“Do you not see how God compares a good word to a good tree?
Its root is firm and its branches are in the sky;
it yields its fruit in every season by God’s leave.”
(Qur’an, Surah 14: 22)
Rev. Susan Shannon
The death of my friend’s husband coincided (within moments) with my decision to pursue chaplaincy. Though I had been contemplating this possibility of becoming a chaplain off and on for several years, the timing was never quite right.
Suddenly, on this mid-August day, the answer to what had been my daily prayer for weeks came just moments before my friend called me with the hushed, unburdened and unexpected joy of her husband’s passing just minutes ago.
Leaving the hospital later that afternoon, I recognized an altered state, which I attributed to sitting for several hours with a newly deceased body. On the drive home I reflected how this energy field is so much like what is generated with a birth. Time and space rearrange, as spirit and matter release, form becomes formless… or vice versa.
I felt almost giddy as the day’s events unfolded. My consciousness expanded like elastic to embrace the many gifts of the morning: my friend’s unharnessed sense of connectedness when her husband passed, and the memories of his music and life shared by the few close friends in the room.
I felt moved to have witnessed this personal and intimate passage. I longed to get home, to the sanctity behind my locked gate. I wanted to emerge into solitude and presence, the better to embrace this profound energy.
As I entered my yard, I heard a ripe peach fall.
Falling Fruit! How perfect! As the symbolism of the moment struck me, I wiped my tears and gave thanks for such blessings. The abundance of the day was falling all around me! Is this not also the abundance of any day?
I brought out my mother’s old wicker basket and began collecting the day’s fruit fall. Soon the basket was full. Peaches rolled from the basket onto the ground and fell from the tree around me at the same time.
I marvel at how we can never predict the ways fruit finds us:
Fruit that falls even when we aren’t looking
Fruit that falls somewhere soft and is unblemished
Fruit that falls too soon
Fruit that never falls—
Even the big ripe one that looks ready
but you can’t get it to drop no matter what—
Fruit that falls in such abundance that harvest becomes burden
Fruit that falls in unknown places,
later discovered to be
perfect in its color and ripeness—
Fruit that falls
whether we think our basket is full or empty.
While I had been outside, Gina Rose (CHI ‘s founder) had responded to my inquiry about CHI , leaving me a message to call her back. I called immediately, and we conversed for nearly an hour. Her questions unearthed the treasures in my life with the care and gentleness of a spiritual archaeologist.
The end of the conversation marked the beginning of my journey with CHI . I would start my first module in just a few days. (“Good Grief,” indeed!)
May I always honor the gifts that others bring me, known or unknown, in both their lives and their deaths.
May I honor the passing of my friend’s husband with the deep commitment to help all beings through this new journey of chaplaincy.
And may our loved ones continue to enhance our lives through all the impermanence, suffering, and joy of this life.
From The Koran, Surah 14: Abraham, Verse 22 (tr. N.J. Dagwood, London: Penguin, 1991).