Rick Grant was staring gravely out the kitchen window that morning at the maple tree when his wife Kate breezed down the stairs behind him.
Rick always did the same thing every morning. “Good morning honey!” he would declare brightly before planting a kiss on Kate’s forehead. He would then offer her freshly-steamed coffee and the two would huddle around the kitchen table and declare their plans for the day, often laughing about the days before that had flown by too quickly.
He sat upright in his robe and slippers, motionless, the steam settling quietly in his coffee cup next to him. He noticed how some of the leaves gracefully swooned off the maple tree’s dancing branches, settling lightly in saturated patches around its trunk. Other leaves swayed in the crisp breeze, clinging stubbornly, fighting the inevitable turn of fall.
For the rest of her life Kate would remember this morning.
When Rick finally turned around his cerulean-blue eyes brimmed with tears.
Kate rushed over to her husband and slid down into the chair next to him. She leaned forward and gently took his hand. In the natural light of the window, he looked suddenly much older than he had before the cancer struck. His once bright face now reared the beginnings of dullness, and his hair, what was left of it, had taken on an ashy, transparent color from chemotherapy treatments.
“Stupid-ass cancer,” Kate would refer to Rick’s disease with grunt of disapproval when speaking with her family. After years of tedious doctor visits, all of the doctors were no longer emphasizing the next promising treatment, and instead emphasizing the sacredness of the present moment. But how much time was left?
Kate recalled those stories of cancer survivors who were now running races, traveling, writing books – the cancer was gone and they had lived to tell. Despite the toll on their body, a renewed gratitude had formed in their life. Both she and Rick thought one day it would finally be over. But it hadn’t happened that way. Their life was still a waiting room, like a weathered-fall leaf once vibrant green, then orange, now a murky brown, clinging desperately to a tree long past its due date.
“I’m not ready,” Rick said, and Kate knew what he meant. He didn’t want to leave her alone. And who would his sons look up to now? Who would walk their oldest daughter down the aisle like he did with his other daughters? What would his grandchildren think of him?
“I wasn’t a good enough husband, he said, the tears streaming down his face. “I wasn’t a good enough husband, or friend, or son…Can’t you see Kate, I’m not ready to go yet?”
For the first time in their 34-year-marriage, Kate had never seen such drenching emotion pour from Rick. She thought he might break into a million pieces. As his body rumbled with remorse and sunk to the tile floor, all she could think was, “I need to tell him my secret.”
Kate glanced around the brightly-lit classroom over rows of oak desks, following Sister Nancy’s voice.
“I need to see you after class.”
Was this about the paper? thought Kate, somewhat panicked. Was Sister Nancy mad? Sister Nancy was Kate’s favorite nun. No one in the whole Catholic school was more beautiful and kind than Sister Nancy. She was polished and poised, with ravishing red hair framed by deep, gentle green eyes that always made Kate feel like she was the only person in the room.
Kate had seen the red writing on her paper as Sister Nancy had briefly paused at Kate’s desk.
“I’m sorry,” Kate sputtered nervously after class, wiping a hand across her face. She was standing at the end of Sister Nancy’s desk, her shoulders slumped.
The assignment was to write about their summer vacation. But Kate wrote about different memories from a different place. She called it “The Creation Realm.”
Even as a small child, she remembered this place. In the summertime, she would lay in her yard under the vast Texas stars and dream of it. “Where was this beautiful place?” she wondered, as she reached her hands towards the twinkling sky, tracing the constellations.
Kate remembers how weightless she was in that moonlit sky vibrating among one trillion dancing stars. Some stars burned brighter than others and she floated magnetically towards them. These were the “others,” she was drawn to, and their wordless language was communicated only through a blissful feeling of pure peace and love. All of the star-souls’ brilliance bloomed fluidly and pulsated colors of vibrant light – vivid colors that Kate had never seen before on earth.
She intertwined with the other souls she knew she was destined to dance with effortlessly, exchanging their starry beauty through a feeling that can only be described as love. When the dance with another soul was complete, they would leave a piece of themselves with each other, and Kate would grow larger and shine brighter.
She described the Creator of these stars as a “magnificent bright light like the sun,” that she felt as small as a grain of sand in comparison. When she gazed into this sun, she felt instantly renewed with purpose, love and a kind of indescribable bliss that cannot be felt on the earth plane.
