I believe there are no accidents.
Splintered wood, blankets of flowers covered with honey bees, pills spilled on a Persian carpet—you may think these objects have nothing in common. But they do. They were all “accidental” lessons, each preparing me for the future. In “The Guest House,” Rumi suggests welcoming a joy or a depression, meeting them at the door, laughing, and inviting them in.
My junior year at college, stressed from a learning disability, drunk from a fraternity party, I ripped a telephone from the wall and beat the door facing into splinters, shattered, like my life. After several weeks on Three West, my psychiatrist counseled me—Apply the teakettle theory. Let off a little steam. Don’t rip out phones. He also asked, Who wants to be a lady? Ladies don’t have any fun. Armed with his wisdom, I graduated college, married, and moved to Viet-Nam, attending church, teaching school, and burying the face of the war—little girls burned with napalm, Buddhist monks immolating themselves, rockets lobed into the city, military troop carriers, and concertina wire. On February 18, 1970, another guest entered—widowhood—my husband Jon was killed flying in Laos for Air America, a division of the CIA.
After burying Jon midst mounds of funeral flowers, honey bees buzzing in the crisp blue Virginia sky, I remarried and lived with PTSD, shopped at Neimans, and taught school at the girls’ school where I have remained for over thirty years. After a surgery eliminated my chance to have children, I adopted a three-hour-old infant, only to return her to the birth mother six days later. My second husband left. No accidents yet.
In 1992, living with a rare kidney disease, my friend of twenty-two years swallowed a lethal dose of pills, leaving two adopted sons and me to cope with her death. Welcome suicide. More grist for the mill, a graduate professor told me. No accident when I took my eighty-nine-year-old mother Joye off life support, her years healthy except for a brief illness.
No accident, my niece’s greeting on my answering machine—Hi, Aunt Kay, it’s me. No accident, the licks my yellow lab showers on me when I arrive home. No accident, my return to Southeast Asia, to reclaim the excitement Jon taught me to embrace. No accident, the thirty-nine years teaching hundreds of students and their teaching me.
I believe there are no accidents, no accident my flying with angels.
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