This is reflection passed on to me by my mom’s good friend Ren. They went to massage school together, and competed for the best test score (the two of them probably never received a score below 97% on any test or assignment). His reflection really captures my mom’s childlike zest for life.
“I met Laurie at massage school in 1999. Coming into it, we shared some things in common: Catholic upbringing, Life Success, Thea’s breathwork but in some ways we were very different. My idea of a good use of a vacation was traveling to El Salvador during its civil war to see what our government was really doing there. Laurie preferred time on a Florida beach (and she passionately described that experience of being there so you could feel the breeze, the warmth, the sense of freedom, and companionship).
Because we lived near one another we car pooled over that year and a half and shared the challenges and discoveries of massage. We became good friends and supporters for one another and came to share other experiences in related workshops and in breathwork. I particularly remember one workshop during which she started this crazy and beautiful full-body unwinding process when I was working with her. At the end of the workshop, the facilitators had us go around to thank one another. Laurie was just glowing. Her eyes were wide, she was so beautiful. I was amazed at the power, love, and beauty she contained: all of it radiantly displayed on her face.
It was through her friendship with Gary Vollbracht that we both came to join Stillpoint. I’m sure that without her encouragement I would not still be practicing massage. In many ways, Laurie has been a guide for me.
Laurie was vibrantly curious about life and living things and all that supports them: the magic and wonder of existence. I cannot help but think of Laurie every time I look up at the stars. She had a beautiful, clean energy of engagement in the people (especially her children and Tom) and creatures of life. I felt that Laurie, as are we all, was wounded by life: the early deaths in her family, the break up of her marriage, and perhaps things she brought from a prior life. I guess that this wounded ness heightened her compassionate nurturing for others and her passion to find the magic in life.
Somehow God put us together in massage school and at work thereafter certainly for some reason. Hopefully, I’ve become more aware of the magic and awe in life all around me. Somehow too, I think there is a lesson to be learned, or perhaps better a mystery to be lived, about reconciling the beauty in this world with its pain and suffering.
If there is a reason why things happen, then one of the most striking coincidences occurred about four months after she told me that she was diagnosed with cancer. It took place at the Rave cinema, a place I’d never been before nor since. My wife, Elisa, and daughter, Carmen, and I were there to see Finding Neverland, the Johhny Depp, Kate Winslet movie about the inspiration behind playwright James Barrie’s creation of Peter Pan (certainly this would be a whimsical show, right?) Well, after purchasing our tickets I stopped at the bathroom while Elisa and Carmen chose seats in the theater. When I entered the theater looking for my family, the first people I saw were Laurie and Tom. Then I noticed Elisa and Carmen sitting in the same row. When I greeted Laurie and Tom, Elisa realized for the first time that it was them – they had not recognized each other when Elisa picked the seat. So the seat I came to sit in to watch this movie, was chosen in a purely random way, to sit right next to Laurie!
But the coincidence goes beyond this. As I’m sitting next to Laurie the movie unfolds to reveal that the main female character, Sylvia, is dealing with a serious disease. She says:
“My understanding is that my condition might be quite serious. However, my wish is that life should go on as normal. So, I’ll have the examination and I’ll take whatever medications they advise. But I don’t want to know what they’re for. And I don’t want you to inquirer into it any further.”
This sounded much like what Laurie had previously told us about her preference in managing her disease. The last scene is at her funeral. Though the disease is not named in the movie the historical Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, died of cancer. Whoa! At the time I wondered what this meant. The only processing I did with Laurie about this was immediately afterwards to say that I didn’t expect it to be a sad movie. I don’t remember Laurie’s response but I don’t remember her looking sad.
Nearly a year later another coincidence arose. The week before Laurie’s death, at a regular meeting of Stillpoint Center members we were acknowledging Laurie’s withdrawal from membership there. Gary mentioned how he had just rented the movie Finding Neverland and how amazingly similar it was to Laurie’s approach to handling her disease.
So, Monday, after hearing of Laurie’s transition, I rented the movie, thinking there’s got to be a message in there for me: there were too many coincidences. It felt like the universe was hitting me across the forehead with a 2 by 4 shouting: pay attention. According to the movie, Neverland is a place where the child version of us never grows up, never grows old. Where we always live in childlike wonder. The movie does not answer the following question: does imagination create a Neverland that we can escape to or does a lack of belief keep us out of Neverland? Jesus would seem to answer the question as follows: “the kingdom of God is in your midst;” and “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
There are many messages in the movie: about love, relationships, loss, and wonderment. I think the overall message of Peter Pan is to maintain childlike wonder: worrying about time and its consequences catching up with us is counterproductive. Laurie was all about that. She passionately enjoyed living in that childlike state of wonder. I think she resented parts of her self (e.g.: old mental programming) that interfered with maintaining that state and she worked to rid herself of them. So, what’s coming to me from the experience of this movie, from my time with Laurie, is to cultivate that state of childlike wonder: to do this in my work, in relationships, even when engaging with issues of oppression and justice to which I’ve been led. To appreciate the brightness and beauty of every sparkling moment and the mystery and magic of the universe behind it.
Here are some lines from the movie (which also depicts part of the play, Peter Pan) that stood out to me this week:
Wendy: “You know fairies, Peter?”
Peter Pan: “Yes, but they’re nearly all dead now. You see Wendy when the first baby laughed the first time the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about and that was the beginning of fairies. And now, when every new baby is born its first laugh becomes a fairy. So there ought to be one fairy for every boy and girl.”
“Ought to be? Isn’t there?”
“Oh, no. Children know such a lot now. Soon, they don’t believe in fairies. And every time a child says, “I don’t believe in fairies” there’s a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”
An elderly theater goer who recently lost her husband: “I suppose its all the work of the ticking crocodile isn’t it. Time is chasing after all of us.”
“I can fly!”
Peter Davies: “I thought she’d always be here.”
James Barrie: “So did I, but, in fact, she is because she’s on every page of your imagination. You’ll always have her there. Always.”
Peter Davies: “But why did she have to die?”
James Barrie: “I don’t know, boy. When I think of your mother I will always remember she went to Neverland.”
Peter Pan: “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”
Peter Pan: “Second (star) on the right and straight on till morning.””