The Rainbow Bridge
At 51 years old, I find myself in a season of great loss - of unimaginable pain. Two of the most important Beings in my world, two of the Greatest Loves of my life, have departed this realm - and within a couple months of each other. A double-tap. Two great, crushing blows. I am still reeling from the shock of them - the sheer force of them - and I expect I will for some time.
For all my practices, all my 'spiritual work,' all the lessons I've experienced, there's just no preparation for or the easing of great, great loss. Although I've experienced great loss in the past - and will undoubtedly experience great loss in the future - I am quite astonished at just how profoundly I've been affected this time around - this latest foray into the realms of dissolution and separation. I've often said amongst my friends and acquaintances, that each subsequent loss has gotten more-and-more difficult - not easier. It goes against logic in that way. You'd think that we'd become 'practiced' or at least more familiar with navigating the territory - but it seems to me that we find even deeper, more agonizing places within ourselves that we've yet to explore. In support of those that find themselves in the great pain of devastating loss, I've often said,
You have to give yourself over to the pain fully. You have to let it take you where it is you need to go
I believe this and have found it to be true in my own experience. Mourning, bereavement, and grief are all different aspects of the journey of great loss - and they all have their own wisdom to impart to us - in their own timing - in their own way - and I have found that I am completely at their mercy. Yes, our own mortality - as we get older - starts to lend a certain 'gravity' to these situations, but that's too trivial an observation. Too convenient. I think that for some of us - at least it is for me - the great losses are more-and-more difficult because I've learned - I've been blessed with the ability - blessed with the capacity - to LOVE more-and-more fiercely - more-and-more completely. So, great love and great loss have become correspondingly proportional - and the resulting pain - and the mourning and grieving processes - are profound.
It was The Winter Solstice, December 21, 2017 when I lost my beloved Lefty. My life stopped. Lefty was (is) the most profound, greatest love of my life. Many can relate to my story - that a dog can be our most profound relationship. That a dog can personify, can exemplify, a love and a bond like no other being in this life, in this realm. More than anthropomorphizing - these relationships can take on the qualities and attributes of the mythic - of the Divine (Jai-Hanuman-ji!). It is not enough to simply say that they hold and display "unconditional love" - one must take it even further when aspects of the mythic, of the Divine, are so very present and personal. And even if it is 'overblown,' or even approaches a delusional fantasy (subjective), what does it matter anyway? How you experience your life (and death), your relationships, and love is a completely personal, unique experience that cannot be arbitrated by others. Your experience is your experience. This is the wonder of separation - our separation from the Divine - the wonder of Great Mystery.
So which story do you prefer?" "The one with the tiger. That's the better story." "Thank you. And so it goes with G-O-D. (Life of Pi)
It was a Wednesday, not much more than two months later that I received word that my beloved therapist and teacher, Richard Bachrach, had passed away. He and his family - because it is certainly a family affair - a 'village crisis' - had been battling primary central nervous system B-cell Lymphoma for sixteen months. He had passed through the veils on Valentine's Day - the significance and sheer poetry of that is not lost on me or anyone else who knew him. He was a great man, a master healer, a wise teacher, a devoted husband and father, etc. I had been a client of Richard's for almost ten years, and over the course of our professional relationship, I came to love him like a father figure and respect him for the truly gifted, compassionate Servant he was - to so many people. Transference neurosis be damned. I found out that Richard had died a full three weeks after it had happened - and I was crushed. It wasn't so much that I simply was not part of his personal life, his inner circle - I understood that ours was a professional relationship - that there was a very important line or boundary to be maintained. Richard kept it "clean." And Richard valued his privacy tremendously - and I respected that. No, it was more about the feeling that 'I should have known' or that there were three weeks in which I was completely unaware - unaware that there was this great, gaping hole that had just appeared in my heart, in my life. To lose someone you love so dearly is bad enough - to then have irrational feelings of guilt along with it - is disconcerting. And then deeper (irrational) feelings and messages slowly dawned on me - I felt that I had been 'robbed' of three weeks of mourning and grief that I could've at least 'shared in spirit' with everyone else who knew of his passing shortly after the occurrence. And probably sadder still, and just as selfish - I was angry that 'my father' hadn't said goodbye.
I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye (Life of Pi)
In all actuality, we had said goodbye to each other. Maybe not so much in concise words exchanged, but certainly in the way that two Souls can communicate in much more subtle, profound ways. My last session with Richard was November 16, 2017 via Skype - as his immune system was compromised due to the chemotherapy. Our session was typical. Good. Beautiful. Profound, but not too profound. Not too, too serious. It was a 'lighter' version that particular evening - when we certainly could go much, much deeper - into much more 'challenging' (difficult) topics and areas. Not so much on this particular evening. He was lying in bed all bundled up. Comfy. He was wearing a knit cap and looked like a Buddha (I told him as much). And he was beaming. Glowing. He was truly happy. Truly at peace. Truly happy and at peace in that very moment - just as he was trying to teach me - all these years - to understand and remember / realize for myself. We ended the call / session like we always did - I put my hands in Anjali Mudra and bowed to him - and told him that I loved him. Richard put his hands in Anjali Mudra, placed his thumbs at his 'third eye' / on his forehead, and said "I love you too Barry." It was the last time we spoke. It was enough. It was perfect.
I'm sure you're all familiar with the story of "The Rainbow Bridge." It's the mythic bridge to Heaven where just on this side of it is a place where all our deceased pets are waiting for us - to accompany us across the bridge into Heaven when it's our time to leave this life. It's a story that gives great comfort to young and old alike - a fitting picture that helps to lift our beloved companions into the mythic - into the Divine. A fitting example of and appropriate tribute to their great loyalty, courage, and above all - unconditional LOVE. The thing is, it's real. I've 'seen' it. Granted, it didn't appear to me as a bridge - and I didn't see any rainbows - but when I 'ascended' or was able to 'climb up' into what I can only describe as 'the Abode of Hanuman - the Abode of R-A-M and S-I-T-A' - it became clear that this was a 'staging area' or 'waiting room' or 'stepping-off' point to "Heaven." And the beauty of that place is indescribable - of infinite stars - and I experienced it (mostly) as being 'felt' - like a pure, exquisite, full, stillness - and it feels like pure LOVE. I will never forget it and I know that when I die, I will be met there - by all those whom have gone before me - all those I've loved so very dearly - and we will be together again - inseparable. And we will be ushered into Heaven, together. And so it goes with G-O-D.