only
love—in its many and glorious forms. As we are birthed into this world,
live and sooner or later die out of this world, we can be carried through
our darkest nights on the grace of this knowing, or be badly bruised
on the harshness of a “real” and physical world. It actually becomes a
conscious choice over which only we have control.
I cannot trivialize the illness and death of my husband, the father of
my sons, my business partner, mentor, lover, and soul mate. “George
and Marilyn” was a phrase. For twenty-seven years we worked together,
played together, had lunch together, shopped together, and on the way
home in separate cars chatted on our cells to one another. We always
had something to talk about. We rarely argued. We loved one another
deeply and always wanted what was best for the other. We were only
ever apart three or four times in more than a quarter century.
Was I afraid? Yes, I was terrified. I look back and realize I had bargained
with God and offered to endure years of a million daily fears in exchange
for the One Big One.
Was I sad? Yes, many nights I lay on our bedroom floor and wailed in
the middle of the night, mindless in sorrow.
Was I angry? You bet. I hated the arrogance of doctors, the soullessness
of CAT scans, the iniquity of the body. I was bloody outraged that my
husband was to die. I wasn’t ready!
Did I suffer? In the sleepless nights and the numbed out days when I
couldn’t fix what was broken, yes.
But so what? It all happened anyway—whether I liked it or not.
What emerged from the depths of my experience were a series of
lessons about life and death. Really about life, mostly. They are a mere
handful of truths that will help us live life more fully, prepare for our
own death more objectively and accept the death of those we love.
Death is just the context for living our life. We are all going to die, one
way or another, sooner or later. We all know this but continue to act
surprised or betrayed when the end befalls us or one we love. There are
no untimely deaths. Cancer, car accident, or crib death is merely part
of the script. We all have an exit ticket.
There is a purpose to every single human life and how we express that
to its fullest is our job on this planet. To the extent that we fulfill that
mandate, the easier it will be for us to let go of the physical world and
give ourselves over when the time comes.
There is a saying that a good life means a good death. To my mind a
“good” life does not mean one of perfection—pleasing God in our
flawless following of rules, but of being real in all its darks and lights
and striving. When we embrace this truth, we express our divinity in
being God’s hands, eyes, mouth, ears, heart—healer, artist, teacher,
The irony of all this is that I live in a world of healers—spiritual,
energetic, natural. A world of miracles. In fact it is my business.
After we sold our company and retired, George helped me realize my
dream. In July 2005, two weeks after I opened my boutique dedicated
to the healing and creative arts, George collapsed and was rushed to
hospital. He had a tumor from prostate cancer that had shut down his
kidneys, he needed fourteen liters of blood, and he nearly died. The
oncologist refused to take him on as a patient because she said there
was nothing she could do. His urologist said he wouldn’t live until
Christmas (2005), and he would spend the rest of his life dependent
George lived another eighteen months. He did it for me and our two
sons, his family, and many others whose lives he touched during that
time. I thought he was going to be my poster boy for miracles. How
could the husband of one in the healing world die of the nastiest of
But George did die. And in that passing emerged a profoundly beautiful
love story. For in that final walk on Earth together, George, always my
protector, led me through the fire of my greatest fears, and in return, I
had the privilege of looking deeply into his eyes as he passed through
the veil so he would not be afraid.
From that moment the life and death drama of every day fell away and I witnessed my own soul’s journey. I have lived my life in pursuit of the spiritual. I have prayed for clarity and understanding. I was certain that as I prayed for God’s Will to be done, that if I was really good and fulfilled my guidance in building this business around living life authentically and spiritually, I would be rewarded by my husband’s miraculous cure. How else could I really interpret his illness?
As it happened, something was lost in my interpretation. When I
surrendered (small ‘s’) to God’s Will, I sensed this voice saying, “Are you sure?” and I answered, “Yep, yep, yep!” because, of course, I thought I
knew what that meant. But what God really meant was that I would have
to go where I dreaded more than anywhere on earth—and that was to
the hospital. In this case, forty-two hours in the emergency wardwhere
George, awaiting medication, rocked back and forth on his gurney in
pain and I sat on an overturned barf bowl for hours on end. God’s Will
also meant that I would ultimately have to give up my beloved when in
my heart of hearts I knew he could have been “healed.” This is where I
learned that healing does not always mean living.
To some I have shown strength or courage, but the truth is strength
comes through surrender. In surrendering to what is, we can then look
to what we need to lift us up and move us through a difficult passage.
This is where I can gratefully acknowledge the cast of hundreds who
helped me—and George and family—by word or deed, practice,
therapy or healing to take Life in hand and really live it…to death.
This is the part I want to share. The circumstances of the Little Drama
are the tools for the Big Picture and serve only as the flash cards of
greater meaning and purpose.
Yesterday, I plucked some faded roses from the Christmas centerpiece
on the dining table. I was about to put them in the recycling bin, but
instead to honor George (who never threw flowers in the garbage),
I went out on the deck and, opening each dead rose one at a time,
strewed the petals across the snow. The crisp brown outer petals fell away in my hands, and within the bud, deep pink silken petals unfurled.
Snowflakes and rose petals swirled in the air, then cascaded to the
ground and rested there. As I looked out the window and saw the graceful pattern they left, it was a message that, like the roses, there is
no death—just transformation and beauty when we look through the
eyes of Love.
If you enjoyed this introduction, please follow me on Thrive Global as I share Exhilarated Life – Discovering Inner Happiness in chapters, weekly, here on Thrive Global – or you can begin your own journey right away.
Buy Exhilarated Life – Discovering Inner Happiness
on Amazon now in paperback or on Kindle.
Art Photographer Sara Mei captures the soul of a rose.
Authentic art expresses the feeling of life, enhancing our daily experience. Beauty reminds us what to look for when “reality” is sometimes harsh. The featured photo is “Patience” from the SOLO Collection.