A Song for Christa (excerpt)

Sunday September 20 is especially wonderful. The morning train is quiet and reaches Ulm early. Outside the station, a bus waits to carry me on. Even the hospital is quiet. C’s room is bathed in sunshine when I enter. She is asleep. 

I kiss her and she wakens with a smile. She looks radiant in midday light despite her yellowing eyes. A beautiful energy of love is immediately present. I tell her of my journey and T’s sense that she has come into a loving space where she can feel softly held. I hold her and she falls asleep again.

She wakes up twenty minutes later and asks ‘What time is it?’ ‘1.15.’ ‘Good, you don’t have to go yet.’ She closes her eyes and rests again. I feel absolute, impossible love in that moment, so touched am I by her innocence. I realise how much she has cleared and pray she can return from this peace that she has found.

She wakes again and listens to music on her walkman. A nurse asks if it’s anything interesting. ‘Mozart’, C says proudly and introduces me as her partner. Now it is my turn to feel proud. An energy of pure love surrounds us. She sleeps through Laudate Dominum, the Divine Child music from our ‘Goddess Rising’ play.

Her mother phones then as arranged. Their exchange is soft and healing.

I offer to read a poem I think she will like. It too is by cummings but is not one I have read for her before. She says she would like that. I fix her pillows so she can sit up. Closing her eyes as I begin, she smiles at lines she particularly likes. A look of joy illuminates her as I come to the end.

‘Would you like me to read it again?’

‘Yes please.’

This time she smiles through the whole reading, savouring phrases in their anticipated flow. I watch with love as the smile spreads through her body.

‘Again?’                                                      

‘Yes please.’

I read again, more precisely, so she can better catch nuances of expression.

‘One more time?’

She smiles, nodding. I start over, profoundly moved by the revelation of these words and the significance they clearly hold for C.

‘We’ve heard it four times now, once for each of the directions. Do you think I should read once more so we can get the essence?’

Yes: I compose myself to read a last time, slowly, my Heart bursting with love, reshaping cummings’ lines as I speak so that their essence may arrive intact:

i thank You God for this most amazing day

for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky

and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today

and this is the sun’s birthday

this is the birth day of life and of love and wings

and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

any – lifted from the no of all nothing –

human merely being doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

 

My Beloved’s spirit flies over these words. We are full of hope and joy.   

                                                                     *

The next time I arrive C is at the centre of a medical emergency. Potassium levels in her blood have soared and need to be stabilised. For four of the seven hours that I am present, I can do little more than offer support through her engulfment by this process. At last, it becomes clear that balance will be restored and that she will be comfortable through the coming night. She wakes up shortly after to find me only by her bed. She smiles. I kiss her cheek and take her hand.

We are joined then by two earnest-looking doctors. The older one addresses Christa in a rapid, complex German that I can’t follow. I ask for a summary in English: ‘I am not satisfied with the situation. Here is a young woman and we have means to fight this disease. If she doesn’t accept treatment now, she will die in two or three days.’ He looks at me, then at C. She looks at me, almost apologetically, then turns to him and slowly shakes her head.

She is utterly resolute and calm. There will be no more fighting. The great surrender we have called for is to hand. I am awed by her courage and dismayed. I could ask for reconsideration, say I would respect her none the less but that would be undermining, no different than her parents’ attempts. I thank the doctors, saying that I must support C’s choice. They will prepare a blood transfusion ‘to give her more time’ for inner changes to complete and, we have hoped, a particular miracle to unfold.

‘I’m sorry we never made it to Trieste.’

‘I still have faith in miracles.’

This is true but something radical has changed. I have never known C to be so definite. Her consciousness seems totally aligned with her soul, creating an aura of great strength. I ask if she would like me to read for her. She shakes her head and says she is too tired.

A nurse comes with two bags of blood warmed to a specific temperature and wrapped in foil to prevent heat loss. I take them and hold them to my Heart, standing over C so I can channel my love through this direct flow into her veins. Feeling great waves of love surging for her, I dare to hope that our miracle may yet transpire. She sleeps while the bags slowly drain.

She wakes then and knows from darkness outside that it is late. ‘Don’t you need to go?’ ‘It’s okay, I can stay a little longer.’ I hold her and stroke her face. She looks tired. Her arms are bruised from all the injections she has had. She hates injections. This is not her leaping greenly world.

‘Go now darling, quickly, or you’ll miss your train.’

