Thursday, August 30, 2012
A Heavenly Encounter
A few days ago, one of my aunts called to tell me about an unusual experience that has still left her shaken. She had decided to go on a weekend spiritual retreat at a centre north of her home, a place she had not visited for over 10 years. She opted to stay in a cabin secluded from everyone and participated in a few workshops, keeping mostly to herself. On Sunday, she decided to attend that morning's service.
Only a handful of people were in attendance. At the moment when the priest asks attendees to say "peace be with you" to the person nearest them, my aunt does so with a woman sitting beside her. My aunt introduces herself. The woman does the same.
"Your name sounds Lebanese," says this woman named Lise.
"I am Lebanese," my aunt responds.
"I knew a Lebanese woman a long time ago," Lise continues. "We did a business and secretary course about fifty years ago. Her name was Najet."
"Oh really?" My aunt answers. "What's her last name?"
My aunt said she froze in shock, as did I when she told me the story. That was my mother's maiden name. This woman named Lise had met my mother when my mom had just arrived in Canada, at the age of seventeen, before she got married, and before her life changed as she progressively lost her vision to Behçet's syndrome. She remembered my grandparents, and even more curiously, lives in the same neighbourhood where my aunt and uncle owned a restaurant. It's even possible that she dined there over the years. She had lost contact with my mother as she (Lise) travelled with her work, and so was deeply saddened to hear of her struggles and untimely death.
Lise painted a picture of my mom as a vital, intelligent and deeply spiritual young woman with an easy laugh and keen wit. Someone who wasn't afraid to face life, a woman of great courage and conviction. As someone who grew up caring for an ailing parent, this vision of my mother was a marvelous revelation and a grand gift. It shifted something inside of me that I still can't quite define.
Of course the biggest question in all of this is: what is the meaning of this encounter? My aunt and I went to visit my mom at the cemetary, still asking those same questions: How did Lise remember my mother's full name - fifty years later? It's not exactly a common name. And my aunt deciding to go that very same weekend after so many years of not doing so? And the woman sitting next to her just happening to know my mother? This was no mere coincidence. I have no doubt that my mom orchestrated this beautiful reunion... but for what grand purpose?
The winds that day were silent, but the sun shone brilliantly. Perhpas one day, all will come to light.