Putting it into practice

Filled to overflowing with the effects of my insights about love (the focus of my last blog, “All that I have to do“), I went off with James last weekend to attend the burial of the wife of a close cousin of mine. I knew that there would be one other cousin there towards whom I have carried judgements and grievances for many, many years. She also has longstanding issues with me, and whenever we’re together there’s an obvious tension between us. I was aware that there would also be other cousins there with whom I have little in common and with whom I didn’t feel entirely at ease. When we set out for our long drive, the motto, “All that I have to do is accept and extend God’s love to them” was emblazoned in my heart and mind. I carried it before me like a standard, and I was looking forward to putting love–my newfound reason for being–into practice. It worked far beyond my expectations!

Where in the past I would have kept more to myself or stayed with those cousins I do like, this time I made a point of reaching out, making sure I talked to every one of them. Then there was that one particular cousin! At one point, when she was alone, I went over and sat with her and asked how she was doing. It’s very easy for her to talk about herself, so the conversation flowed. In the past I would have sat there thinking how self-centered she was, but this time I sat there genuinely interested in what she was saying, asking her questions to try and understand her better, hearing the call for love beneath her words. I really tried to look beyond the image she presented to the truth of who she was–and I did! Plus, I felt a lot of real love for her! I felt that I had let go of the things from the past that I had used to separate us and had really joined with her. I had forgiven her, if you can call it that, since I felt that there was no longer anything to forgive!

I also went and sat with the daughter of my cousin, whose wife had been buried that day. This may not seem like a big deal, but it was for me. Again, in the past, I would have acknowledged her, but would not have gone over to sit with her (and her husband and another woman, both of whom I didn’t know). I hadn’t seen her for years, and was sincerely interested in finding out about her and her life. I even reached out to introduce myself to her husband and friend, including them in our conversation, and genuinely wanting to know them. Then I had a surprise, as she told me how well she remembered me from when she was a child and what a positive impression I had made on her!

Perhaps the most significant experience (among several) was with my cousin’s deceased wife. She wasn’t well liked in our family, judged almost from the day she and my cousin were married. My cousin and I were very close and I had witnessed for him and his wife-to-be when they got married. Over the years, like others in our family, I had tolerated her, but definitely had not liked her or her attitude and behaviour.

On the contrary, I loved my cousin a lot and had come to support him as he grieved the loss of his wife whom he really had loved. As I stood there by the graveside, looking down on the box that contained her ashes, I was suddenly filled with love and understanding. I saw beyond the image she had presented to us, to a woman always calling out for love and understanding in a hostile family. I loosed her from all I thought she was and allowed the truth of her to come to me. Standing there, I truly wished her peace and freedom. I wept copious tears, asking her forgiveness for all my unlovingness over the years, and as I left the gravesite, I felt that the forgiveness was complete and that we were both finally free and at peace.

As I discovered that weekend, all that I did have to do was to accept and extend God’s Love, and everything was made simple and clean. The past disappeared as I focused on being in the present moment, and I had many holy encounters. The surface differences among my various cousins and myself were still there, but they didn’t have any relevance any more. There was only a sense of sameness, of a joining far beyond the body. There was no difference, only oneness, only love, and it filled me to overflowing.

I carried this with me into the trip back home, and then, in one unholy instant in the car, about two hours away from home, it all felt apart for a while–but I’ll save that for my next blog!


Mary Anne