(This was my first sermon, given during the Islam module in 2008. It is the story of how I found my way to the Chaplaincy Institute…)
“Do you not see how God compares
a good word to a good tree?
Its root is firm and its branches
are in the sky;
it yields its fruit in every season
by God’s leave.”
From the Koran, Surah 14
Abraham Verse 22, N.J. Dagwood, Penguin Classics:
I prepared for my morning meditation with setting the intention for clarity on the next direction for my life’s journey. I had been on the fence about whether to go into chaplaincy, through the Chaplaincy Institute for Interfaith Arts and Ministry, or going back to school for a psychology degree. I called in all my protectors and guardian angels, all my ancestors. I lit my candle, smudged the puja table with incense, and lowered myself to the zafu.
Though I had been contemplating this direction off and on for several years, the timing was never quite right. Suddenly, on this mid-August day, the answer to what had been my daily prayer for weeks arrived effortlessly.
Just as I put my hands together in prayer, the phone rang. When I get a call during a meditation session, rather than ignoring it or seeing it as a threat, I consider it a gift of the space I’ve just created, and I answer the call. My friend Yvonne was on the line. Her voice was hushed, unburdened and rich with an unexpected sense of release from her husband’s passing just minutes ago.
“Susan. Griff just died.
Can you come to the hospital?”
I agreed, and turned around with a body tingling with the instantaneous answer to my prayers.
I went to the hospital, stood with Yvonne and one of her husband’s friends, and filled in where I could in terms of the next steps. On my way out, I serendipitously met the staff chaplain there. I told him of my earlier meditation session, cut short by the death of my friend’s husband. As if in full circle to the day, he suggested I call Gina Rose Halpern, the founder of CHI, and see if I can get into the program.
Leaving the hospital later that afternoon, I recognized an altered state, which I attributed to sitting for several hours with Griff’s body and the energy of his spirit’s departure.
On the drive home I reflected how this energy field is so much like what is generated with a birth. Time and space rearrange as spirit and matter release, form becomes formless, or vice versa. The ripeness of transitions, the fertility of release…
I was giddy with the punctuality of the day’s events. My consciousness expanded like elastic to embrace the many gifts of the morning: his wife’s unharnessed sense of connectedness when her husband passed, the few close friends in the room and their memories of his music and life; his mother speaking a huge truth for the first time; and lastly, the sacred invitation to witness this personal and intimate passage.
I longed to get home, for the sanctity behind my locked gate, to emerge into solitude with a quiet presence, to better embrace this profound energy.
As I entered my yard, I heard a ripe peach fall from the tree outside my home; then another.
All things have their ripenings. Beings, too!
I brought out my mother’s old wicker basket and began collecting the day’s fruit fall. Soon the basket was full. Peaches rolled from the basket onto the ground and fell from the tree around me at the same time.
Falling Fruit! How perfect!
As the symbolism of the moment struck me, my eyes blurred with tears of joy and good grief.
The abundance of the day was falling all around me!
Is this not also the abundance of any day?
I marveled at how we can never predict the ways fruit finds us,.
Griff’s death wrapped with the answer to my daily prayers was a great and unexpected example of this.
Fruit that falls even when
we aren’t looking
Fruit that falls somewhere soft
and is unblemished
Fruit that falls too soon
Fruit that never falls
Even the big ripe one that looks ready
but you can’t get it to drop no matter what
Fruit that falls in such abundance
that harvest becomes a burden
Fruit that falls in unknown places
later discovered to be perfect
in its color and ripeness
Fruit that falls whether we think
our basket is full or empty