I fell into a hug last week.
Thankfully, I had a couple of dress rehearsals to help prepare for the finale.
My SUV needed its rear brakes re-lined and I had to leave it for some time at the garage. In the reception area of the shop, I asked if anyone was heading into the village. An elderly gent said, “I am. You can ride with me.”
“Do any of you here in the shop need a good jacket?” I said.
The owner of the repair shop, a man of great heart, asked what size it was. “Come see it in the car. It’ll fit you!”
He held it up and made a quick scan, “Great! Thanks. I’ll take it.” I knew it wasn’t necessarily for him.
The elderly gent grinned and said loudly, “That should cut a swath off the repair bill.”
“Not a chance,” I said. “My repairmen only fix my car on full stomachs.” The owner winked at me.
The elderly gent placed a book on the console as we climbed into his car: “The Promise of Paradox” by Parker J. Palmer. In minutes, through his description of the book, I realized I was in the company of a spiritual man with a sense of humour who was willing to reveal more about his soul in a 10 minute drive than most people reveal over a period of days.
I learned he was a retired United Church Minister who had become involved with Hospice. We had a number of mutual friends. I told him of my studies, insights and attitudes about theology and church – exercising my brave new voice coaxed into existence by the Evolutionary Consciousness leadership program. I expected we’d simply be two souls passing through life, remembering a precious 10 minute ride in which spiritual sparks flew in all directions.
“I have to dash to meet these other Hospice Companions for our coffee meeting,” he said. I was familiar with the people he was meeting. However, they knew nothing of my soul compared to what this man learned in one short car ride.
“I want you to take my email and write me,” he said. “We have much more to say to one another.” I imagined him telling the folks over coffee about our meeting and them saying, “Oh Amy. She’s a lapsed Hospice Companion. Hasn’t come back for years. We wanted her on the Board.”
Don and I parted, both expressing our appreciation for the lift we carried from our encounter.
The shuttle bus would not be arriving for an hour. I headed towards one of the coffee houses. On the way, the kitchen shop owner was outside arranging a display of sale items. “I keep thinking what a service you’ve provided this island,” I told her. “You’ve had this little shop for ages; you’ve stuck with it through the years. It’s full of fabulous stuff and you give us such great prices. Every time I’ve gone into your shop, I’ve walked out with some kitchen gadget that surpasses expectation!”
The grin on her face, the softened expression and her words of thanks gave a clear message that we do not give enough of our appreciation to the people in our world. “You can’t believe how you’ve made my day,” she said before I turned to walk away. How easy it is to warm this world. What stops us from doing it more often?
I turned the corner and a dress shop caught my eye. It’s run by a group of handicapped people and their care-givers. Their unique stock includes gorgeous garments made with materials that flow and follow body curvatures with grace and sophistication.
A blogger, Shakti, of ESGEE musings, had written a post (An Equal Music) about a mentally challenged member of his family. In response, I couldn’t resist bragging about our mentally and physically-challenged people being a natural part of our community by managing a unique clothing shop.
Were these challenged souls incarnated to teach us unconditional love?
I walked into the shop and found one of the young handicapped women vacuuming the shop’s office. Her gorgeous dress was layered in colours. Mauve, pink, blue and green bands, covered in like-coloured sequins, formed the bodice and accented a calf-length royal-blue skirt.
I knew her name. I shouted over the vacuum, “Amy! Look at your fabulous dress! You look gorgeous!”
Amy jumped and turned around. With a big smile, she said, “What’s YOUR name?”
Her face lit up. She held up a finger and bent down to turn off the vacuum.
“Yep! We have the same name.”
She laughed with delight. Then her face turned into a mask of seriousness. She began speaking, but I couldn’t understand a word. My heart sank as she became distressed. She was trying to tell me something and all I could understand was, “Maggie!” followed by body language that indicated a wheelchair. “Maggie! Maggie…”
“Amy, I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
She shouted to someone behind me and made impatient gestures. A care-giver, a tall and gentle young man with red eyes, came and stood to one side. Amy became animated and began shouting orders at him.
Quietly, he said to me, “Do you know Maggie? You would have seen her in a wheelchair.”
“I’m sure I’d recognize her, but I don’t know her by name.”
He brushed away a tear. “Well…Maggie is gone…she went…” he was nodding to me with pleading eyes, “and it’s okay that she went because we all do…when it is time. The time is right. When it’s our time we just go and it’s better for us. And Maggie went.”
I turned back to Amy who stood listening intently, “Oh, Amy! I’m so sorry! You lost a very dear friend.” She
nodded and gave the care-giver more instructions.
He said, “Today we all wore something that represents a rainbow because we are going to a very special gathering for Maggie.”
“Amy, you have the perfect dress for celebrating Maggie’s life. Wouldn’t she be happy to see you like this? And your hair is simply gorgeous. I don’t know what you did differently, but it is very special. What love you are showing Maggie!”
Clear as could be, Amy said, “Oh THANK you.”
Then she faced me, “Hug?”
I moved immediately toward her, wrapped my arms around the grieving young woman and was overcome with compassion. Her hug, filled with sincerity, intent, meaning and Love, lasted many seconds. I made a small move to pull away, but her embrace tightened. When she was ready to loosen her hug, she quickly planted a big kiss on my cheek before her arms released me.
She put her hands to her mouth, “Oh, I’m sorry!” She was laughing. I don’t know why she apologized because I sensed she was laughing at her own bravery.
“What a great hug, Amy, you beautiful friend. Please remember Maggie for me.”
“Oh thank you, thank you,” she sung. In spite of sadness, her words seemed borne on joy.
I looked at the care-giver whose eyes were even redder. I left the shop brimming with love.
I’d just fallen into a hug. It stunned me. Years had passed since I felt such a genuine, deep, soulful, unconditional and loving hug.
Yes, I’m haunted by that hug. As a songster friend of mine would say, “All of Amy was in that hug.”
And still is.