By Kathy Keary
Part 14. The full series is here: The Contemplative Spirit of Islam.
In my last article, we delved into the visible and invisible worlds. This past week I experienced a deeply moving encounter with the invisible world that I feel compelled to share. My dear friend, Mary, is the leading lady in this story. Mary and I were in the same class at an all-girl high school in Kansas City, St. Teresa’s Academy (STA), a place where forever friends are made.
Mary is known to be a joyful person with a contagious laugh that warms hearts. Ever so often through the years, I would see Mary, sometimes planned and other times by coincidence. Mary is one of those people who though your encounters are scattered through time, the interaction picks up right where you left it as though no time had passed. Each time I saw her, she would remind me that her father and my uncle played baseball together.
We shared an unbreakable bond as club members do. Not only were we both STAers, we were also both descendants of jocks:) This past year Mary joined me in a club that no one rivals to be in — the Stage Four Club. Unfortunately, this beautiful soul was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. I was hoping that she would soon be initiated into my new club – a club whose members stand at the edge of the forest. We are not quite out of the woods, but we can see and feel the light. My doctor refers to it as “partial remission.”
The other night I had a gripping dream. Unlike most dreams, I remember this one in detail. The dream was in black and white, and the characters in the dream were silhouettes. They were lined up very orderly in a few rows. Even though I could only see their backs, I instinctively knew that they were the girls I had gone to high school with. In reflecting on the dream, I realized that every girl appeared to be in a blazer and skirt, the STA school uniform. Our heads were turned toward the heavens. We were told that our friend, Mary, was dying and to watch because three seconds after she dies, we will see a glow when she is united with God. We stood there in silence and anticipation. Sure enough, we saw the glow.
I recently read that so often, when we dream about others, the message is really meant for us. I assumed that this was the case and that Mary hadn’t actually died.
Admittedly, my diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer has sparked moments of uncertainty about death and the hereafter. I am a firm believer in the wisdom found in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
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Incomprehensible mystery abounds in many areas including death. I mentioned to my spiritual director that even though my dream did not shed light on what really occurs when one dies, that whatever happens will be beautiful.
When I concluded my Zoom session with my spiritual director, I turned my focus to Facebook where I learned that Mary had died at 1:20 that morning. The timing of her death and the dream were mind-blowing, to say the least.
The next morning as a part of my prayer practice, I was reading from Christine Valters Paintner’s book, Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life. An epigraph, a quote from May Sarton, was chilling: “Now the dead move through all of us still glowing … What has been plaited cannot be unplaited.” Coincidence? I think not.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee devotes a whole chapter to dreamwork in his book, Sufism: The Transformation of Heart. He points out that when we are asleep, we are no longer controlled by the noise of the outer world or by our ego and emotions making it a fertile ground for the Divine to communicate to us through our dreams. These words stood out to me like a lightning bolt in the aftermath of my black and white silhouetted dream where Mary is united with God:
Colors, as they appear in dreams, have specific mystical symbolism in the Sufi tradition … Black, being no color, represents mystical poverty, a state in which “the mystic is so totally absorbed in God that he (she) has no longer any existence of his (her) own, neither inwardly nor outwardly in this world and beyond (the words in quotes are those of Lâhijî, an Iranian human rights activist) (Vaughan-Lee, 69-70).
This morning at Mass when we recited the Nicene Creed the following words resounded in my heart almost as though I had never heard them before:
We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I was graced with an encounter with the invisible world through my dream. As time passes, I believe I will glean further insight into the messages revealed by this sacred communication. For now, I am left with the message that Mary, as well as our loved ones who have gone before us, are united with God and continue to glow among us. I also learned that something beautiful occurs at the time of death — something not to be feared. May Mary continue to glow among us and may her life well lived be a perpetual inspiration to those she leaves behind.
Next week our focus will turn to the Second Pillar of Islam: Prayer. Stay Tuned.
Paintner, Christine Valters. Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life. Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books, 2021.
Vaughan-Lee, Llewellyn. Sufism: The Transformation of the Heart. Point Reyes, California: The Golden Sufi Center, 1995.
[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]
The image above is “Top 15 Places on National Conservation Lands for Night Sky Viewing” by mypubliclands, licensed under CC BY 2.0
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