I rose to muffled voices in the next room. Still tired from the night before, the day before, the week before, the voices meant activity and activity meant this day had begun. Climbing down from the intricately carved mahogany four-poster bed, my somewhat modest nightgown not at all in keeping with its suggested majesty, joints stiff and bare foot, I opened the bedroom door. A robust, round-faced man was sitting on the bed across the hall in conversation with my sister. Passing the gilded mirror relegated now to the hallway, the wide lacquered floor boards creaked with age announcing my presence. I entered groggily, protectively anxious at the presence of this new face and quietly introduced myself. The stranger, clearly recognizing me from one of my other lives, rose, bowed, and ,coming forward, grasped my hand mouthing, “It is an honor to meet you.” I returned the greeting, noting how big and soft his hands felt. The broad shouldered man simply said, “I will take good care of him.” I thanked him and left the room after checking on the still frail frame of my old friend in the bed.
The first thing the stranger did was tidy our brother’s room. He refolded his clothes, remade his bed and settled him comfortably high on his pillows. The clean sheets were laid and arranged in crisp folds over his charge. When that was done he quietly came to my sister and asked her permission to wash her husbands feet. Permission granted, the stranger gently and thoroughly washed and dried and anointed his feet with oil. This done, he sat quietly next to the bed.
A shower and change of clothes later, I made and served my “Lorraine” tea to the tea lovers while we waited for the doctor to arrive. The doctor, a sweet faced man, impeccably dressed in a mauve blushed shirt and matching links, sat on the living room sofa while he explained the purpose of his visit. Difficult bottom-line questions were asked and answered before going up to see his patient. On his return (a short 10 minutes later), the news was grim and conclusive. We had 24 hours to prepare for the inevitable. Death had come to our door, let himself in and was now cozied up with my friend upstairs. It was upon us all.
After the news, we purposefully came together and immediately dispersed to gather what was needed for the event at hand. Scattering to the four corners to find herbs and water vessels, clean white washing cloths, incense and candles, we knew in our bones that time had run out. And it had. Less than an hour later, checking out at the Smart & Final, the text read “Come home. Now.” Dropping everything, and every thought, we went home. My friend, my brother, lay dead in his bed. Draped around his head was a beautiful saffron cloth from his homeland. His beloved wife, bowed and silent on a stool, sat next to his bed next to his heart. His Spirit had successfully taken flight.
In the subsequent hours his wife and the core family members washed and anointed his body with oils and herbs, bringing to bear the distant bone memory of ancient rites barely remembered yet deeply known. Our hands moving in sync, the internal music of the moment playing itself through us all. Seven meters of cloth was all he asked for. Now, the seven meters of cloth left on the clothes line to sun was brought down to carefully, lovingly wrap the body of our beloved brother. Tearing strips off the ends, we tied the binds, three in all as words were intoned by his beloved. In the garden, circled by a handful of friends and family, we bid our friend, our brother, farewell. There too among us stood the stranger. Head bowed with kind eyes standing discretely to the side stood the tall man with strong hands who came to our door that morning. Those hands which bathed, and lifted and washed and balmed, this stranger in our midst, was nothing short than a gift from God.
We make sacred appointments with each other before stepping into our body. We make promises to be here for each other in the perfect moment, at the perfect time, to serve and be served. I believe a life of Grace is a life where we keep these Sacred Appointments.
Thank you Juan Carlos.