The Silence is not silent. It is not passive. It may or may not be quiet. It is effortlessness. It is flow, pregnant with movement. Silent presence is a creative force for good. As I stand fixed in the middle of this present moment, I enter into this Silence and become a beacon of illumination, a vessel for the God-Light to experience Itself in the physical. The vibration of the pure silent voice within unfolds me like an origami swan into an ever more vibrantly alive version of myself.
With Kenny’s passing I entered unconditionally into the immensity of pain and the anguish of loss. Being with my experience, whatever it is, is my path. As I stood still in my experience I found myself wishing to die, wanting to no longer be here. Here was too painful. Here was filled with loss and grief and the cascades of unending tears. The pain had a bite to it that was more intense than I could have ever imagined. Ken’s absence stood out like a lone rider against the fading sun and as the sun rose again his absence remained, more present than anything in my life. I felt it more strongly than the love of my family and friends, the power of my spiritual practice, or my trust in life’s deeper meaning. His absence crushed my will to be here. Years of meditation gave me not the power and will to live, but the power and ability to die. Had it not been for twelve baby chicks, I would not be here today.
Ten days before Ken’s death I stood at the check-out counter in the local feed store buying straw for the chicken’s beds. The tug I felt to buy some baby chicks was almost unbearable. It was April, close to Easter and the baby chicks in the back of the store were peeping loudly. Only moments before I stood over them, watching them huddled under the warm lights, so intrigued, wanting nothing more than to take them home. I knew it was absolutely crazy to think about buying chicks so, with a little work, I talked myself out of it. Three days, and many mental conversations later, I lost the argument. The chicks were coming home.
As Kenny prepared to die, my friends prepared a short-term home for the chicks. They would eventually join the grown chickens in the big coop. Kenny built the coop. He said it had gotten away from him in the process of building it. The coop is big and looks a lot like a church with a steeple. With a big laugh, we had christened it ‘The Church of the Enlightened Chicken’. Ken worked with great focus and determination to finish the coop. He was getting ready to go into the hospital for Interleuken treatments and neither of us knew what that might bring. So he moved through his list of projects, deftly, a man on a mission. I knew he wanted to make sure that everything was done, that I didn’t have any loose ends to clean up just in case it didn’t go well. He even walked me around the property, telling me how to turn off water for the winter, how to hook up the generator if we lost power, how to go on living without him.
April 9th, 11:30pm. I prepared to go to bed. Ken was safe in the hands of a friend and exhaustion had caught up with me. I heard Ken’s voice and turned to listen. Light beamed from him, so much that it was hard to see where the light ended and Ken began. It was unmistakable. I heard him say, “Robert, I am dying.” I stood there transfixed. When we talked about death Ken had said that he didn’t know how to die. Sometime between the day the doctor told us we were out of time and that moment, he figured it out. Hospice had been at the house that evening. The nurse said Ken had seven to ten days left. Having fully accepted his death, he died two hours later at 1:30am.
Two months later all the friends and family returned to their lives and I was left with mine. The aloneness penetrated everything I touched. The grief rolled through me like waves in an unprotected cove. Looking at me I would have appeared okay, a few extra lines, a few dark shadows under my eyes. I was surviving. I closed the door on the chicken’s church for the night and closed the chicks up in their smaller coop. It was earlier than normal. The sunset was still visible on the horizon.
Quiet beckoned; my escape from reality. I sat down and dropped quickly into deep meditation. It felt so good to fall back into God’s arms, to be permeated by silence rather than by my grief. God I wanted to go home. Could I please come home? It hurts so bad. I can’t do this. As I sat with the desire to leave I ticked through all the reasons not to leave and none held me. I knew the kids would be okay. They had their own lives. Saffy and Freckles would survive until someone found my body. They had water and food. I had no intention of committing suicide, I just wanted to die, to leave my body behind and go home. I wanted to be with Ken.
As my last possible objection dropped I felt myself leave my body, floating into emptiness. With no resistance I passed beyond the point where mind wants to change its mind. I felt myself dying and had no regret. One can die by choice, or can one? As I began to dissolve a picture of the baby chicks locked in their little house appeared and the knowledge of their suffering was present. Compassion chose for me before my mind engaged, drawing me back into form. Death lost its sting and its meaning. I could stay or leave. Either way, it didn’t matter anymore. I knew, at least for now, I was staying even though I wasn’t sure how I would survive the pain.
The last seven months have been difficult and precious, the greatest teachings of my lifetime. Months before his death, in a moment of grace, our souls entwined and I heard these words, “This cancer is my gift to you.” As I listened for a new name for my life’s work and heard “Silent Presence,” I realized that Kenny personified silent presence. It was how he lived and the gift his cancer gave to me. Ken lived in the present moment. He embraced his life, living it right to the end, teaching me with his actions, his words, and his love. My understanding of his gift continues to unfold. His death brought me to the experience of my own and that surrender endures, blessing me with an expanding comprehension of life. It has allowed me to see that I of myself do nothing, that God is the only verb. It has opened me to trust the perfection of the unfolding in profoundly intimate ways. It has blessed me with the knowing that this world is good, that I am supported and loved, regardless of outside appearances to the contrary. And, it has left me here in the present moment, unwilling to move, unwilling to seek refuge in anything but here, but now. I am the Silent Presence.