Conceptual awareness can’t help you make it through the night. Yes, I said it. Loud and clear. Sometimes we are rocked with shocks intended to wake us up, but something else is needed. When Bob lay dying in hospice less than a week before Christmas in 2004, I sat in a stunned state in his crowded little room. My heart and soul were as weary as they had ever been. I had done my best and it wasn’t enough. He was on the way out and going within was not an option at the moment. I couldn’t access anything but numbness; the shock had already set in. His body was on the way out. His dear presence would soon be only a memory. And nothing, not even awareness, was going to spare me from the grief. (Let this cup pass from me comes to mind.)
At that moment, if a neoadvaitan had put his head into the room and told me that the story was unreal, I would have gobsmacked him. There is a time for the human being to weep and a time for him/her to dance. There was no dancing in that room. Bob had fought tooth and nail to stay alive. He had climbed out of the railed bed and been found on the floor. “I was going to the second floor,” was what he told the nurse when she found him. There was no second floor. He flat out wanted to live. The path had become, for him, a fight to the finish. I was too tired to fight.
On Christmas Eve, 2004, we had just buried Bob. Instead of a principle, we received an actual person. Her name was, believe it or not, Mary Frances, and she worked at the Marriott Courtyard across from St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee—a nice symbolism. She didn’t talk to us of being no one. She instead busied herself with making a Christmas dinner in the lobby of the desert motel. We were iced in and forlorn. She changed that motel lobby into a living experience of truth and goodness. We ate and laughed together. She told my little family of four to promise her one thing—that we would not wait this long again to hold a family reunion.
There was no conceptual awareness spit out in intellectual phrases about entities and non-existence. I understood the existence of love as a given, as a healing and a promise. That has been enough for me.