everything grows with love

Stories about My Experiences with Writers & Illustrators Who Bring Light into the World…by Bonnie Ingber Verburg

May 26, 2013: Journal Entry: Everything grows with love

Today is May 26, the first anniversary of Leo Dillon’s death. It’s Sunday, and I wake early with an unusual sense of peace. The moment I open my eyes, I know the date and its significance. Even before I make coffee, I light a yarhzeit candle in the kitchen. It will burn and flicker all day. As I strike the match and say a prayer, I am aware that as the years go by, I am lighting more and more of these candles.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and the church service opens with the announcement that a little boy in our congregation died this week of cancer; he was almost eleven. The sermon is called “Is Healing Still Possible?”  Across the sanctuary, people are wiping their eyes, sneezing, and coughing.

“We are all healing,” Dave Carpenter says. Later he adds, “If we are able to let go and trust, then not only will God take those things that weighed us down in our past, but God will make new things, living things, beautiful things.”

As I drove here to church this morning, I tried to think of a friendship that has given me this level of unconditional love and constant support. I have had many, many wonderful friends, but nobody like Leo. The loss has been profound, although I have not allowed myself to truly accept it. Maybe there is nothing to accept?  Because everything he gave me is permanently lodged in my heart, and it isn’t going anywhere simply because his physical body is gone. I also know he would never, ever want me to feel fear or loneliness or grief. I imagine the strength of his hug, the genius of his hands, the knowing twinkle in his eye, his humor, his frustration, his stubbornness, his thinking machine. And cigarettes. Many, many cigarettes. I have a lighter he gave me tucked under one of the paintings in my living room. It props up the painting so it won’t topple off the mantle. The painting is from Pish, Posh.

The choir sings, “You make beautiful things out of the dust,” and I think about the beautiful things Leo made out of nothing with his mind and hands. Stories, drawings, paintings, sculpture, ideas. Pish, Posh. A good thing to say to death today.  And this weekend, with all its Memorial Day offerings, is a good time to remember the gifts that people give to us: courage, strength, a belief in ourselves, the knowledge that we can do difficult things that shouldn’t be possible. A sense of purpose. A sense of direction. Hope. Love.

Somewhere in my memory there is a story or a fable about a bird who did not believe she could fly until someone gave her a magic feather. As long as she held the magic feather, she could soar. And then one day, she dropped it. I seem to recall that as she went crashing downward out of the sky, she somehow came to see that she was capable of flying without it.

So when I was young, and I did not know what I could or could not do, Leo Dillon gave me a magic feather.

He is gone now. But not really.

I believe in the spirit world, and so does Leo. “There is no such thing as coincidence, kid,” he has told me for three decades. And today, the entire church service has been about him…to the letter. He is here with me now, sitting in the pew. Reminding me that I can fly without the feather. That if I crash and burn, it will be my own choice.

The thought makes me smile. It is so Leo.

At the end of the service, the minister asks us to use a scrap of paper and write a story about a burden we are willing to give up–so we can heal. One by one we walk to the front and drop our folded pieces of paper inside a huge flower pot. Then Dave places a large, blooming hydrangea on top of them and fills the rest of the pot with soil. God has taken our sorrow and is now ready to make something beautiful spread its leaves and flower from the ashes of our sadness.

The Talmud says that “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.'”


Because everything grows with love, doesn’t it?

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