AS my heart stirred with David's words and the unexpected intensity and direction of our conversation, my first thought was "Maybe we should stop this session and continue it later at home. That would be a better place, and there's all kinds of things there that he touched, that he imbued with his love. What could there be here?" The office now surrounding me suddenly seemed a very foreign land, operating in a language irreconcilably different from that of my heart. I momentarily panicked as I glanced around, opening one desk drawer after another, desperately seeking out an object that might open the door for communion. "I'm not sure I have anything here," I said. "Oh, yes you do," responded David. "Look there to your left." Suddenly, a sense of serenity and calm fell upon me as I remembered. "Of course," I thought to myself, a smile crossing my face as I reached down to open the bottom drawer on my desk's left side. "He's right. I've got just the perfect thing right here."
In the excitement of my discovery, I didn't even stop to think "How did he know that?" I seemed to be caught up at the moment in some strange and greater flow, and his suggestion felt completely natural. Reaching into the drawer, I pulled out and began to unzip a small, cheap plastic plaid-green toiletries bag that had belonged to Scott, and been used by him years before to carry his prescription drugs, etc. on his travels. For some reason unknown to me, perhaps a sentimental attachment, Scott had never thrown the battered bag away after he acquired nicer, more useful ones. It had somehow made its way to the art deco studio we bought together in Miami Beach as an art studio and guest apartment, and I had found it there a month or two after his death. On that day, I had been delighted to find that the unassuming bag contained a treasure far more valuable to me than any gold.
In the days following Scott's death, stripped of my life's meaning, I eagerly sought out signs that he had been here, evidences of our existence together. His absence seemed more palpable, somehow more horrifyingly real, than my memories of the time we had been given to share. In response to a condolence letter I'd received from one of his students, I wrote back telling her honestly that I had lifted up the chairs in the home, pushed the sofa out of place, looking for signs of him. Though my desperate search yielded me only loose change, a couple of the blue plastic caps that had topped his infusion syringes, and one or two loose pills, at least these objects reminded me of what had once been. These items may have been insubstantial, but they were still evidence. Nothing I could ever find would conceivably quench my longing for him, but I nevertheless had to try.
One of those difficult days I had retreated from the office to the Miami Beach art deco studio we'd kept nearby, exhausted and weak of heart, seeking the respite available only in a nap. As I awakened from my restless sleep, it occurred to me that I had not yet searched the small apartment for signs of him. Wandering into the bathroom, over to the closet, pulling open drawers here and there, I earnestly continued with my quest. Taking my time, I reached out to touch and pick up a book from the place he had set it down, pondered a mysterious bunch of keys, was saddened by the running shoes now gathering dust in the closet. I paused to consider the shirts he had left hanging on the rack, no longer of any use to him. Though I pulled them toward me and buried my face in the fabric, hoping to capture his scent, all I could smell was dust.
It was then that I noticed the glossy green bag, sitting immediately to my left among the shadows of a closet shelf. "Ahh," I said smiling, grabbing the treasure and returning to the sofa for a leisurely cataloging of its contents. For a while I simply sat holding it in my hands, realizing that the anticipation of that moment, the vast world of possibilities opened up by its mysteries, were far more precious than anything I was likely to find within the bag. Finally, slowly pulling open its zipper, I found within an empty pill bottle, an ancient toothbrush, a few other small items, and a piece of folded cream-colored paper. My attention was immediately drawn to the paper, moisture-stained and worn smooth, and I pulled it out of the bag.
As I unfolded the paper, its deep creases suggesting many openings and closings, I realized that I held within my hands a treasure. Here, in a blue ink faded almost to invisibility, were the directions I had given Scott over the phone to find my home for our first date. This piece of faded, creased paper took me right back to the first days, a time made joyful and new in the sharing of magic. At the time we met Scott lived in Fort Lauderdale, some thirty miles north of my Miami home, and taught at Piper High School in West Broward County. From the very first night we both recognized that an extraordinary connection had been made between us, and an easy conversation of the heart begun. After that meeting, not a day passed without some form of sharing between us.
For the next few days, until the following weekend, we talked over the phone. We finally made plans for our first date: Scott would bring down his beach stuff and a change of clothes, and plan on staying for dinner. I was then living at home with my parents, and had given him these directions to come and find me there on that gloriously sunny Saturday morning. Now, as I sat on the sofa in the studio examining the unfolded page, studying Scott's handwriting, I could think only "Wow." I had sought artifacts, evidences of the love we had shared, and this was indeed a special one. How had this exceedingly fragile artifact even survived through the years? Scott must have treasured it himself, I realized. As I turned it in my hands, seeing that he had written on the back the song lyric "You make me so very happy," my imagination was given free rein.
What hopes and fears had burned within him as he penned these words six years before, and what were his thoughts as he carefully folded up the directions for safekeeping at the end of that conversation? Had he paused for a moment afterward, just savoring, a huge, sweet smile on his face? Had he been aware, even as he wrote down my words over the phone, that he was embarking upon a great journey? That he might truly have reached at last that long-awaited threshold of his most glorious dream, the only one that really mattered– that of finding the one with whom he would really share the love he had to give?
Knowing him as I do now, understanding the depth of his longing to both give and receive that love, I've no doubt that he had. Something deep within him, far deeper than all knowledge, had known joy and sung in celebration. In those days, I imagined, a strange peace had befallen him, leaving him breathless and full of wonder, quieting his doubts and fears. On a level of the soul, he had been asked to take up yet again an ancient dance. What could he say, how could he respond, but with a resounding "Yes!?"
Sitting there on the sofa that day, feeling richly blessed, I knew that I held in my hands a treasured piece of Scott's heart, an important fragment of his story. A heart, and story, that had through God's sweetest grace become my own. On a deep level, I recognized that my finding this "document" was no accident. For reasons I would never know nor need to, Scott had brought this bag here and left it for me to find. The symbolism was clear, and the promise of its message unmistakable. I held here in my hands a true spiritual gift.
"Don't be afraid," its message quietly whispered to me. "Just as you were there for me, reaching out to show me the way during that phase of our relationship, I will now be there for you. Our journey together has only rounded a new bend, and (you'd best believe!) I will lead you exactly where you need to go. Wherever you go, there I will be also.
Trust on me, my love. Trust in yourself. Trust, period. You will find your way home."
To: Chapter 47