My dear friend and sister-in-law, Eileen, said goodbye to her Dad on Saturday. She is pulling in all the teachings and practices that yoga has to offer so she can be present and experience the depths of this precious moment in her life, her Dad’s life and the lives of all those who were touched by him.
His passing took me back to the time right after my mom Dottie died. I had many friends who tried to console me with “She may be gone but she will always be with you in your heart.”
Being the polite person I am and knowing intellectually they were trying to be kind and sympathetic, I would nod my head in agreement but inside I was screaming “BULLS**T!”
I know in my heart that we are more than this physical existence and energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Energy merely transforms. But I was missing Dottie’s physical presence. I didn’t want to only feel her in my heart. I wanted her to be sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee with me. I wanted to be able to hug her and see her big smile that always made me feel better about life.
I now know our loved ones live in our hearts. I get it. I really get it. As a matter of fact, I have felt someone who has gone before me, stir in my heart and make herself known. I have had this experience with mom on several occasions since her passing, but my most recent “heart visit” was with my friend, teacher and guru, Bobbie Corbean.
Bobbie was born into the physical realm of Earth on November 18 and passed 82 years later on Oct. 24. Her energy that will not leave me alone. I smile big as I type this last sentence. Bobbie used to tell Steve and me, “Hon, you two are stuck with me. We are together for the whole ride.” She meant it! She wasn’t just talking about until one of us departed the physical realm; she meant the whole ride into eternity. Steve and I comment to each other frequently about how often we think of her and feel her presence around us. It is odd and wonderful.
On November 18th of this year, Bobbie woke me up around 4:30 am which was her usual time to get up in the morning. I am an early riser in the 6:00am to 6:30am range but this morning at 4:30am I was wide awake.
And there was a song in my head. A song by The Neon Philharmonic.
“ Mornin’ girl, how’d ya sleep last night?
You’re sev’ral ages older now
Your eyes have started showin’ how
The little girl’s growin’ now
It was the “Mornin’ Girl” line that kept going on and on through my head. What a random song I thought.
So I got out of bed and headed downstairs. I walked into the kitchen, put some water on the stove for our morning tea and lemon and stood there waking up. I looked up and over my right shoulder to take note of the almost life size portrait of our friend Bobbie and her European beau, Heinrich.
And out loud I sang- “Morning Girl? How’d you sleep last night?” I had to smile as I remembered how she often referred to herself as “girl” in a very playful and affectionate way.
“Bobbie did you put that obscure song into my head so we could rendezvous in the wee hours of the morning? I know it’s your birthday, Girl. I got the connection. I know it was you.” 4 to 6 am was her favorite time of the day. She liked being up before the world came alive she would say. She liked to watch the sun rise and see the changing light on the planet. Some mornings she would call to ask, “Did you see the colors this morning?” They were exquisite.”
She loved long walks outside surrounded by the elements. She said Mother Nature had the best sense of style. “Just look at the way she puts colors together,” she would instruct us. Her observations always made me step back and take a look at the things I was taking for granted like the colors of certain flowers or the designs animals carry on their fur.
“Hon, I know it’s your birthday. Thanks for getting me up so we can hang,” I said out loud to her. I lit some candles and incense and grabbed my prayer shawl that belonged to my beautiful friend and teacher. I made my cozy nest on the floor in front of our Buddha and wrapped Bobbie around me. As I closed my eyes I felt her speak to me from my own heart. “I love you Rob.” It felt good. Tears started to flow down my face. “I love you too Bobbie. I miss you so much.”
“We will always be together” she said to me.
I loved the thought of always being together. How could that be possible? My rational mind was being too literal. I went into my meditation. Within the half hour my best friend Steve made his way to the front room on the first floor with his cup of tea. We sat together. Before telling him anything about my early morning happenings he said, “You know today is Bobbie’s birthday and we have those letters to read. Let me pull them up on the phone.”
When Bobbie passed we established The Bobbie Corbean Fund. In lieu of flowers, many people donated to it. Bobbie had a dream to somehow assist young African American girls financially to expand themselves through travel abroad. Recently, the Bobbie Corbean Fund awarded money to three high school girls from Cincinnati – two traveled to Peru and the third to Russia!
Bobbie herself had been an avid traveler. Travel was not just for pleasure but it was also an educational experience. She had been to several continents and lived in Europe for many years. “Not bad” she used to say, “for a poor black girl from the Westend of Cincinnati.” Not bad at all. She opened doors with her curiosity and big warm heart. There was a charisma about her that drew all kinds of people to her like a moth to a flame. It was interesting to watch. Steve and I loved to watch her in action. It was all genuine and people could feel it. When she spoke to you she was with you. She knew what it meant to be present. When meeting someone for the first time, shortly after salutations, she would ask, “What do you consider the most interesting place in the world? Where on the planet would you still like to visit?” She rarely asked what you did for a living. Some people were taken back by her questions but everybody answered. It led to some interesting conversations.
The young women who received money from the fund had written letters expressing their gratitude and telling us of their experiences. All three letters were eloquent. One young woman especially touched our hearts. Her initial request letter for the financial help was so much like our friend it took us back.
“I made a promise to myself that I would somehow travel the world and bring back my experiences to my family who will probably never have the opportunity to travel abroad. Through me they will experience the world. I will make sure of it.”
Bobbie told a story of how she made a promise to her 9-year-old self. She promised to see the world and help others experience a fuller life. She kept the promise! During her life, she founded a charm school and a modeling school for young African-American girls. Our friend educated people with every conversation of which she was a part.
This same young woman’s thank you note also started off very “Bobbie like.”
“When we first arrived the sun was just rising. The first thing I noticed was the beautiful mountains that surrounded us. I have never been so happy in my entire life than the moment I stepped out of the airport with the realization that I was in another country.”
She described the hikes they took to Mach Picchu, white water rafting, tutoring Peruvian children and learning to Salsa Dance.
As Steve read, we were both touched. Bobbie had yet again made a difference – this time, within these young lives. All three girls described life changing experiences and expressed deep felt gratitude for the opportunities they had been given.
We went off to the gym feeling like we had spent some quality time with a friend who now lived in our heart. She truly is there.
I will probably wait a long time to tell my friend Eileen that her dad Elmer will always be in her heart. It is the physical that she and her family are missing right now.
But I know it’s true. Bobbie, like all my other loved ones who have gone before me, lives in my heart center. When I am quiet enough and trust enough, I can hear them loud and clear.
I was going through some of Bobbie’s writings recently and came across this quote
“During our quiet times, when there’s no music, no movement, no needs, the Spirit Speaks….” And so do all those we love. They are Spirits in our heart.
May I suggest you pay attention to any random song you wake up with in the morning or a strong nudge to get out of bed early. That song or nudge might just be the start of a day long journey with someone dwelling deep in your heart. It might have a deep message or it might just be their way of saying hello.
Heart to heart is what counts. Heart connection is never broken. Whether you are visiting the highest peaks the earth has to offer or walking through what you perceive as a valley of darkness in your current moment, comfort and love are always there waiting right inside. How many people are living in your incredibly beautiful heart?
I wish for all of us a full house.