As I approached my fifth year, the "valley of the shadow of death" called to me. What had started as an infection in my mouth, spread to my tonsils then to the rest of my body. With each passing day I grew sicker and the infection gained power.
Massive and repeated doses of sulfur were not able to abate or eradicate the infection. It had a grip on my body and my life-force and would not let go. With the passing of time, my body weakened from the high fevers and I went into a coma.
Lying in my hospital bed, sandwiched between a stiff cotton sheet and tightly bound, scratchy wool blankets, I felt the coma as its darkness crept over my consciousness. It was a black tide that was washing over me and as it flowed my life force became smaller and smaller. That coma was like a black breath that was blowing out the flame of my life.
I did not want to die. I did not want the blackness to engulf me. In my desire to live, I found a pathway into another world. It seemed that somewhere in my mind, I condensed myself into a tiny little being and this part of me took flight. My flight-path ended in a cool, serene and moist meadow.
The grass in the meadow was growing in lush tufts that cushioned my body. Mellow golden sunlight shone brightly in the center of the glen and made a pattern of lace around the perimeter of the opening. Tall trees with leafy branches fanned the air and exotic and emerald green vegetation encircled the meadow.
There was a quietness and a stillness in this world that I had never experienced. The power of the stillness caressed my skin with a tingling sensation. As I lay there bathing in the golden light, I realized that the light was giving me the energy to stay alive. When I quieted my body and mind and became one with the stillness the light could hold me in life.
If a thought or sensation interrupted my stillness, I lost the light. I surrendered to the golden warmth. It protected and nourished me in a more complete way than anything I had ever known. I had found the green pastures and had been led to the still waters.
As I lay there, I could sense my physical body as a corpse that I could not heal. I could hear the doctors and nurses discuss my condition. They would wonder why I was not dead and would predict when my end would come. They had no idea that I was hearing every word that they uttered.
I wanted to reach out to them and say, "I can hold myself in life, but not without help. I cannot make the infection go away". I wanted to yell: "Help me". With every urge to communicate with them, I felt the stillness vanish and the light dim. Just thinking about getting help took me away from the safe place. If I had used my energy to move a muscle, I believed that I would die.
I lay there for what seemed like all of eternity, listening to them discuss my death. One day I heard them talking about a new drug that might save me. They were not sure that it would work nor did they believe that they could get any for me. It was agony to lie there in total stillness and hear that something might help me that they weren't going to use. Even the intensity of my emotions was a threat to my inner quiet and I had to let them go, in order to stay in the light's caring goldenness.
In my desire to live, I suspended myself to the point where my body began to grow a fungus on its surface. I heard the doctor say that only the dead grew this particular kind of fungus but I could not let myself react to this ghoulish information. The nurses would check the progress of the mold and I heard their alarmed reports of the decay's progression. All during this, I held myself in the meadow, in the light. There was no pain, fear or loss possible there. It was my rod and my staff and it gave me comfort, courage and hope.
The new drug that the doctors were discussing was penicillin. It was in short supply and most of it was being used to save our young men who were being massacred on the battlefields of World War II. By the time my caretakers had received some of it for me, I was so ill that to even use my energy to listen was too taxing. When help finally came, I was too far gone to know that I was being saved.
One day my energy grew strong enough for me to leave the green pasture and come back to my everyday world. Most of the fungus had left my body and the few odious spots that remained quickly cleared. I never told anyone where I had been or that I heard everything they said. When I was well enough to talk about that experience, I was back at the farm and their was no one to tell.
I never questioned where I had been, nor did I think that anything of much significance had happened. I just believed that, that was what happened to people when they became too sick to live. I thought everyone knew about that place and wouldn't be interested in hearing about it from me.
When I heard the Twenty-Third Psalm, I knew it was describing the sunny meadow. As an adult, I came to realize that the still waters were our emotions and when we stilled our reactiveness we could bathe in the light of God, which is no different from our own life force. I became aware that stillness and numbness were not one and the same. Numbness is a denial of emotion and stillness is acceptance of life without the need to fight for control. I came to know that stillness was a true self, stripped of the learnings and beliefs that hold us as separate from God.
With the help of therapy I was able to dispel a large part of my religious teachings. When the veil of that external belief system lifted, I clearly saw that my own desire to live had been my shepherd and that the "Lord" was something inside, outside, and in-between me and all of creation. Divinity was not something other that me; it was a state of grace, that my true self was a part of.
The green pastures were Mother Earth. They were the symbol for all that was natural. When I parted the mists, I could see that cleaving to nature is an embracing of self. It is this enfolding that "restoreth our soul", for it heals the shameful illusion of separation between God and humankind. To live in conscious awareness of soul puts us in the shoes of righteousness for it is through the eyes of the soul, that we see our oneness with all being. In that perspective of oneness to hurt or violate another is to harm one's self. It is this knowing that is the rod and staff of comfort. It is this knowing that makes us God's namesake.
Although I was given this powerful experience of the light in early childhood, I would be in my late thirties before I could fully claim and celebrate the gift that I had been given.
A few months after my fifth birthday the decision was made for Momma, Anne and me to move back in with Daddy. We left the farm and relocated in Mom's and Pop's little community. Never again would I live on the farm. However, out of the despair, panic and desperation I had experienced there, I had planted seeds that I would eventually harvest as a golden bounty. I find it quite metaphorical that I planted a large part of my life's field while living on a farm.
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