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By Thomas F. O'Neill

When you love . . .

I can't explain why I decided to get in my car on the morning of January 9, 2005 and drive two hours to Baltimore, Maryland but something compelled me to make that trip. When I arrived in Baltimore I was hoping to run into some friends that I haven't seen in over two years.

I decided to go to Mercy Hospital in Baltimore in the hope of meeting a friend of mine who was a Nurse there approximately four years ago. When I arrived at the Hospital I was told that my friend was no longer employed there. At the Nurses station I noticed a little old lady waving to me from her Hospital room, "Joe," she said, "How are you?"

I walked into her room and she looked so familiar to me as if we had met before. I told her that my name is Tom and she told me that I looked so much like a friend of her son. I sat down next to her bed and I learned that her name was Gladys. I listened to her as she began to tell me about her son and her family. I also learned that she was suffering from a rare blood disease and that eventually she was going to die. She looked at me with her deep blue eyes and I could see that she had experienced much in life.

Her eyes then began to fill with tears and I became emotionally moved as she explained to me how she hasn't seen or heard from her son in almost nineteen years.

Her son she said married a Jewish girl and converted to Judaism rather than her son's wife converting to Catholicism. Gladys' husband who died fifteen years earlier was a devout Catholic and refused to go to her sons wedding. She said the wedding was in 1986 and she hasn't seen or heard from her son or his wife since they moved away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after their marriage. "I wish things could be different," she said as tears rolled down her face. I am sure god never meant to destroy relationships within families in the name of Jesus" she said to me.

She looked at me as I sat next to her bed. I was emotionally drained with a loss for words. I didn't know what to do or say to reassure her or comfort her. I just sat and listened as she reminisced and wished things could have been different in her life.

She turned to me and asked me in a low soft voice, "do you believe in god, Tom?"

I told her that I do and that I am a spiritual person by nature.

"What is your religion?" she asked me with a deep curiosity.

I didn't know how to respond to her because my spirituality is so personal. I moved closer to her and I attempted to explain something that I experience in my daily life but that I could never adequately explain in words.

I told her that Life and god are one and the same for me and that I can't separate my life from the life of others. I tried to the best of my ability to explain to her that we are simply sharing god's life. I told her that I experience my existence and the existence of all things as the subtle altruistic outreach of gods love. I went on to say that I have a deep intuitive awareness of my spirituality and the spirituality that is within others.

"How do you practice your faith and beliefs," she asked me in a somewhat confused tone of voice.

My spirituality is what I experience with each second, minute, and day I told her. I tried to explain to her that my spirituality is not something I believe in or have faith in because it is something I experience and come to know within me. It is simply life itself because I experience it as a living being. I told her that we are not set apart from god because god is the intimate and eternal life that is within us and around us.

"But what is your religion?" she asked me in a perplexed voice.

I do not believe in religion I told her. I cannot contain god in religious beliefs, buildings, creeds, dogmas, or religious institutions because god transcends all religion. The love that is within us cannot be contained in our beliefs or faith in what god ought to be in our lives. God is the eternal sustenance that sustains us and all things. God is the essence of our eternal love which transcends all human beliefs and faith.

She looked at me with such curiosity and asked me in a very low voice "What happens to us when we die?"

My understanding of death I said to her is like waking up to a higher state of awareness. It is like waking up from a dream. When we wake up from a dream state we become fully aware that we were dreaming and we can remember our dream. We will remember the events in our life much more clearly after we die because we will move into a higher state of awareness. Waking up from a deep dream state and becoming fully awake and aware that we were experiencing a dream is similar to moving into a higher state of awareness after death. We simply become more aware of the events in our life.

I told her that I am not an expert on death but rather an apprentice in life. With each second, minute, and day I am learning how to live. I like to think of humanity as our significant other. We may come into the world as separate human beings but humanity is never truly apart from us just as we are a significant part of our humanity. When we reach out and touch humanity we touch a part of the humanity that is within us. When we open ourselves up in order to love others we in turn allow ourselves to be loved. When we open ourselves up to care for others we in turn allow ourselves to be cared for. We are not just human beings on a spiritual journey we are spiritual beings on a human journey. We need humanity in order to learn and grow. We learn and grow not only in knowledge but we grow in greater self awareness. We are also the means to helping others grow spiritually. Our self awareness I said to her is humanity's means towards greater spiritual growth.

The world is our playground and we come into the world to delight in the game of life I said to her. We are playing together, learning together, growing together, and most of all living together. Upon our hour of death we rest for a time only to return to the world of the living. The souls that cross our path and touch our heart today will cross our path and touch our heart tomorrow. There is no distance between us because our hearts and souls are intertwined.

"How do you deal with people who do not share your beliefs," she asked me slightly concerned as to what my answer will be.

I said to her that when it comes to the reality of life there are only two opposing views. One view is that there are no miracles in life and the other view is that life is a miracle. It is within these two opposing views that I have chosen to live my life. I said to her that we are the hands of god -- one hand is used to build a better life for ourselves and the other hand is used to build a better life for others. I told her that I do not seek to be understood by words alone because I believe it is best to teach by example.

I told her that a truly spiritual person does not seek conformity from others by imposing their will or beliefs on others. A person with a deep spiritual understanding will bring about positive change in the world by becoming the change that they would like to see in others. If the world becomes a dark place then it is our responsibility to become the light so that others can see more clearly. Positive change cannot come about by forcing or imposing our way of life on others but rather it is achieved by living our life as we would want others to live their life; in doing so, others will embrace and emulate our way of life.

We spoke for quite sometime and later that day I contacted her son and he sobbed on the telephone. He never knew that his Father passed away fifteen years earlier or that his mother was sick in the Hospital. When Gladys met her Son later that evening they sobbed and cried and hugged each other. Her son had her released from the Hospital and he brought her to his home in Philadelphia.

I received an e-mail a week later from her son informing me that she'd passed away. Her son, daughter in-law and two granddaughters were with her when she died.

When I look back on the experience of meeting Gladys at Mercy Hospital, I realize how easy it would have been to have told Gladys that she was mistaken about my identity and to have walked away putting the thought of her out of my mind. However, I came to realize intuitively that I was there for a reason.

I have gained a deeper understanding that the significant others in our lives do not come into our world and quickly go, they stay. With the passing whisper of their wisdom they move us, eternally change us, and through a spiritual embrace two souls become one.

We do not enter the world like a cork in the ocean riding each wave as a random destiny but rather our destiny is set forth by the spirit of our love. In true love there are only the moments of the mutual exchange of a spiritual embrace which binds us to our souls' desire.

I have come to understand the essence of love that is within us as being the subtle altruistic outreach of the eternal life of god and the intimate essence of our humanity. This is not my religion, religious beliefs, or faith, but rather it is simply a spiritual way to live and experience my life with others.  

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