It came to me, when the three of us were sitting in the warmth of Toni's living room, that we view our lives, and our situations, through prisms.
It's an interesting relationship with reality. A long time ago I used to think of it crudely as 'positive thinking'. I understood that I was not to think 'negatively', because it would 'attract negativity' into my life. This resulted in some strange mental gymnastics as I attempted to manifest Positive through my thoughts. I experienced the concept as a matter of will power--trying to not want things too much because that was being 'attached' to the outcomes. If a promising relationship was going well, I'd be afraid, and then I was afraid because I was afraid. What I wanted was already doomed.
It was a strange back-door way of trying to control reality, and if that meant trying to control my perception of what happened in my life, I was going to give it my best shot. This kind of put me in a bind because if I didn't like what was happening in my life I'd worry that I was being too negative about it and failing to perceive it positively.
Marti and I had talked about Presence in the car on the way to Toni's. Her son's father, Marti's ex-husband, had died at Thanksgiving, and Marti had asked her son if he felt his father's Presence. "When you're dead, you're fucking dead." was his response.
In contrast Toni was receiving reassurances of her son's Presence everywhere: a song on the radio when she most needed to hear it; a number on his football jersey surfacing in unlooked-for places.
She said she took comfort in our presences. Indeed, it seemed there was a cocoon of grace around us as we talked and wept over her son. I felt a comfort in the presence of these long-time friends that went beyond the sum of our parts. Somehow we were all co-creators of a Moment in time where there is beauty in grief, where suffering is present but inexplicably more bearable. I suppose that's what's meant by "the peace that surpasseth all understanding".
We each picked up a broken shard of glass, and held it so the light could shine through it. And for a while, the vision we created was transcendent. If we can have moments like these, we can endure much.
But, these moments are so perishable. The light moves on, and we find we're holding a piece of broken glass, and the world that seemed magical in its depth seems flat again.
Perhaps this experience is what I was trying to achieve by will power when I was younger, and am still in the habit of doing--recoiling when I find myself 'attached' to an outcome. It certainly doesn't come through will power. It's capricious, and seems dependent on certain conditions. The light we were shining with Toni was magical--yet it could have easily been, "when you're dead you're fucking dead." It could have reduced Toni's experience of her beloved son's Presence to a series of coincidences. It occurs to me that perhaps her son died because he despaired. Perhaps his shard of glass revealed no hope--or perhaps the responsibility of our role in the vision created was too daunting. Perhaps the magical moments seemed too far apart, or worse, based on just wishful thinking.
I think I can see it a different way: that all around us are broken shards of glass. And at any moment we can create something transcendent. That can sustain me.