I have had much to reflect on today, and lots of time to do it. Most of this day was spent with my spiritual director in Valdosta, a good, and right, and joyful place to be on the fifth anniversary of my dad's funeral at St. John's Episcopal Church, and the celebration of the tenth anniversary of my massage school graduation. Two very different occasions. Two moments that have left an indelible mark on my life, and changed it forever.
The decision to leave broadcast journalism and take up massage therapy as a career was pretty radical. That is, unless you had walked in my shoes and experienced the growing sense of the senselessness of what I was doing. After witnessing an execution, I couldn't listen to politicians debating the issue of capital punishment in a dispassionate vacuum. I knew what I had seen. I knew that there was nothing painless about what that inmate, John Earl Bush, experienced. That knowledge did nothing to lessen the horror or wrongness of the murder of Frances Slater which put him on death row. But he was one of four involved in that crime. Two of the four were not on death row. And all I could think about was the likelihood that this form of justice was not so much "an eye for an eye," but more likely "a fingernail for a heart." As more mishaps occurred with executions, the cry was not to stop killing inmates; rather it was to switch the method we used. To then hear elected officials attempt to save the state's use of the electric chair to administer the punishment was sickening. Add to all of this the unbearable pettiness of the upper management of my radio network toward the employees, and I knew I had to either get out of this work or risk going to an early grave.
Massage school did a lot to scrub off the crap that I'd absorbed as journalist, both on the outer layer of my being and the inner soul that had needed protection from it all. The reconnection with my body as a receptor of good was so joy-filled. And to learn how to transmit Love through my hands and my presence was enormous gift that I could share with others. I thought this was the complete package of my journey.
I was wrong.
In 2005, my mother and father made the decision at the urging of me and my partner to move temporarily to Florida. My dad was now needing to be in an assisted living facility. In New Hampshire, such care costs twice as much as it does down here. Those two years with my dad were stressful, and yet wonderful in that I really enjoyed the chance to be with him and do things that delighted him like carve a Jack O' Lantern for his room or read "A Christmas Carol" to him and mom in the same way he used to do for me when I was a child. When he died, my friends, and some of the people who had come to know and love my dad, insisted that we have a funeral service for him here. My soon-to-be mentor, Mtr. Lee Shafer, was very kind and generous in her willingness to indulge me and my mom in a non-traditional Gospel selection for his service. So, instead of the usual "take your pick of John" messages, we had the Prodigal Son from Luke. It was absolutely the perfect story to capture the type of man my father had been: always including the strays, the misfits and the oddballs inside and outside our family at our table. My brother Tom, who had practiced law with my dad, noted that our father was not the attorney for those wishing to find an easy out or pull a fast one over an estranged spouse, but rather was the guy who would become the guardian for a mentally-disabled adult child of aging clients, and would be willing to take someone's catch of fresh fish in lieu of paying their legal bills. Dad did not turn people away.
His death, as I have noted several times on this blog, took what massage school had started in me and brought it back 'round to its logical connection with God in Christ. Some massage therapists might be adverse to thinking that there is anything about the practice of healing touch and body wisdom that would lead a person to the Western Christian model of belief and worship. Even I found it bizarre and unnerving. Yet, I will never, ever forget that feeling that I had when I was summoned by an unknown voice to "Show up!" and I got myself dressed and was present for the service on Sunday, November 11th. The unmistakable and undeniable and unending message that I was loved, and have always been loved, was just as exuberantly expressed through the liturgy as how that father in the Prodigal Son parable embraced his wayward child. I was blown away.
This moment in 2007 would be the beginning point of coming in closer contact with the Love that I was accessing in my massage practice. And while I was in touch with Love, it hadn't penetrated my heart in this deep way until now. Having this new, deeper level of contact, it could flow through me and from me in the full knowledge that the Love I was offering was beyond what I had in me already; it really was and is from a universal source that is endlessly supplying it to anyone who wants to tap into it. This was not part of the instruction I received in massage school and it was far removed from the "truth" that I was scrambling to uncover as a journalist. And yet it was very true. And a good, and right and joyful thing.
My gratitude to those who have been with me on this journey and assisted me along the way. The path is still unfolding before me. Let's see where we go.