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Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for wisdom and love—so wrote Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207 – 1273), Sufi mystic, Islamic scholar, and poet.

 

 

Certainly, Rumi tasted the gall of grief in the loss of his soul mate and teacher, the wandering Sufi mystic Sham al-Din. For four years, night and day, his teaching had led Rumi to cultivate the path of the heart; such cultivation demanded trenchant asceticism that wiped out self-will and decried materialism in its multiple disguises. Under Sham’s tutelage, Rumi also set aside his rigorous Islamic studies and sermons that he delivered in the mosques of Konya (Turkey). Together, Sham and Rumi’s mysticism flourished. However, one night, Sham disappeared, thought to have been murdered by one of Rumi’s son.

Such an existential loss speaks of Rumi’s willingness to suffer the insufferable with a an open heart; its strange fruits, subsequently, enabled him to penetrate words and uncover fresh symbols linking his readers to the Sacred—Such accounts for his poetic image, garden of compassion, cited above. Within apparent death emerge seedlings of psychic growth that bear close watching: love and wisdom.

Rumi’s saying reminds me not to lose heart when grief’s swamping, so unexpected, assails me. I know, in time, it will pass and it does, not without deepening its residue for my transition. True, I’ve let go of much, but I’m not there, yet. There is still my inconstant will, floozy, fidgety, quaking—Still to be disciplined by grief’s flowering. To this I surrender, anew.

 

 

It happened so subtly—“I’m going home! I’m going home!”—so prompted my spirit emerging from psychic depths, cuing me toward the next diminishment. Never could I have produced such self-talk; its simplicity says it all, so quiet, so low key.

True, for some time increasing weakness, exhaustion, shortness of breath, and muscle loss has further depleted my energy, not without my notice and some angst. Such symptoms correspond to my terminal disease, interstitial lung disease with rheumatoid arthritis. Still the daily dose of Dexamethasone has kept me somewhat functional.

But I’m in a different space, one filled with lightness, color, hope, evidence of more release from the bondage of this existence. No matter that my symptoms will only cease with the death in my body—My attitude, for today, for which I offer thanks to God. Not that there won’t be upheavals before my final breath. Usually there are, so I’m told.

Still, “I’m going home!” That’s all that matters.

 

Outside my study window the leaves of the seasoned lilac appear mottled, bug-gnawed, its spring symmetry of glossy leaves torn asunder. Change is underway. There’s no stopping it, no emergency measures to prolong what had offered greening to spiking branches tipped by heady purple blossoms. September feels the first pinch of grief.

 

 

Yet, look closely—buds crown tips of branches, anticipating new greening but not before months of dormancy.

What can be said of the Master Gardiner’s empowering all life forms with internal growth cycles—even ourselves, seeded with burgeoning life to be shared in dark times and light? Such fruition plummets us, even now, into the mystery of co-creation.

We are grateful.

 

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