A Hundred Million Miracles

“My father says that children keep growing/Rivers keep flowing too. My father says he doesn’t know why/But somehow or other they do. A hundred million miracles/ A hundred million miracles/ A hundred million miracles/ Are happ’ning ev’ry day.”  – From The Flower Drum Song, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

***

You can relax, now. You are where you are supposed to be. You are here because you want to think about something else besides the news. Perfect.

I’m going to tell you a little story. It’s about a cat and it’s about a miracle. But more than that, it’s about the unassailable evidence that we, and all living things, are loved and cared for – far, far beyond what we think we know.                

***

The Cat

A day or two after moving into our new house, I thought I saw a mouse. Horrified, I gave Bill, my darling, patient husband, a choice: Crazy wife, Cat. Crazy wife, Cat. Bill, who did not like cats, mulled this over for a full minute, and chose.    

The minute Bill and I walked into The Cat House, a home conceived and constructed by my friend, Gail, a noisy, gray and white cat walked up and introduced himself. The Cat House was a refuge for homeless cats, a place where they could live out their natural lives (neutered and inoculated) in peace. Or, better yet, get adopted. It was a one-room structure, lined with donated old sofas and chairs for cat lounging, with openings to a fenced-in yard and bins of dry food for grazing. The best place ever for cats that otherwise would have led hard, lonely lives. Bless you, Gail. 

Anyway, from the moment we walked in, the gray and white cat never left our side, yowling at us as we inspected all potential mousers. Lazy loungers appraised us with hauteur, indifference, or ignored us altogether. Except the noisy one at our feet, caterwauling at ten decibels. “Me, me, me!” he was yelling, “Take ME!” It was, truly, a metaphysical experience. With a good reference from Gail, we adopted him.

He was about one-and-a-half years old, and the name on his papers was something like, “Champ.” Bill re-named him immediately: Dorian Gray. And maybe that was the moment he became Bill’s cat. They bird-watched together. They took naps. They watched football together.

Bill tried not to love him, but failed. For nine years, Dorian followed Bill relentlessly, refused to let him read his newspaper, and brought him innumerable dead squirrels. They were inseparable, except when Dorian, a confirmed outdoor cat, went roaming. When Bill got cancer, Dorian began to spend more time indoors. And when, in those final days, Dorian jumped up onto the hospital bed in Bill’s room, his well-meaning sister pulled him off, his claws clinging desperately to the sheet. She didn’t know their love story. 

When Bill died, Dorian and I found comfort in each other. He began to sleep in my bed. He brought me squirrels, and when I told him I didn’t want any, he deposited them with my neighbor. A few years later, we moved away from the house in Maryland to resettle in Arizona. Dorian protested loudly from his carrier in the airport, on the plane, and on the two-hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona. By the end of our exhausting trip, I was crying, too. But we made it, and in no time, Dorian adjusted to the new neighborhood. I wanted him to stay indoors (after hearing stories about coyotes!), but Dorian wasn’t having it. He visited the sick, made friends with people walking dogs—and their dogs—and lounged in the sun on top of my car. I’m not going to lie; Dorian was no saint. He got into more than one scrape with the other neighborhood cats, and our vet got used to patching him up. Still, he was the neighborhood favorite.  Everybody knew his name.  

One day, Dorian stopped eating. On the advice of our vet, I drove him down to Phoenix for a sonogram. It showed large nodules all over his liver. Cancer. Like Bill’s. By this time, he was thirteen years old, and the vet told me the cancer was probably also in his lymph nodes and possibly in his kidneys, and to say goodbye.  I cried the whole two-hour drive back to Sedona as Dorian lay in his carrier beside me, quiet and still.

As the days passed, I managed to get him to drink a little chicken broth, but he lost a lot of weight and almost all of his hair. Every day I thought of the words of our hometown vet who promised me that he would come to the house and end Dorian’s pain, if it should come to that. But I never saw signs of pain, and Dorian insisted on making his rounds. Strangers to the neighborhood, seeing him so thin and hairless, threatened to call the Humane Society. I had to explain more than once (even to a policeman) that he was not a stray, just my little buddy who refused to wear a collar and who had cancer. Neighbors with tears in their eyes brought flowers, cards, and organic catnip. He was loved.  