She’s right. I kiss her and turn to leave, saying that I still require her company on the Danube. She smiles weakly as I go. There is more love, and therefore truth, in her last sentence than in all the words of all the teachers we have met over these last years.

The train is cold, empty and bright, clattering at high speed through outer darkness. Alone in the carriage I weep, Heart-broken that my beautiful love may not return from her ordeal: so many ordeals, so much suffering and tireless, never-ending work.

                                                                     *

I am back again by noon. C is physically tired but spiritually calm. Her breathing is regular and comes from very deep. All her energy goes to sustain it. She looks as if she is exploring other planes. I take her feet and breathe love into her. This gets easier by the day, a direct expression now of my first nature. Her breathing continues unperturbed and she looks radiant, as if transmitting her perfect soul-alignment. I hope again that she might yet return.

That evening she can’t eat. The doctors invite me to stay and I agree. C spends most of the time sleeping. Each time she wakes, I reassure her that I will be staying. She smiles, happy that she will not be abandoned. A strong light burns weakly in her eyes. I build two paths and settle by her side, realising what it means to truly love. One leads back to Earth and another through the stars. Her soul will choose.

The hospital atmosphere changes as night-shift begins. Reduced staffing means that emphasis switches from care to containment. Medication is administered to aid sleep and dull pain. Catheters are offered to patients who, like C, are unable to see to toilet needs alone. From the depths of her altered state, she accepts morphine and refuses a catheter. I will help with the commode.

The hours pass calmly until midnight. I mop her brow and tell her repeatedly that I love her, synchronising with the rhythm of her breaths so she can hear me clearly after each exhale. I am not sure why I am doing this until, suddenly, she gets agitated and pulls herself up, clinging tenaciously to an overhead triangle. Her fingers lock death-like around the bar. Her eyes dart anxiously, betraying fear.

She speaks a clipped, staccato dialect that I mostly cannot grasp. ‘Mama, schnell bitte. Papa, schnell, schnell, schnell!’ Her anxiety is focused around soiling the bed, or a fear of doing so but when I offer help she pushes me away with fierce strength, the fingers of one hand clinging tenaciously to the bar. She seems not to understand my words.

Suddenly I realise that I am meeting a part of her that knows no English, never dared open to the world and has pushed away the love it craves for years. These locked fingers express C’s fundamental holding and maintain a terror of existence that no psychology could hope to shift. Instinctively, I modulate my tone, stroking her gently and saying repeatedly ‘Ich liebe dich, ich libe dich, ich liebe dich…’ Gradually, she calms and lets me release her fingers’ hold on the overhead bar. I take them gently in my hand.

Her breathing quietens and becomes regular again. She lets me settle her back on the pillows. I continue to hold her hands, repeating over and over ‘Ich libe dich’ in gaps between her breaths. She sleeps then for a while but startles soon after, flapping anxiously as she again calls ‘Mama, Papa, schnell, schnell, schnell …’ I sense that she really does need the commode and manage to get her to it in time.

She is exhausted from the effort and hangs limply as I clean her with one hand before lifting her back into the bed. Her body is faint and birdlike, receding, but her essence still shines through. I can still see my Christa in a light of familiar beauty and kiss her face. She knows me as I rearrange her covers, kissing her more, telling her I love her, repeating this until she relaxes gently into sleep.

A few minutes later she stirs again. The same agitated consciousness erupts: ‘Mama, Papa, schnell, schnell schnell…’ This time is no actual emergency. I calm her with gentle strokes and reassurance: ‘Ich liebe dich, ich liebe dich, ich liebe dich…’  She holds my right hand in both of hers. I caress her cheek lightly with my left.

By 4 am the panic has passed. C is now entirely happy to be held but the effort has cost the last of her physical strength. She looks totally worn-out. Without realising, I find myself saying ‘Go home my love. It’s time now to be free.’ It’s clear that she has nothing more to give. My consciousness expresses knowledge of this in words that I never thought I would say.

Nevertheless, I find myself repeating them over and over, letting C know I am aware of what has happened and that she must no longer feel bound by my expectations or any sense that she might be letting me down. In that moment I am wholly clear and fully resolved. I know now what her soul has chosen. Lying beside her on the bed, I continue to reassure her of my love.

