Life is all about juxtaposition. Light and dark, laughter and tears, sadness and joy; blended together in a huge mixing bowl, stirred by the celestial chef. Today was such a day in which the bowl was filled to overflowing with all of the above. Predictably unpredictable time at my full time job as a social worker in a psychiatric hospital, with needs and expectations of patients and families calling to be met. Left to attend the memorial service for my friend Beth Rotondo Hadrava who passed a week or so ago and on the way stopped to eat dinner . Enjoying comfort food soup and sandwich and smiled at the tow-headed three year old boy who was making the rounds to each table, asking each of us “What you name?”, as his mother was waiting in line getting their food. Every one grinned back at him and volunteered their moniker. One my way out the door, I passed their table and noticed the tiny ambassador chowing down on mac and cheese and a big mini rainbow candy flecked cookie. I asked him his name and with crumbs tumbling out, he answered, “Ian” I introduced myself to his mother Lisa, commented on how friendly her son was and then went on my way.
When someone I know dies, I find myself with a keener appreciation for my life and the people in it, as well as an awareness that time is fleeting. As I was driving on winding Edgehill Road en route to Bryn Athyn, I experienced a similar sense of something that occurred after my husband Michael had died in 1998. Back then I had felt a rush of warmth flow through me and heard his words in measured tone, “This is what heaven feels like all the time. You don’t have to die to experience it.” I called it my ‘transfusion from heaven’. This evening it returned and I was again reminded that there really is no separation between this world and the next, except in our minds.
Arriving at the gothic Bryn Athyn Cathedral in which Beth’s service was being held, the peaceful feeling continued. Towering against the pale blue, cloud dabbled sky, it welcomed in the several hundred people who came to honor her. Hugging our comforting hellos, in many ways, it felt like ‘old home week’ since there were folks from the overlapping soul circles in Beth’s life. She had an exceptional way of drawing people in and creating community all around her. She was raised as a member of The New Church, founded by Emmanuel Swedenborg who was an 18th century theologian, philosopher and scientist. He had a spiritual awakening, experienced visions and powerful dreams and communed with angels What I know of the teachings is that the focus is in taking the spiritual and making it practical, being of service, and living as an incarnation of love itself. They also believe that the spirit lives on beyond this earthly plane. Beth lived that fully; in her calling as a Homeopath, in her nurturing of friends and family, in the seva that she offered. A few tears, but mostly a feeling of awe that such a life existed and will always be, regardless of the form she takes.
At the end of the service, I found myself gazing at the circular images on some of the stain glass windows and remarked to myself how the multi-hued design reminded me of little Ian’s cookie and how we had indeed come round-about to the sweetness of life in the midst of death in the midst of life.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cdnF3NUSCY Heavenly Day Patty Griffin