What’s In Our Hearts

I went toward the rising column of thick yellow-gray smoke. I am like that. Some might see me as a nosy neighbor, but those who know me well know that I am a rescue responder at heart. I didn’t want to get in the way of the fire trucks, rescue vehicles and police cars, but if there was anything I could do I wanted to be there. So I went slowly, with wide-angle awareness.

I pray to be so present in every moment as I was when I approached the burning house.  It was entirely engulfed in flames.  A multitude of feelings rising within me; sadness and grief at the loss this family was experiencing, fear that somebody had been or might yet be injured, anxiety that the fire might spread. A few other neighbors were gathered at the police barrier in silent witness, a mix of my same emotions on their faces. One woman, cell phone to her ear and pacing frantically, intermittently squatted down in disbelief, hand on her head as she stared at the scene. I learned that her family’s beloved cats had yet to be rescued. Finally she stopped and began to sob. Another woman and I instinctively stepped close beside her and reached to touch her shoulder, a bond of shared humanity. There were no words to say, no offerings of hope, assurance or condolence. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing else to do but show up and presence the pain of another being. My inner voice said quietly, “What matters right now is what’s in our hearts.” Fire strips away everything; all appearances, all that is material. We are left with the bare bones of what is in our hearts, our values at the core. I want to believe there is no loss that compassion can’t hold.

There is nothing more to this story. No happy ending other than to say there is a glimmer of hope that the cats escaped and survived. They may yet be living in the wooded common ground of this neighborhood. Although their home was a total loss, the human family escaped without physical harm.

What is left in me is a feeling knowing that this could have been me; my home, my belongings, my cats. There is a feeling knowing that it has been and will again be me– the pain and grief of great loss. There is a feeling knowing that it is me; that the grief is universal. I pray that each time there will be someone to reach out and offer tender loving presence.
This poem is in my mind and heart…

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,
turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering,
the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.
David Whyte

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One thought on “What’s In Our Hearts

  1. Paulita December 29, 2017



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