A few days after you passed away, I saw you in a dream for the first time. I looked up upon the skies above me and saw your face, realizing in an instant as is customary in a dream state, that your face was an embodiment of your spirit. I followed your spirit with my eyes as it effortlessly and eagerly raced across the clouds. I wondered, as I watched you traverse the open space, where were you headed. I stretched my gaze a bit further out and saw The Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem. You were making your journey back to your beloved, I thought.
I don’t remember you ever verbalizing your love for the motherland. But why would you have had to? Would one have to verbalize love towards one’s own limb, when stretched away from one’s body can appear to be so exterior and separate, while in actuality it’s veins spread like roots into the very pit of one’s core, even if severed? I grew up watching you collect artifacts from Palestine. A map of the motherland carved on olive wood. A big key symbolizing the long awaited return to awaiting homes. Endless objects detailed with cross-stitched Palestinian embroidery. I often wondered about this powerful spell cast by a small piece of land upon its people. Is it truly merely a longing for lost fields? Is it just the ruins of pain branded upon one’s soul from the sight of one’s demolished home? Can we really not find new fields to replace lost ones? Can we not construct new homes and dwell within them long enough until those destroyed are forgotten? Everything about Palestine seemed physical. The land, the homes, the keys, the olive trees, the fields, the limbs and your pilgrimage back to Jerusalem in my dream. And then your niece, Wafaa, passed away.
You must know she did. Did you know though that I had to help wash her still body before her burial? They were one woman short and I didn’t have the heart to let her eldest daughter, who was not even seventeen then, fill in for the missing spot. So I volunteered. Washing the dead sounded daunting. It took about an hour and a half and it was physically demanding to hold and turn her quiet body while the body washer finished her task. For an hour and a half, and as I helped maneuver Wafaa’s body around, I couldn’t help but think about how trivial the physicality of all things are. Our most precious physical bodies are trivial. Mere vessels of ever-present awareness. I was witness in that washing room to the stillness of physics, and the density of the unseen, the unheard, yet the fully and subtly sensed. This triviality of what we dearly protect and nourish, our bodies, is as true in our birth as it is in our death. Do you know of the seventy thousand veils? “Seventy Thousand Veils separate the One Reality from the world of matter and of sense. And every soul passes before its birth through these seventy thousand. The inner half of these are veils of light: the outer half, veils of darkness. For every one of the veils of light passed through, in this journey towards birth, the soul puts off a divine quality: and for every one of the dark veils, it puts on an earthly quality. Thus the child is born weeping, for the soul knows its separation from the One Reality. Man is now, as it were, in prison in his body.”
Your pilgrimage to Palestine, one you were forbidden from taking in your life but freed to take soon after you were released from the prison of your physical body, was it perhaps a quest to heal your earthly wounds? Was it perhaps a moment to shed once and for all a harrowing earthly sense of loss and expulsion? Was it a necessary farewell rather than a long awaited reunion? Wisdom, they say, is nothing more than healed pain. And Wisdom, they say, is divine.