12.03.2011

Back to Heaven's Light

Once in a dream, I saw you telling me
That you’ve traveled in the dark
Just to find that little spot
How you’d settle for a light
In the vastness of the night
Then I saw some tears were coming from your eyes
As you said you’d found your paradise
And I began to ask you: Why you have to cry?

And now, it’s so dreamlike I hear you telling me
It’s been such a perfect grace; it’s been such a perfect place
To be in my heart at last, and have angels singing you a song
And it’s time for me to say goodbye to those eyes
To let you go so sleeplike and hear your whisper:
Why we have to cry?

It’s a journey, you say, an illusion of a journey
Now you can’t see where it ends and where it starts
It’s our life and our love that you wish to have,
Where you wish to be

In this tiny spark of memory, mortality
What’s left for me to do is to welcome you home
Back to my heart, back to heaven’s light
Back to my heart, and we’re never apart

It’s a journey, you say, an illusion of a journey
Now you can’t see where it ends and where it starts
What’s left for me to do is to welcome you home
Back to my heart, back to heaven’s light
Back to my heart, and we’re never apart

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This room is not bright enough. Somebody must’ve played around with the dimmer.

“can we light up the room a bit, please? It’s too gloomy,” I call out the man in uniform. Several men in the same uniform are busy decorating here and there, arranging the flowers an satin covered chairs. I look around. Suddenly, the place feels more like a wedding venue. This is not how it was intended to be.

The man checks the light switches, then shrugs his shoulders. “This is the maximum setting. Can’t be brighter than this, unless you want to rent extra spotlights.”

“it’s okay. No need.” I look around again. Is the room really dim or is it my mental interior that has darkened? All colors look dull, their brightness somehow subdued. I observe all movements occurring in this space. The working men, the mourning family, the first arriving guests, the ticking hands of a clock. I try to detect something extraordinary, something out of this world. I find nothing. The world is still the same place and time still advances at its usual pace. Life works like an ocean. It swallows like the titanic, and goes flat again within seconds, leaving no evidence of its unusual appetite.

That realization suddenly makes me wanting to scream. I quickly grab a glass of water. I need something to force the screaming back into my system. If there’s one thing life has successfully taught me, this must be it. For today at least, I will swallow everything like the ocean.

Within half an hour, the room is filled with people dressed in black. Their presence gradually covers the shiny reflections from the white satin chairs. I look around. This place has become more as it was intended to be, though I still wish the lighting could be a bit brighter.

As the guests have gathered, the twinkling sounds of an acoustic piano fill the air. “Funeral March”. I wonder, what’s next. There are not many funeral songs out there. Soon, the poor pianist may not have any other choice but just to play sadly. Putting on sad face, moving with sad gestures, and working with the pedals in such way so “The Swan” can evoke some other image than a romantic date by the lake.

So its begins. The moment everybody has been waiting for. The final piece of a puzzle that has been haunting us for days. In graceful steps that have been her signature., she strolls along the aisle. All murmurs stop. There was only Chopin’s tune and the clacking sound of her high heels upon the granite floor.

She’s facing us all with beautiful smile. A smile that could only belong to a mother holding her newborn for the first time. A smile that takes away our breath and makes us tremble.

I wonder if she had known the secret of the ocean long before I did. She must be a caliber of the Pacific Ocean. So deep and vast, she left no trace on her surface.

I remember her wobbly steps and streaming tears when she entered the hospital room where her husband lay on his deathbed. It was too sudden. Nobody was prepared. He was there not because a long chronic illness, but because one night an accident took him away from his bedroom to a hospital bed. Like lightning that strikes and then vanishes with the blink of an eye, our lives were turned upside down in a split second.

When she saw him lying there in his last remaining breaths, she asked, in faint voice, for everyone else to leave them alone. I was no exception. Knowing what they had gone through, we had no right to refuse. She needed to be one who stood by him during his last moments. Nobody in this world would deny her that privilege.

She spent fifteen minutes inside. We didn’t except him to survive even that long. But there was one thing we could have never anticipated. One scene that has been haunting us to this moment.

I remember how the door was gently opened, as if she didn’t want to wake someone tip. Her tears were gone, though the tip of her nose remained reddened and her cheeks slightly wet. She looked at us all, with her back straight and hands joined, as if she had fabulous news to share, then calmly and firmly said: “He’s home.”

We didn’t immediately get it, not until the doctor and nurses rushed back into the room and announced his official time of death minutes later.

For days, we could only hear wailing and crying. There were endless questions. Why whom? Why him? Why, God? And there was no answer.

His body was preserved before cremation so that everybody had a chance to express condolences. That was the best we could do to compensate for the agony of unanswered questions. Perhaps those questions are rhetorical by nature, but we feel the need to ask them anyway.

Yet, there was one question that didn’t quite fall into the same category. None of us had the nerve to ask it, despite our desperation for an answer.

I remember how she handled her relatives, friends and the people who visited her. One by one, they weighed down with more sad memories, more weeping--- some were uncontrollable. Others just fainted. She stood there with sympathy, but remained unaffected from the grief they expressed. They all told her things would be okay, but clearly she was the one who looked okay and they were the ones that didn’t. in the midst of all the tragedy and drama, she stood out like a lotus in a pool of mud. Her feet were planted on the ground, but her petals remained clean and untouched from the dark, slimy surroundings.

I lost count of how many people gave her similar advice, “Dear, you should just let it out. Cry. It’s okay.” And she offered them the same response, “I will mourn later.” But days have passed and she hasn’t mourned. At least not in the way they all expected. On the contrary, she looks happier each day.