C’s work is done. Nothing remains but a farewell to her parents. At 7.30 I advise them to come as early as they can. They arrive about a quarter past eleven. Her mother sits on C’s left, placing her hands on her daughter’s wrist and shoulder. I make way so her father can do likewise on her right. He sits and looks, not knowing how to behave. I hold C’s feet at the end of the bed, channelling love to her with all my might. Her mother speaks endearments into her ear. Her father sits helplessly before getting up and shuffling off.

I take the chair he has vacated and hold C’s hand. Kissing it, I lean towards her, and say ‘I love you/Ich liebe dich’ over and over, as I have been doing through the night. Then, without knowing why, I burst into tears. Seeing this has some impact on her father. When a nurse brings food for me, he takes my place. 

This time he puts his hands on his daughter’s arm and wrist, just like her mother on the other side. He leans forward and speaks into C’s ear. For the first time ever, I believe, she is held in unanimously loving embrace by both her parents.

I sit at a table facing away from the bed and start to eat. C’s parents continue their loving ministrations. All is well. After some time, her mother calls sharply ‘John!’ I look and see that my Beloved no longer breathes. I rush across. C’s eyes, beautiful as ever, are now empty. The spirit that once lived in them has gone. I was not present. I did not see her go or say goodbye.

I might have felt cheated by this, or guilty, but I don’t. I know from the nurse’s timing that my job has been to prepare C for those moments with her parents and withdraw, surrendering as she did to Divine Will. Now she has passed without the slightest hint of stress or agitation.

The atmosphere is one of grace and wonder. The room throbs with love. So inspiring is the moment that we forget to be sad. I know something wonderful has taken place: that C received at the end of her life all that was lacking at its beginning and provided great healing for her parents in this. Eventually, her mother calls a nurse. I step out to walk a little.

Passing now familiar corridors, my consciousness is elevated. The sublime transition I have witnessed dwarfs in majesty and scale all the gleaming banks of technology and buzzing expertise around me. Stepping out to fresh air and bright sky, my sense of connection is restored. Christa is no longer in this world! I can’t begin to think what that might mean.

I send messages to persuade myself, asking friends to relay the news. I remember words from my first message: ‘C passed beautifully c 12.30 in perfect unison with both her parents.’  Soon after, T replies ‘With tears streaming down my face, I see a huge space like a doorway of light opened for the world. You, standing in Gold, place the Crown of Glory on her head. C’s journey is perfectly completed.’

Wandering in the university grounds, I see nothing of this but it mirrors my feeling. I walk through a little forest on the edge of the campus, arriving at a hillside that offers a clear view back over Ulm. I see the cathedral spire and imagine a little girl in the Square beneath. A Wonder Child, forgetful of identity, she converses with doves who flock to her acquaintance. I linger there a while. Then, carrying her in my heart, I turn back to face another life.

                                                                    *

The atmosphere is still sublime in the room. C’s parents are sad but relieved.  The manner of her passing and their active role has erased fears of a difficult, unresolved parting. They know she was prepared, unafraid and reconciled. This inspires them as it does me. I pay respect to the temple of her body one last time, marvelling at the wonder of dis/incarnation, crying shamelessly at the glory and abysmal sorrow of it all. I find myself clinging to her legs as Magdalene clings to Jesus’ in the sculpted tableau at La Baume.

We are left alone then for three hours. I pack C’s things. There is too much to carry so a neighbour comes to drive me ‘home’. I can’t imagine ‘home’ without C. Mundane sensibility is starting to return. As we step out from the clinic into light, my world hurtles out of phase. Nothing coheres. All that once seemed ‘here’ is now elsewhere, accessible no longer.

I knew this world through the vibration of C’s presence. This land was for me her land. Now she has withdrawn and I am lost. I cannot find ways out of my mute consciousness and sit quietly through the drive. At last I say this to my friend. He understands. I don’t. Nothing feels understandable anymore.

A vast, shapeless challenge rises before me, to assimilate all that now impends and give it form. I have no idea how to go on.

                                                                    *

C’s flat is rented. This means the world we shared will soon disappear. The next day I start to gather memories, absorbing reflections of her presence that surround me: focusing now this photo, then that, this picture, that plant, the exquisitely harmonious appointment of her living space, where every detail is a signature, a vestige of her having been. No more.

Her presence was a delicate one: sublime and expansive when unthreatened; fragile and vulnerable at other times. She was a flower whose nature was to bloom for every sun but whose spontaneity was curbed by harsh experience. My part was to soften her way. Sometimes I did.