The Miracle

Because this is Sedona, and we have such things here, I contacted a woman who communicates with animals. Dorian told her, she said, that “he’s not ready to go yet.” She knew nothing about his cancer. She never even saw him. She told me this over the phone. As I said, this is Sedona. Still, all I could see was my little friend fading away, and with him, a last part of Bill.  

One day, a little voice inside me told me to stew some chicken for Dorian in my Instant Pot. That day, he ate a few bites. I was overjoyed, but still braced to lose him.  

As the days passed, he ate a little more and a little more, but he was still very weak and almost all of his hair had fallen out. Now, I wonder if losing his hair was the result of some kind of internal chemotherapy. Every night, Dorian would climb onto my bed and lie very still on my lap (something he had never done before). Instinctively, I would put my hands around his back, feel the bony little spine, close my eyes, and quiet my mind. And the tingling in my hands would start. And the heat. Some kind of energy was flowing through my hands (Remember that this is Sedona, after all). I didn’t know what I was doing, but he came, asking for…something, and I did what seemed natural.

It has been almost a year since that sad trip to Phoenix. Dorian is eating heartily. He still looks thin, but that’s because he doesn’t have his big, furry coat. He makes his rounds as usual, and now we go on walks together. He shows me his secret places. He loves it when I’m outside with him. I’ve learned that the time I spend with him, walking leisurely, stopping to sit in the sun, greeting the neighbors and their dogs, listening to the birds, is a great gift. It quiets my soul. His friends are delighted to see him. He rides in the car with me when I go to the Starbucks drive-in, and sleeps in a ball, wedged against me every night. Every once in a while, we do the hands-on thing. His hair has started to grow back. It is new hair, like a baby’s, soft and curly. We have never been back to the vet.

***

The Explanation

There is none. There is only wonderment at the workings of the Universe, and the holy force of life. So whenever you’re feeling down, dear reader, think about this: A hundred million miracles/A hundred million miracles/A hundred million miracles/are happ’ning ev’ry day.   

Something Else to Think About

Dear Friends:

I stopped writing my blog a year ago.  I told myself that I wanted to concentrate on finishing my second book. That was true.  The book is coming along, by the way. Slowly, but it’s coming along. The working title is The Messenger II: The Well.

But that wasn’t the only reason I stopped writing. Something happened in my country in a town called Charlottesville that shocked me. It conjured up a vision of my ancestors, sad and disappointed, and I rushed to their defense. As if they needed me to defend them. No, they are safe. They are fine. But I was finished with my blog.

I know now that that was right. I needed to take a break. Regroup. Back away from the very thing that held me and my country in its grip: The Fight.  The toxic, righteous fight. I withdrew, feeling helpless to do anything about anything.

Until this past Sunday. I was sitting in a spiritual center in Sedona, beautiful and festive with Christmas decorations, a fireplace crackling against the far wall, listening intently to the voice of an inspiring spiritual teacher, when a voice within, as clear as day, told me to reconnect.   

***

We are in somewhat of a dark night right now. All around the planet. And everything around us seems to be conspiring to make it darker, especially the news. It affects us in ways we can’t even imagine. It is selling sadness, worry, fear, and anger with relentless regularity. We’re drowning in conflict and rage. It’s enough to make you lose hope.

The little voice that spoke to me on Sunday said, Go back to your friends. Write. Say that there is something else to think about.  

***

First Entry:  January 1, 2019

Full disclosure: I’m a news junkie. The addiction started when I was a little girl. I watched my father read three newspapers a day. There was the morning newspaper, and the late edition, and God only knows what came in between.  But my father read them all, and he was the smartest person in the world.  

Much, much later, I had a career in Washington, D.C., the spiritual mecca for news junkies.  For forty-two years, I read the Washington Post from cover to cover. Including the obituaries. I mean, you had to know who died, right? The Post was required reading. I also read the Wall Street Journal. I read news releases from all the federal agencies, and countless publications thrashed out by non-governmental organizations, like the one I worked for and even wrote for. NGOs, we were called.  

I read other things, too – like the Federal Register, the holy bible of wonky nerds who thrived on the esoteric threads and minutiae of regulation. There was also the Congressional Record – the daily report on the comings and goings, the actions, and the thoughts of Members of Congress—C-Span on steroids. I read every Congressional Bill that was introduced that was remotely relevant to my non-profit, scientific community, and I was doing that before anything was online.  My office was lined with piles of printed news.  I don’t apologize for it.  That was my job.  That was everybody’s job in Washington. News. Information. Insider stuff. Connections. The more you knew, the more you were valued—by your employer, your clients, your colleagues, and your friends.  No wonder I became a junkie. Knowing stuff equaled value. Think about that for a minute.   

