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I sincerely felt his joy as I watched my husband journey to the spiritual world.
My husband Peter had suffered from poor health for so long, caused by much pain, prejudice and intergenerational trauma, so how could I not be happy for him?
His death helped me understand that I had to continue the work we did together in helping the Lakota people, so that I too could fulfill my soul’s purpose before I leave this world. I have much work left to do and I continue to do it, step-by-step.
I felt these feelings so strongly for a little over six months after Peter passed away—and then, oh boy, how the grief suddenly hit me.
I loved this man so deeply. My home was him. My peace was him, and I just plain enjoyed him. He made me laugh—and always try a little harder. So six months after he passed away, when I least expected it, an overwhelming grief set in for a couple of weeks. Each day it got harder to get out of bed, until one day, I started to wonder if I would be able to carry on. The sadness of my heart was just too great.
When this kind of profound, bottomless grief sets in, it is hard to push past it, and we often want to stay in that sadness. It’s strangely comforting, in some odd way. Thankfully, in the midst of my deep grief I remembered a quote from the Baha’i teachings, which talks about the burden our sadness and grief can cause to our loved ones in the next world. This quote helped me try to fight my way through the sadness:
… While in this world separation is inevitable and bringeth with it a burning grief. Therefore be thou not disconsolate, do not languish, do not sigh, neither wail nor weep; for agitation and mourning deeply affect his soul in the divine realm. When he findeth that thou art happy he becometh more cheerful, but when he perceiveth that thou art disconsolate, this provoketh anguish in his heart. – Baha’u’llah, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p.211, (1997 edition)…this calleth for gratitude, not grieving. When he findeth that thou art happy he becometh more cheerful, but when he perceiveth that thou art disconsolate, this provoketh anguish in his heart. – Baha’u’llah, Fire and Light, p. 10
As I mentioned in the previous essay, my husband Peter—a 38th generation Lakota medicine man—had a great connection to the spirit world. So even though what I’m about to share may seem excessively mystical or “woo-woo,” I promise, it’s a true story.
The worst day of my grief I could barely get out of bed that morning. I got an email from a woman Peter had helped from Wales. She wrote, “In my prayers and meditation this morning I can see Peter giving me a gentle push to contact you. I also see feathers which feel very comforting.” Peter’s Lakota name was Zintkala Oyate, which means Bird People. She later called but I was so low I couldn’t answer the phone.
Then, while reading a book—trying to avoid my pain and striving to escape—I got a call from a dear friend who had known Peter for a long time. She attended the Sun Dance for years, and had completed with Peter four years of pipe fasting—the four-day Lakota fast and spiritual quest. This friend had taken a course in grief counseling, and she told me that she had been thinking of me and felt that Peter wanted her to call me and offer some counseling. Because she had such a deep spiritual connection to Peter, combined with her own gifts, we were able to talk through some of my grief, and I finally started to feel some lifting of that very heavy weight.
As soon as our conversation ended I got a personal message from Facebook from a long-time singer, Howard Little Hawk, at our Sun Dance. He said to me, “Good evening Cindy … I had the most humblest dream ever … you, Peter, Andy and I were sitting on the hill behind the log cabin and the Sun Dance was going strong … we were all dressed in buckskin clothing … sitting together under the shade … Peter was happy about everything … he told me and Andy to go get the pipe and bring it back up to him so he can smoke it with you … the music was beautiful … there were a lot of dancers and people down there … ohhh I woke up singing a prayer song … it was so real Cindy … I can smell fresh dirt and buckskin in my room.”
With all three of these powerful dreams and messages occurring on the same day, I felt my grief begin to dissipate.
Call me crazy, and I know this might seem hard to believe, but really if all the worlds of God are one, then we must stop believing in this temporary physical separation. I can’t begin to share with you how much joy I felt inside myself again. I knew that my husband, Peter, had smoked the pipe for me to take away my sadness and to help me focus on his happiness. As I sat there, crying tears of joy, I thought of another of Baha’u’llah’s writings on death:
O Son of Justice! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his Beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his Beloved. – The Hidden Words, p. 23.
Of course, throughout our entire marriage my husband felt this separation, and longed to go back to his Beloved. I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking only about me and how much I missed him. But through dreams and inspired thoughts and prayers from loved ones, my husband reminded me to focus on his joy—and on mine. Today, I’m working on honoring the sadness and the pain when a wave hits me, but more than that I refocus on his joy, and know that I must continue my work to fulfill my soul’s purpose so that when I take flight, I will feel the joy and freedom he now has.
One last thought: the Baha’i writings liken this physical world to the “womb” of the spiritual world. Just as a child in the mother’s womb develops all the physical attributes that it will need in this physical world, so too do we develop the attributes necessary in the spiritual world: qualities of love, fortitude, patience, steadfastness, generosity, courage, etc. At death, as one goes through that “birth canal” into the real spiritual world, those spiritual qualities will give us all we need. Think of how close a mother feels to that child in her womb as it develops. I have to believe that is how close those souls are to us in the spiritual world. Love lives forever. I feel my husband close as I remember what a wondrous world he has flown to:
Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. – Ibid., p. 7.