A few years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Jane Goodall. Over drinks one night, she told a heartfelt story about how a young boy once asked her, “Where do you think people go when they die?” The child had lost his mother at a young age and missed her terribly. Dr. Jane shared her belief that our dearly departed are always nearby and watching over us. “You mean, like in that chair over there?” he asked, pointing across the hotel lobby at an empty desk. “Or up there, on the balcony?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“Could my mother be sitting on a cloud, looking down at me?” he continued.
“But of course!”
“I like that,” said the boy.
Since then, no matter where Dr. Jane is in the world, at the end of every day, in honor of those who have blessed her life with their presence and have crossed over, she raises a glass – sometimes scotch, sometimes juice, sometimes water. That night in Ilulissat, Greenland, with eyes raised and a smile on her lovely, travel-worn face, she invited us to join her in a toast, “To the clouds!”
I feel compelled to share this story with you today because a dear friend’s husband passed away just two weeks ago. We three were in grade school together. For eight years we shared the same space – the grounds, hallways, and classrooms of a small catholic school on Staten Island, one of the five New York City boroughs. For eight years, that’s 1440 days, 8640 hours, or 518,400 minutes, our paths criss-crossed every which way until the year a man walked on the moon. Upon graduating, we went our separate ways, my dear friend and I staying in some form of touch for the next 45 years.
I didn’t know William ‘Bill’ Mazzaro well during grade school. In fact, I hardly remember Billy. But I can tell you how thrilled I was when about 15 years ago Destiny saw fit to reintroduce him to my bestest friend from first grade. They dated. They married. And they lived happily ever after until just a few weeks ago. I’m not one to have regrets, but not visiting with Carmel and Bill once they had made a life together would count for one if I did. Therefore, my prayer for you, Carmel and Bill, is a Celtic blessing. May it give you strength to walk in different worlds until you meet again. I’ve taken the liberty of changing a few words in the last line:
May you go forth under the strength of heaven, under the light of sun, under the radiance of moon;
May you go forth with the splendor of fire, with the speed of lightning, with the swiftness of wind;
May you go forth supported by the depth of sea, by the stability of earth, by the firmness of rock;
May you be surrounded and encircled with love.