Don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with information. There is nothing wrong with news.  I believe that being a citizen in a democracy is not just a privilege, it’s also a responsibility. The government of the people, by the people, and for the people should be directed by an informed people. So there’s that.

But what we have today in the form of news is, well, a lot more than information. News has become a soap opera. A crime novel, filled with suspense, horror, and fear. The train wreck we cannot look away from.  I’m retired, and I don’t have to read this stuff. I don’t have to watch it on television. But I’m wired for it now. I read the New York Times online every morning. I read portions of the Washington Post, and every week, the editorial and as many articles as I can of the New Yorker.  And every night, I watch Rachel Maddow. Okay. So right there, I have given away something about myself. Put that aside for a moment, if you can. We’re all biased.  

I’m not suggesting that you abstain from the news. I’m not. My own new year’s resolution, however, is to not get drunk on it.  What I am saying is, Take a Break. Take a moment to think about something else.

Feed your brain some oxygen. Give your mind some light.  Take a deep breath and let it in.  Stay with me in the year 2019, and every once in a while, let’s think about something else. Together.  Love’s first kiss. The smell of coffee in the morning.  Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Whatever.

It will change your energy, and you’ll change somebody else’s energy, and the Universe will notice.

***

Coming up in the next blog:  How my cat, Dorian Gray, had cancer and then didn’t.

Unfollow me, unfriend me.

 

Just three days ago, a friend asked me why I stopped writing my blog. One of the reasons, I told him, was that I just didn’t believe in talking unless I had something to say. I told him that I had run out of things to say, and that I just couldn’t bore my friends for the sake of maintaining a blog. Besides, I wanted to turn my energy toward my second book. That was three days ago. That was before my ancestors came into my consciousness and nudged me in their ever-so-gentle way. The way spirits do.   

 

I have never expressed my personal political views on this blog or any public media outlet because I saw no value in it. My position was that people will believe what they want to believe, and that my political views, no matter what they were, would attract anonymous, angry people with nothing better to do than to sling mud from behind the safety of their darkened rooms and backlit computer screens.  I don’t enjoy conflict, online or off, and so I kept my views to myself. But now, I’m done. I’m done, because I am here, alive in my body, in this country, on this tortured night, representing my ancestors.

 

Let me introduce them: My maternal grandmother: Her name was Sarah. Her father was German, her mother African American. Her husband’s mother, my great grandmother: Her name was Elizabeth, and she came to this country from Syria. I’m sure that wasn’t her name when she stepped up to the immigration official to be registered. Then, there is my paternal grandfather. His name was Edward and he was all or part Native American. Cherokee. His wife, Helen, came from a family of Irish indentured slaves. My parents were the “mixed blood” children of those I have named. They lived in South Carolina before and at the turn of the last century. In this country, they were all either indentured whites (in our case dis-owned by their families), or Negroes. I’ve seen the census reports.

 

I cannot imagine the bravery, courage, or the depth and breadth of love it must have taken for them to raise families of seven, eight children. Or just to stay alive. I also represent their children, uncles who fought in both World Wars, my father, who wore a policeman’s badge in Philadelphia for 35 years, a man of color who could not rise in the ranks but who nevertheless served and protected all the citizens of that city, my mother, who broke ranks with her family to come North with my father so that I and my brothers could live a life that was free of harassment, degradation, fear, and sorrow. Or so they thought.

 

When a black man was elected President of the United States, my husband and I sat before the television set and watched Barack Obama and his family write a chapter in history unlike any before it, except, perhaps, the one written by Abraham Lincoln.  At last, I told my husband, the tears running down my face, our country has become what it said it would. It has marched steadily toward its own ideals. It has kept its promise. My husband, who was Irish American, nodded, tears blinding his own eyes. We were proud of our country. We were proud that the idea of freedom, that the experiment in equality, the stumbling, difficult climb into a true democracy, and the repudiation of all things indecent, had made us the most powerful, important nation on the planet. We were not to know, on that night, that it was only a moment in time.