“Will I return here?” Kate had asked the Creator, or who she would often refer to as God. He assured her that she would.
She knew that some of these souls that she felt magnetized to and danced with were here, somewhere on this physically dense planet, destined to meet, destined to dance with her, to learn what they needed to from each other and to love the each other in order to later glow brighter in that Creation Realm.
Sister Nancy had a lot of questions. She gazed tranquilly at the young girl in front of her as if in a trance.
“The light never burns out from inside of us, we only change form; we can only glow brighter,” Kate explained excitedly to Sister Nancy.
“I want to go back,” she added, and a sort of homesickness filled her voice.
“Kate,” Sister Nancy said, softly, locking eyes with the young girl. “You have a gift, and you must continue to tell others about this.”
“This is her calling,” Sister Nancy told Kate’s mother later that day on a telephone call. “Please encourage her to share her gift.”
“I don’t think ‘telling stories’ is a gift,” Kate’s mother snapped.
“People will think you’re crazy Kate,” her mother told her flatly. “They won’t like you, and they definitely won’t love you if you repeat any of this nonsense.”
These are the words that echoed through Kate’s mind for years, settling into a place of quiet fatalism far out of reach.
“Rick,” Kate said, embracing her husband on the kitchen floor. “There’s something I need to tell you.
Rick tilted his head. As she spoke, Rick looked at her the same way Sister Nancy had when she had stood at her desk and spoke about the Creation Realm. She felt a familiar feeling creep over her, a feeling of comfort, and by looking into her husband’s eyes she could see it had reached him too.
There have not been many earth moments that have come close to mirroring what Kate had felt in the Creation Realm but for that moment, as she spilled her secret, and the two of them spilled tears together, there on the kitchen floor, time and space was at a stand-still and all that remained was the present moment.
What is there to fear in the present moment?
Rick Grant passed on November 19, 2013 at 7:45 p.m. He was only 54 years old. His obituary read, “Rick’s entire happiness was wrapped up in his family…the very essence of his life was his children…”
“He will be missed,” said every friend and family to Kate at the funeral, and she could tell by their tears that their words were sincere. Kate knew Rick was somewhere waiting for her in the Creation Realm, but right now she had a lot of other things to learn. Stripped of the identity of her husband, she was now forced to look in the mirror and ask, who am I?
The grieving never goes away, she realized one night over a bottle of wine in her living room. Old photos lay scattered in front of her and her eyes were puffy from tears. The house creaked with loneliness. No, she realized, the grieving just changes form and what transpires is kind of a dull acceptance as you shift your focus to the present. But the present was just as jarring.
Why had she not realized until now that all of those panic attacks and irritation was due to her own insecurities and lack of self-worth? She showed a tough exterior. She had successful business ventures and a beautiful family, but the secret buried inside of her was making her sick.
“Different,” she knew people would describe her as. They would peg her as one of those goofy New-Age people. The kind who wears jade jewelry, speaks to horses and signs their emails, “Namaste,” instead of “Sincerely.” If she told them who she really was and what she really knew, who would be left standing around her?
“Seven billion souls on this planet,” Kate said on stage one evening. “There are seven-billion souls on this planet but only one of you. The world needs to have what you can share.”
Kate was speaking to a large crowd but she was also speaking to herself. Reminding herself that after many years of going within - journaling, meditating, praying, that the softer, authentic version of her that has emerged is okay.
“You are special…divinely intended and created from the very moment you were thrust from God Himself. Whatever is going on in your life, whoever you are ‘being’ that isn’t really your organic self, you can push a reset at any moment and go a different direction altogether.”
After Kate shared her secret with Rick, her entire life changed. The people around her changed. Her body changed. Her attitude changed.
“I refuse to limit myself because there are those who underestimate me,” her clients recite to her, a line she uses again and again to help push their gifts out of them the way Sister Mary had encouraged Kate to many years ago.
“Our time here is brief,” Kate said to the crowd, her voice softening with emotion.
But a lifetime to Kate is different than what most people will ever know. Some people enter life as a flicker, some as a roaring flame, and some dim quietly on their own while others blaze out with glory. But in the end, we continue to dance – with the same people, in the same place, and with that same feeling that we had before, that so many of us have forgotten.
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Jennae Geren is a freelance journalist, the founder of the journalism and film project, I Had a Dream Project, and the Owner of Geren Imaging in Fort Collins, Colorado.