And there she is now, looking stunning in her silvery grey gown. She didn’t even bother to wear black. She decided to wear something between the white satin chairs and black draped guests.

She thanks us all for being here, for showing our support and love for the family. She thanks everyone for sharing their lives and memories with her husband. I can feel everyone holding their breath, wondering in her next word or sentence will bring them closer to the answer. I am no exception.

After five minutes of thank-yous, she pauses. She browses the room as if looking for something, or for someone. Within seconds, her eyes unmistakably rest on me. Like prey locked in a target, I am paralyzed in an instant. I can only feel the ground below me sinking.

She offers me a warm smile and cannot even move a muscle on my face. I can only stare back at her in fear. She then gives everybody a smile. So warm, delicate, yet mysterious.

“there was a point before life itself, when we all decided to forget everything we’ve known. It was necessary so life had a point, so that it would all makes sense. Like fellow blind travelers, we’re all blinded by our unknowingness,” she stops and takes a deep breath, “during his last moments, I began to understand something….”

Her voice grows stronger, “Only from an experiential point of view, the question of right or wrong vanishes. There’s no one to blame. There’s nothing to blame. There shouldn’t even be a need question. He had his choices, and I had mine. We all have our freedom to decide. We all have our preference to experience. I’ve forgiven him for leaving, I’ve forgiven myself for staying, and I’ve forgiven life for creating this drama of birth and death.”

One person from the family section almost stands up to interrupt, but others are gesturing him to stay put. Their collective question hasn’t yet been answered. Everybody wants her to continue.

Relentless, she continues, “Not too long after we got married, my husband had a dream. In his dream, he was traveling on a dark ocean, alone in a boat at night. The darkness seemed never-ending. And suddenly he saw something. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. He saw a soft light coming from what seemed to be an infinite jungle of blackness. He rowed his boat toward that light. At that point, he stopped telling me the story. He was crying instead, and I asked him, ‘Why are you crying? It could be the heaven’s light,’ and he said to me, ‘it was you that I saw in the light.’….”

Half of the guests release their breath now. Some burst into tears, some muster the strength to hold their tears back.

“I could never forget that moment. And I never thought I would experience a de-ja-vu when I was with him at the hospital,” she said with a long sigh, “He couldn’t say much, he was too weak already. But he whispered something, ‘I am back in the dark ocean. I see no end, and I see no beginning.’ I held his hand and cried, I thought he was just rambling, for his consciousness had gradually weakened. With all that was left in him, the last thing he whispered to me was, ‘Why are you crying? I will find you again. It’s our game.’ At that very moment, I stopped crying. I thought I was disoriented. I suddenly remembered his dream, and somehow that moment in that hospital room felt so dreamlike. I felt I’d lost sight of the line that normally stands between what we consider reality and dream. Although I knew he had lost all his vital signs, I didn’t see him die. I just couldn’t. He was with me still, and he is with you all now. He is back in our heart. And that’s where we all reside in one another, now and then. So, why are you all crying?”

The whole room falls into a perfect silence. The air doesn’t even seem to move.

“If once we had decided to forget, then we alone can decide to remember. We all started the same journey. But as my husband had witnessed, this had been an illusion of a journey, for it didn’t have a start and didn’t have an end. We will just find one another again and reside in one another’s heart. It’s a circle we cannot beat. Might as well just enjoy the game. So, everybody, please, smile.”

Like myself, I can sense everybody start to feel the ground beneath them sink. Their haunting question is not being answered. Quite the opposite, they are now haunted with more questions and concerns. I will not be surprised if the family soon receives a handful of business cards belonging to renowned shrinks, psychiatrists, therapists or even psychics.

Yet she still plays her game like a lotus. With serenity that radiates from her presence, she steps away from the microphone, unhurried, back to her chair where she sits looking like the Pacific Ocean. There is no trace on her surface despite the fact that she just swallowed the whole room with the truth she shared.

The piano starts twinkling again. “Air” from Debussy. Exactly what we all need in this suffocating atmosphere.

I remain in my corner until all the guests are gone. I can only face her when there’s no one around. For years, I’ve struggled with my own role in her life, in her husband’s life. And these last couple of days had been the worst. I didn’t know where to place myself. How I had been living in limbo, lurking in their lives like a ghost.

We finally came to a decision, the three of us: her, her husband and me. It was the night before he died. He told me right to my face, that although he loved me very much, I wasn’t the home he was looking for. He also told her, right to her face, that although she was the home he was looking for, he had decided to leave us all behind. The dilemma had brought him to another realization, that true love could only be found within. At least, that’s what he thought at the time. But none us could have guessed that this was also his final note goodbye.

She now stands next to the coffin, in her silvery grey gown and unparalleled calmness. I try my best not to fumble as I approach her.

“I don’t know what to say actually….” My voice shakes and trembles, “but I do know something…” I look up and meet her straight in the eyes, for the first time in years. “He’s is in my heart too,” I say quietly. It was one short sentence. But I feel my body immediately released and relieved as I’ve shared my truth with her. My eyes may be playing tricks on me, but I swear the room feels brighter now.

She gazes back at me. It’s the longest eye contact we’ve ever shared.

“He is,” she says.

I can hardly believe it when I finally see a tear fall from the corner of her eye. It was one drop. But that’s all I need to be acknowledged---however despicable or trivial my role. I just need to know that we’re in this boat together.

She glances at the rolling tears on my face, and smiles, “So, why are you crying?”



I understand now why we had traveled through the vast darkness. It was all worth it.







-Back to Heaven's Light by Dee-

Ps, A best friend sent me this via e-mail. Thanks a lot, mate! ;)
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