 

We have taken a step backward to a place my ancestors would recognize. My tears tonight are ones of grief. I am not proud. I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I must accept sympathy from my friends around the world. I am ashamed that our doors are slamming shut against people like my ancestors, and that all sense of generosity, compassion, and conscience seem to be absent from the hearts of those who could make it different. I am ashamed that once again, my ancestors are the subjects of hate and derision. No wonder they won’t let me alone.

 

And now, I’m done. I can no longer be quiet. I speak for those who came before me, those who gave me life, and for my children and my grandchildren. Today and ever after, I disavow the indecent, hateful bigotry that is despoiling my country and the man who is the face and the voice of it.

 

And I say to you, whoever may be reading this blog – if, after what has happened in the past two days, indeed in the past year, you can still support the man in the White House, his ideas, his language, and behavior, you support everything I, as an American, as an African American, as an Irish American, as a German American, as the great granddaughter of a Syrian woman, and the granddaughter of a Native American man, abhor, and I ask you to unfollow me. If you are a “friend” on Facebook, I ask you to unfriend me now.  

 

This is the time to take a stand. It is time to speak clearly. No more excuses, no more mealy-mouthed explanations.  No more burying heads in the sand. It’s over. The President of the United States is a racist. I repudiate that hateful concept, and I repudiate him.  

 

Matthew said it: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Choose your camp.

 

 

 

 

 

Hiatus

Dear Readers and Friends:

Thank you for following this Sunday blog and writing to me over the last two years. I began this space with the launch of The Messenger, the story of how a spirit guide saved my life after the death of my son.

I am now working on the sequel, The Messenger II. For those of you who  read the first book, you must know that the story didn’t end there. And so, I have decided to take a hiatus from a weekly blog and concentrate on finishing the second book.

I will write something in this space from time to time, just to keep in touch. Thank you again for all your wonderful notes and encouragement.

As we walking the earth plane will, from time to time, take a hiatus from our work, so is it with our spirit friends, guides, and loved ones. They are not gone – just taking a hiatus.

With love and light,

Helen Delaney

***

The Messenger can be found on http://www.amazon.com. For a signed copy, go to http://www.themessenger.space.

 

 

 

 

All You Need Is Love

For many years, I put great store in my ability to “get things done.” I had to. I was a single mother (even when I was married) of four children, with a job. And, as the jobs got better and better and more and more demanding, I prided myself on keeping up. I set impossible goals for myself. I demanded that I become a better employee, housekeeper, cook, nutritionist, pianist – better and better at whatever was put on my plate. My value system was based on achievement. I was self-reliant, I was delivering, and my self-worth depended on it.

It didn’t help that I worked in Washington, D.C., that famous breeding ground of over-achievement and brilliant performance. I was in a place where I could  watch others doing it up close, and when I could, I emulated it. No, that’s not quite accurate. I admired it. Sort of. But climbing that particular ladder required a healthy appetite for competition and the ability to thrive on conflict. I wasn’t wired for it. I was lucky in that, except for a few years in the competition pit, I worked for people who believed in consensus building. That I loved. That I believed in. Still, in the areas where I pitted myself against myself, I was relentless and driven. The more I could get done, the better I felt about myself. As a woman in a man’s field, I prided myself on outworking the boys, and I got a lot done. But no matter how much I got done, it was never enough. Nothing in Washington stands still. And at home, the clean house got dirty again, the full refrigerator was emptied routinely, the beds were unmade every night, and the kids got hungry three times a day. I had no help, and there was no conquering the unending work. Eventually, it became depressing and exhausting. Not because I couldn’t accept the impermanence of everything, but because I thought I was what I did.

It took a traumatic event to change my mind – the death of my child. Everything I thought was important faded into the mist in the face of this shattering experience. Winning, conquering, being right, being better, doing better, doing more, seemed trivial and insanely secular. Death will realign your perspective. The death of a child will reconfigure it altogether.

I write about this not because I can’t forget it – and I can’t of course – but because of the profound change it brought about in my understanding of life. It’s a long story, and it’s in my book, but the bottom line was – I had to learn something entirely new or die from grief.