She was never just the troubled girl who grew into a troubled woman. Her wound was not the manifestation of a damaged psychology but its absolute underpinning, the fundamental recoil of one who was put aside at birth, suffered constant inhibition and lived almost without acknowledgement towards an end of pure service. 

She was not, as she sometimes thought, one who failed to clear this wound but a great soul who bore its extremity for all, resolving in the hour of her death patterns laid down at her beginning, surrendered again into her parents’ care. The beauty of this resolution chills me.

I walk in a nearby forest where we used to walk as one, feeling the imprint of her hand in mine, wondering how she could ever have doubted our love and knowing, too late. I cry aloud, whispering over and over ‘I love you and I love you and I love you, forever and forever and forever’. I feel like Magdalene after the crucifixion: shattered, desolate, bereft. T says I look sad and bewildered, that I am being dismantled.

On the fourth day my intolerable ache reduces slightly, becoming noticeable for this. Fleetingly, I intuit a possibility of Beyond. A friend drives me then to Langenargen on Lake Constance. Its familiar world strangely endures, despite C’s absence. We walk by the shore towards a marina.

Open book stalls are still there and waves of people, seemingly assured. An elderly couple passes on bikes. I would have liked to grow old with C, happy and wise. Now I am torn and unmet; everywhere unmet. Awareness tells that every disaster brings new opening and every opening greater life. I hope C is enjoying hers now. I miss it so much.

Next day I ride her bicycle to another favoured place, a country track just outside the city. I imagine her walking by my side, a welcome ghost. It is hard not to but I try. I project my sense of her presence all around me, extending it as far as I can. My Heart opens with this intent. I sense new spaciousness within. A new way seems to beckon, a new love.

How could C have doubted our love? How could I have failed to express it? Or succeeded? I know but questioning persists. That last unanticipated clearing showed her wound to be foundational, and the power of Spirit in her to keep pressing for release. My joy is that she found love absolutely in those hours and that this love brought her gently Home, the tyrannies of a deep past overcome.

I too must let go a deep past, dissolving old forms into new orders of relationship with my Beloved. I recall words from an English folksong: ‘My true love has flown into every flower grown/ and I will be Keeper of the Garden’. I feel C’s expansion as vaster, trans-dimensional, but still the pattern fits. When one of us is here and another there, mutually yearning, our yearning brings these worlds together.

Renewed questing for my Beloved has brought me to this awareness. My passion was once focused through her. Now it must open and see everything revealed as Beloved. Sun shines on the valley where her city nestles still. The Alps reflect gloriously from afar. Corn in the next field waits to be cut. I cry.

                                                                     *

The essence of every Divine Child remains inviolate whatever happens but we doubt our human selves and, inured by harsh experience, lose our ability to connect. Despite this, and despite the regimentation her spirit endured, C continued always to seek expression: in her persistence, generosity and commitment, in her impulse to make beauty and make love.

I can scarcely imagine treasures she might have divulged but that cannot be an issue now. I know that they were always present and that I sometimes glimpsed them, not least through the searing clarity of our final days, when I learned what it means to truly love. I realise that, alone and unthreatened, her first nature projected itself easily, as in the appointment of her living space.

It was only when a prospect of outer judgment loomed – and with it echoes of her father’s No! – that she retrenched and hid her light away. This hampered her creativity, especially with regard to public sharing, and her spiritual equilibrium. It reflected her sense of separation from (the male aspect of) God. This stemmed from a major pattern of her female lives, involving patriarchal abuse of Goddess integrity.

It is a mark of her soul nobility that she took on a radical healing of this issue in our time, and my privilege to have shared the culminating stages of that journey. Our dream of sacred marrying was not an accident, nor was the fact that C’s life closed by drawing her father’s damaged warrior into an unconditionally loving sphere of pure compassion. Her holy family was thus at last made whole.

On the day of her funeral he spoke openly of inspiration he drew from her passing, of how calm and fearless she was, and of the courage he takes from her example. I bring a white rose and a Chagall print to bid my love farewell. An urn that holds her ashes flanks a beautiful portrait photograph in black and white. I kneel before it and present my gifts. Then I sit beside her parents.

A Divine Child steals into my Heart, exuding joy at freedom from human constraints, breathing love upon this company assembled in her name. Her first nature is intact and still seeks expression in our world. I am assailed by endless waves of impossible love, known now as divine love manifesting through human form. C reminds me that all is comprehended and forgiven. I am inspired for the rest of time.

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