“Visiting hours are over!” snapped the hospital-desk guard. “Come back tomorrow.”
Seeing the disappointment on my face, she hesitated for a long-frozen moment, “Who are you going to see?”
“Randy Graves, Osler 4,” I answered.
She hesitated again, then picked up the phone. “Those people up there need visitors.”
When a loud voice answered “Nursing, Osler 4,” the guard said, “Randy Graves’ cousin is coming to visit. I’m letting her in.”
Wincing, and then thanking her, I headed for the elevators, full of trepidation. Hating to meet my first AIDS patient as a Johns Hopkins Hospital volunteer in 1985 under these false pretenses, I began mounting my defense as the elevator lifted me into what I could not know would be the next turning of my spiritual life.
When the doors opened, a nurse greeted me with a twinkle and a smile in her eyes, fingers to lips with a “shhhhh” sound, motioning me to follow her. At the threshold of his darkened door, she announced, “Randy, your cousin is here to see you,” and flipped on the light switch.
Wrapped in snow-white sheets, two pencil-thin black arms and a curly black head turned toward us. He chuckled when he saw me, “What part of my family are you from? Come on in.”
With those words of invitation at that hospital room threshold, I can see now, forty years later, how purposefully, at the moment, I turned toward healing, a journey best described by Yaqui medicine man, Don Juan, to his disciple, Carlos Castaneda, as “A Path With Heart:”
“Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question….Does the path have a heart? If it does, the path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.”
Every time I read these words, I experience them anew in my body as healing medicine. They open my awareness to the great mystery and power of love as the ultimate healing experience available to all of us every moment of the day and night. As a result, I deliberately chose this kind of path in my life. Though, in those earlier days, I could not quite articulate my own attention to and intention toward healing, many medicine people, women and men and guardian angels from faraway places, began to often appear in my life.
Commonweal is a shining beacon of healing, as we know. So, in 2009, I arrived here on this path amongst a seasoned community of healers, an extended family of ones who gave healing and ones who received it. A holistic model of sharing sacred medicine. Not curative. Not medicinal in the more conventional ways. Not exactly graspable or visible, perhaps. But, an obvious manifestation of reconnection and regeneration of love through Commonweal’s heart of listening and caring. First, as a volunteer, next as a staff member, and now as a board member and Healing Circles Global host, I have been a member of Commonweal’s ever-expanding and ever-deepening community of healing family and friends ever since.
During this year of the global Covid pandemic, the path with heart has brought to light many sorrows and losses as well as surprising intimacies and new ways of communicating. We have had to give up our usual beautiful in-person gatherings to share our sacred space virtually. Not the same as a hug or a spontaneous face-to-face encounter with someone on a beach cliff walk. But, a lifeline, nonetheless, especially for those who are ill or lonely, or both. We have “been here” for each other, a far-ranging and eclectic network of vibrant learners and caregivers, a collaboratory of ideas and action, service and relationships, all supported wholly as a path with heart.
A good path put to good use.