That said, I want to share a video that came into my life "accidentally" this past summer, just a day or two before what would have been David's 53rd birthday.
"White Owl," by Josh Garrels, is mysterious and enigmatic (like the Bible's Book of Revelation, which is being read at daily Mass these two weeks leading up to the commencement of Advent). It was because of its title that I clicked on the YouTube video of this song after listening to another song by Garrels that someone had posted on Facebook.
About a year after I followed David to San Francisco (where he had moved six months prior), I had a startling dream in which I was chased by a large owl. He came into my room in the house where I had lived with my family from age nine to nineteen. He came in through the open window. He chased me around the room. I ran out the door, down two flights of stairs, and out the back door, where he chased me around the yard. I ran back into the house and up the stairs and attempted to close the window before he could enter again, but I failed. Suddenly, the owl landed on my shoulder—and I awoke feeling a peace that I had never felt before, nor have I ever quite felt it again. I cannot conjure it with my imagination; I can only remember that I did feel it, and I believe it was the kind of peace St. Paul meant in chapter 4 of his letter to the Philippians—a peace "that surpasses all understanding."
The next morning I told David about the dream and the feeling, and from that point on I have collected owls, as a reminder, as though I could possibly forget it had happened.
So, I clicked on the video called "White Owl" and, a few seconds into it, met it's star, a red-headed sad-faced boy lying awake in bed. I immediately thought of photos I'd seen of David when he was a boy. A man with a bald head and full beard beckons the boy to arise and follow him. He leads the boy out of the house, across the yard, to the edge of a woods. There the man hands him a shoulder bag and an unlit lamp and sends him into the forest.
At that moment I remembered a dream that one of David's brothers had soon after David's death—a dream in which he saw David setting off on a journey with a large backpack on his shoulders.
"When the night comes,In the forest, the boy follows a path that appears before him as he walks. He arrives at a pond. He kneels beside it and blows into it through a straw he finds in the shoulder bag. Large bubbles begin to rise from the pond and quickly turn into jellyfish illuminated by bright white light.
and you don’t know which way to go
Through the shadow lands,
and forgotten paths,
you will find a road"
Immediately I thought of the time David and I spent five days at a bed and breakfast in Monterey during the week of our wedding anniversary. My favorite part of that trip was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and my favorite part of the Aquarium was the jellyfish, whose beauty was enhanced by the lighting used in the exhibit tanks. I bought a pair of earrings at the gift shop to commemorate the experience.
As the jellyfish continue to rise from the pond, the redheaded boy stands and opens the lamp. A dozen or so of the jellyfish fly into the lamp, which now glows with their light.
"You will have wisdom born of love....The boy continues to follow the ever-appearing path. He arrives at another, larger pond. Here he again reaches into the shoulder bag and pulls out a smooth, round, flat stone. He tosses it toward the pond, where it skips across the water, touching the surface three times, creating the expanding concentric circles known as the ripple effect.
Take the flame tonight"
"Every dream that you've been shownThis is exactly what David would do any time we found ourselves in that situation, which was often during our early years in California. He tried to teach me, but I could never do it as consistently as he could.
Will be like a living stone"
"Like a messenger of peace,And then, the air above the pond is filled with glowing butterflies, and I thought of the butterfly tattoo that David got on his arm after his first treatment program. I still have photos of that tattoo, and his other one (an image that had been sold to him as a stylized phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes but that looked much more like the victorious risen Christ), which he had photographed and e-mailed to me during the last years of his life.
the beauty waits to be released"
And then the boy arrives at the base of a tall, craggy mountain. The path he has been following draws a winding line up the middle to the top. Lightning flashes behind the mountain. The boy reaches into his bag and pulls out a white feather, then moves toward the mountain. He begins to ascend it, running. Cracks that ooze red fire begin to appear around him. He leaps over them. The mountain is breaking apart. A deep cavern opens up. The boy drops the feather and the lamp as he grabs onto the edge of the mountain in front of him. The lamp falls back into his hand as the feather floats down into the cavern. The boy pulls himself up as a large, full moon glows above him and Garrels sings, "Morning will come soon."
The mountain made me think of how treacherous the final ten years of his life were, and of how many times he got up again after almost falling into their deep caverns. The moon made me think of how much he loved following the lunar cycles. During his last years, twice a month he sent me a text message, once to tell me the precise time of the new moon, the second time to tell me exactly when the moon would be full.
"Use your instinct as a guide,The boy continues running up the mountain as it crumbles. He is near the top when two large red creatures that look like open-mouthed wolves appear, one on each side of the path. The boy lifts the lamp above his head and throws it toward these threatening guardians.
to navigate the way that lays before you"
Suddenly I am watching from the other side of the mountain, and up from behind it shoots a large white owl, carrying the boy in his talons.
"You were born to, take the greatest flight...Soon the bird drops him, and he falls, at first resisting, then relaxing into it. And then, suddenly, he lands in the arms of the old man who sent him on the journey. And finally, for the first time, the boy smiles.
As you're sailing, across the great divide"
That's when I believed—when I knew—that David was, is, home. Because for the first time since I had that dream about the owl, I felt, for a fleeting moment, that peace.
"Child, the time has come for you to goAmen.
You will never be alone
Every dream that you've been shown
Will be like a living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm"
"White Owl" is from the album Love & War & The Sea in Between, by Josh Garrels, available here.