My dear friend Faith died this last month. She was my vocal coach for about thirty years and we became friends, discussing everything from music to our families to Buddhism. A mutual friend sent a text about her death when I was in Australia. I carried on with my trip, slightly changed, but didn’t really feel her loss until I was preparing for her memorial service in mid September. Faith brought songs for me to sing that she thought would work well with my voice and personality. The last song she brought me is called You Are There, written by Johnny Mandel and Dave Frishberg:
In the evening, when the kettles on for tea
An old familiar feeling settles over me-and it’s your face I see,
And I believe that you are there.
In a garden, when I stop to touch a rose
and feel the petals soft and sweet against my nose, I smile
and I suppose the somehow, maybe, you are there.
When I’m dreaming, and I find myself awake without a warning,
And I rub my eyes and fantasize
And all at once I realize
It’s morning, and the fantasy is fading like a distant star at dawn
My dearest dream is gone
I often think there’s just one thing to do,
Pretend the dream is true,
And tell myself that you are there.
I wish I could sing this for you so you could hear the haunting melody. It is the perfect song for anyone who has lost a loved one. Your life goes on as usual but nothing is the same. This song opened up the gate to my grief. For days all I wanted to do was sing this precious keepsake from a friend who gave me so much music. I came home from the memorial service empty and lost, spent from spilled grief and just wanting to lie down on the couch. My mind that had gone down a deep tunnel, so I surrendered to the couch and put on one of my favorite guided meditation tapes.
There are times in our lives when meditation on the breath and mindfulness feel out of reach. Sometimes we are just too sick, sometimes our heart is too heavy, our mind is too stressed or too jumbled, and we can’t bring ourselves into the present moment on our own steam. Often, when we are just hanging on and need meditation the most, focus seems most unreachable. These times call for different resources than the ones we use when we’re up on our feet. Through imagination, guided meditations can reach into the mystery and throw us a lifeline. They helps us plug into a different state of mind than the one we’re caught in.
I surrendered to the couch, wrapped myself in a blanket, and let a guided meditation wash over me. The words being spoken reminded me of a kinder, more expansive world than the contracted one I was experiencing. My state of mind became lighter, I could see further, and was able to relax into the moment.
As summer turns to fall we are entering that special time when ancestors who have gone on before us are honored in cultures throughout the world. In the U.S. we call this time Halloween. Although the holiday has devolved into a sugary confection of costumes, candy and mischief, its original purpose was to draw closer to departed ancestors and loved ones. On my family altar, beside pictures of my mother and father, I place a picture of Faith and light a candle to her. Having put the pain of losing these loved ones into context I still miss them but also feel a warmth when I think of them.
When I got home from Australia there was a message on my machine from Faith. It was recorded the day before she died. Her voice was beautiful and upbeat with its usual lilt. Rest in peace dear songbird, until we sing together again.