I learned that I am not what I do. I am not the body that works itself into exhaustion and ages and dies anyway. There is more to me than that. I am life itself – never ending. I am a Spirit in a body, ageless and perfect. Nothing I do causes that or changes that. Everything else is ornamental. Window dressing. Costumes and makeup. A play. And all the world’s a stage. When I can remember that, “doing things” is much more fun, because the “things” are put into perspective. I was reminded of that this afternoon when I went shopping at Target. For my international readers, Target is a massive general store with supposed competitive prices. I was seriously intent on getting what I needed and getting back on the road (It’s an hour’s drive from where I live but why I was in a hurry I don’t know) when I passed the electronics department. There, high on the wall, on a gigantic screen, were little cartoon characters singing the Beatles’ song, All You Need Is Love. I just had to stop and laugh. Then I drove home slowly through Oak Creek Canyon, one of the most spectacular places on this earth, and let my Spirit take the lead.

***

Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney. Find it at www.amazon.com. For a signed copy, go to www.themessenger.space.

 

My Friend Will

I’ve known a few artists in my time, among them my son, my daughter, and my brother. But one particular artist entered my mind as I sat to write this. He was a friend of years ago, a professor of art and a prominent artist in my native city of Philadelphia. He would have a show once a year and sell it out on opening day. Every year. Some of his paintings are part of the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His work appears in other museums around the country too. On a fellowship once, he met Salvadore Dali! He taught my daughter and my brother in college and, lucky us, he became a friend of the family. His name was Will Barnett.

In the summers of that time long ago, Will would share his New Jersey beach house with us – me, my husband, and my four small children. This was an unbelievable treat, since we lived packed into a small, un-airconditioned city apartment while my husband was going to law school. Will, a bachelor, opened his house and stepped aside, allowing us to make it our own. He took us out of a hot, crowded apartment and we gave him a family. Sometimes our friends came, and their children, and the house was a noisy, joyous place. Will, bless him, seemed to revel in it all.   He would get up early, while it was cool, and paint on a giant easel in his sun-drenched living room. He let me sit and watch him while the kids and my husband slept. I asked him if I could because I wanted to see how those hands and brushes and palette worked together to create the other-worldly things he put on canvas. I sat still and silent, trying to be invisible and unobtrusive, but it didn’t matter to Will. When he painted, he was somewhere else, mindless of everything but what was before him.

One day on the beach, I asked him if there were times when he felt as if he were not in control of the painting, if it felt like something other than himself would take over, mix the colors, make those strokes, and create. He looked at me and said something like, “Oh, sure.” His answer was so matter of fact. And then he looked at me as if to say, “Doesn’t that happen to everyone?”  I suspected that happened with artists and musicians, but I didn’t expect his answer to be so ready, so…matter of fact. I had never discussed spiritual matters with Will. I never thought of spiritual matters in those days. I was busy, overwhelmed with raising a family, working at a job, and trying to make a go of a failing marriage. I lived in survival mode. Only later would life make room in my life for spiritual thought.

Will had no religious affiliations as far as I knew. His father was a Russian Jew who had come to this country and changed his name from Baronet to Barnett. Will was just a good, kind man with amazing gifts. Besides being a visual artist, he was also an accomplished pianist and violinist, talents he wore like a loose garment. He did not take them, or himself, seriously.

Those days at the beach were years before my son Eddie died, and my own life became a nightmare and then a long spiritual search for meaning. Now, I think Will’s secret was that he knew how to get out of his own way and let the painting and music flow through him. I don’t know if he believed in God or not, but he sensed a Force that painted and played through him, and he let it. He let it. It has taken me years to learn that this is the sign of a true spiritual master.

It has taken me most of my life to understand that God is content, not form. It can come through us, whether we are religious, spiritual, enlightened, unenlightened, atheistic or agnostic. The Force is something we sense, something we feel, not something  intellectually captured. It cannot be forced or controlled. It is something we surrender to. It doesn’t matter if we name it or not. It has been given to us. It is ours. We only have to let it work through our minds, our hands, our deeds.

I saw this Force again in Will when, years later, he was dying of leukemia. He and his wife (he had found love later in life) were living on top of a mountain in California. He was near death when I got a beautiful letter from him. It was all about the joys of living on a mountain. Leukemia was an afterthought. When he passed, I got a letter from his wife, who had also become my friend. Will died peacefully and gently, she said. I was not surprised. Like the spiritual master he was, he got out of the way one more beautiful time and let the Force flow through him.

***

Read The Messenger: The Improbable Story of a Grieving Mother and a Spirit Guide by Helen Delaney.  Find it at www.amazon.com. For a signed copy, go to www.themessenger.space.