Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Way of the Dandelion"

This Thursday marks the one year anniversary of my daughter’s death. I was the one who closed her eyes, transfixed as they were on eternal mysteries. In the suspended months leading up to that night passage, we would often sit alone, not necessarily talking, just being together, and it was in such times that she’d ask for my hands. For a long time she’d hold them, then begin exploring each finger and nail, massaging my knuckles and palms, all the while whispering beauties. I like to imagine she was reminding them not to lose hope, not to give in and surrender to despair but rather continue to open in blessing. She could see I was stumbling in the dusk, rolling down a mountain of grief... but she was in motion too, only for her, it was toward the apprehension of an “undivided life.”*

Her exhausted body, in those final days, would not cooperate. It violated her, devoured her. Dis-ease is a good description. It is a form of terror. There is nothing simple and easy about violence and its victims. As Esther said in one of her videos, she was marked by this cancer, she had it, but it would not have her. And I think, no matter the brutality of life, we are all meant to aspire to completeness, a pursuit that she never gave up on. I would argue that each person longs for such a wholeness of soul as well as for deep and meaningful inter-personal connections with others.  Sometimes, because this is typically sought on our own terms, we mutilate the fragile vitality we’ve been nursing in order to get what we want, the way we want it. That's certainly one way to make something happen. It’s the approach cancer takes. Let me suggest an alternative vision.

Consider the way of the dandelion. A dandelion seed contains what are called florets, those parachute-like extensions that can be taken by the wind up to several miles from their places of birth. Most eventually land, re-seed and create new dandelion plants. Likewise, many people in our own day feel shut out and cut off from spiritual community because of their country of origin, sexual identity and/or religious labels or lack thereof. Others are living dishonestly, condoning hateful rhetoric toward those they purport to love. Still, some live in an intellectually inhospitable environment while seeking to reconcile exclusivist doctrines that are increasingly at odds with a welcoming practice that they know, intuitively, to be good and right and more true to the heart of their religious and spiritual traditions. All of these people feel blown about, knocked around, used, uprooted, and transplanted. All they want is an authentic serenity. They desire to be who they were meant to be. Each of us has the power to remind our fellow parachutists that they are going to be okay. Imagine how far the journey is for a tiny, quarter-inch floret!  Tenaciously, most do land, and fertility follows. To be spiritually hungry is to be in the sending and mending business. At times, we do some huffing and puffing, veritable wind instruments that launch others on their way. Of course, we, too, must receive our detachment, and so ascend and, finally, reattach. We don’t get to hold onto beauty forever. We have to let it go, to grow.

What is dividing you? I cannot tell you what to believe, but let me urge you to open up to life and be who you are! Plunge in, upward, with me; let us roll along together and consider the heavens and earth before us and be transformed. Look down. The dirt in your toenails is still stardust and the ground below your feet, remains, every speck of it, sacred dust!  I had an excellent coach. A year later, I understand a bit about helping. I will hold your hands. But only you can release them in blessing.

*Phrase from the book A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." ~Jesus


  1. May Esther's marvelous soul forever rest in awesome. She was a wonderful girl, and her memory will continue to inspire others.

  2. Forever blessed by your beautiful daughter.