Friday afternoon I headed to the restroom. As I entered the brightly lit, windowless, two stall bathroom I heard this frantic movement in the farthest stall from the door and from me. Someone was hurriedly dressing. I could see a work out bag on the floor at the person's feet. We have a gym in our building so I assumed whoever she might be was rushing to change.
The sound was unsettling to me. I hesitated before releasing the door and entered tentatively. I entered anyway, used the restroom and pulled opened my stall door to exit and to wash my hands. As I approached the sink, the lady who was rushing in the stall next to me was now rushing to wash her hands at the sink to my left.
I admonished her and said," Slow down. You are just rushing. I see you have your keys in your hand. You need to slow down so you can get there safely. Are you going to a meeting?"
She said,"My sister is dying. I have to get to the hospital." Then she rushed out past me.
I didn't know what to say. I just stood in the middle of the bathroom, staring at my feet and the sterile, but cold unforgiving tile beneath them. Then my head snapped up and I rushed to the bathroom door and dashed into the hallway.
She was still standing at the elevator. Waiting. There are four in our building. Unless it is lunchtime, they come very rapidly. They were slow. It wasn't lunchtime. She was still waiting.
She was about 30 feet away and was in the midst of turning to enter the elevator opposite where she was standing and I yelled, "May I pray for her?" She nodded. "Please tell me her name so that I can pray for her by name," I called out. She paused before entering the elevator and told me her sister's first and last name. I took it. Then she was gone.
So was her sister. Her sister didn't make it. But she made it to see her sister in time. She was breathing then was buried all within days. I didn't know her sister but the encounter took me on a downward spiral. I felt that I had intruded when I told her not to rush. I may have even told her that what ever she was rushing to was not that important to risk having an accident. I don't remember to be honest.
It was like passing by a table covered with mementos and knick knacks and collectibles. As you pass, you lose your footing and your balance and you grab for something to support you. Instead of grabbing the solid table, all you grasp is the edge of the tablecloth. As you fall you bring the table cloth to the floor with you and all the things that were on the table come crashing down as the cloth spirals in your hand as you descend deeper and closer to the floor, the bottom. That's how I felt.
The stuff on the table that came spiraling down was a combination of several events in my past.
The death of a friend in Japan. I had been trying to call her and found out that she had taken her own life days before. The last week of my father's life before his death seven days later.The fear of the loss of a relationship that I so desperately wanted to hold on to. All of it came tumbing back and down just like those symbolic knick knacks that came tumbling down.
I was a mess. I asked my mother to pray for me. I told her that I was afraid. I was afraid of death. Afraid of saying the wrong thing. Afraid of failing. Afraid of losing those that I love. Afraid of what is going to happen. I have been teary since that incident in the restroom. I berated and admonished myself for saying the wrong thing. I berated myself for not saying something, the right thing at the right moment. I was spiraling downward faster and deeper.
But life goes on and I had made a commitment to perform a bank transaction. I needed to get it done that day. There is a bank branch in our building as well. I know the tellars and always speak and chat.
That day as I went up to the teller that I know, she looked at me and knew something was wrong instantly. When my eyes met hers, I started to get teary again.
She said,"Let me hurry up with this transaction and get you what you need, honey."
I shared with her what happened. I ended with, "You can be breathing on Friday and be buried by Monday." Another teller who was standing there looked up at me and nodded his head knowingly.
Then she said something else. She said, "You were put in that bathroom to comfort her during her time of need."
I said, "I just went there because I had to pee," sounding like an absolute fool.
She rolled her eyes and said, "You could have gone at any time. But you went in there at that moment. You made her conscious of her rushing and because of you, she probably thought about that and slowed down. At the elevator you asked her for her sister's name and she gave it to you and said thank you."
At that moment, my little tears dried up and I felt the most soothing, comforting peace come over me. I was like, yeah, I did give her some comfort.
Let's just say that she had rushed and just had say a minor fender bender, or the police had stopped her for speeding. The loss of those precious moments could have impeded her from being present during her sister's passing.
This incident was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I realized that I have been living in fear for some time now. When I experienced that profound sense of peace, I became relieved then exhausted.
Being afraid and living in fear are exhausting. I didn't even realize that I was living in this heightened state of fear and had been for many months. The peace that I got from the words of the bank teller just washed over me and seemed to cleanse away my immediate fear.
I would be a liar to say that I am no longer afraid. I am aware now. You see, I am afraid of change. Death is a change. The end of a relationship is change. But with change comes other things. Renewal. Insight. Growth. Peace. Transcendence. Although these ebb and flow, someting does not. It's love.
Love is constant and everlasting whether it be in the form of a memory, a person and most importantly, within yourself. It is always ever present. When you find yourself afraid, fall back on that love to comfort and guide you through. Believe in love. I now know that love conquers all.
When you think you can barely make the next step in front of you, know that love walks beside you. When you can go on no farther, know that love will comfort you and hold you until you have gained your strength. When all is dark and you can smell the fear, know that love will waft through the thickness of night and touch your nose with the sweet comforting scent to guide your steps.
We are fallible and weak. It is our arrogance and ignorance that makes us forget that we truly have no control over anything but ourselves. We have no control over any situation or person outside of ourselves.We don't.
But it is love that elevates us beyond the limitations of our human form that helps us to remember no matter what it looks like or how it feels, that we are to focus on love, as it is everlasting. So when you get tired of being afraid, you can fall wearily into the arms of love. You will be comforted, protected and enveloped in peace. If you let love battle your fear, I guarantee fear will never defeat you.