In 1996, as part of my Reiki Master candidacy, I set up
Reiki programs with several nursing homes in the area.
This was unheard of at the time. Through a community
outreach grant and the activities directors at a few of
the more prestigious places, I was able to send Reiki
practioners into the facilities to give Reiki to residents
free of charge. I had all kinds of documented studies on relaxation and pain relief which I presented to boards of directors, nurses, and MD’s.
I was also able, through Hospice, to attend transitions and provide services ‘til the end if requested. It was all very groundbreaking and heady stuff, and I felt that I was doing important work
bringing alternative and natural care to venues where mainstream medicine and ho-hum care was the norm.
There were newspaper articles about my work, workshops to give, CEUs for nursing staff, and my mastership was assured. I was really something! I could see my future. I had business
cards printed, ordered really nice state-of-the-art body work tables and was ready to set up a practice and hire the office help! So I thought...
One of my first clients was an elderly woman from the Dominican Rebublic ( I think). She did not know how old she was, although I would guess that she was in her late 90’s. She had come to the US as a teen and worked for several generations for a wealthy family from New
York City who summered here in Wolfeboro, the oldest summer resort in America. She loved it here on the lake. And so it was here that she was resting.
Nanny, as she was known, had cared for this family and their children, and now those children, in gratitude and love had made sure she would spend the rest of her life with the best care money could buy. She was a resident in the best nursing home here, with water views, and fine china, and good art in the dining room. Her bed linens were not issued by the laundry service, they were very fine, a European duvet was covered in embroidered eyelet lace. The exquisite antique furnishings in her room were obviously brought in from the lake house. And every week, I noticed a magnificent arrangement of fresh flowers by the window. Hotel lobby size, no carnations.
The smiling faces of generations of tanned, blue-eyed blond children filled the room in silver frames. Some on horses, some with tennis rackets, in caps and gowns, and some, in wedding gowns, all with Nanny.
She had her hair done every week, and she wore matching Laura Ashley gowns and robes and wore an expensive gold watch, little diamonds in her ears. This was no one’s servant, this was someone’s beloved mother. This was a queen. Now I realize her room and her body, a temple to the Goddess, but how could I have known then? Even they who built it, and maintained it, did not know.
Several strokes had left Nanny with garbled speech and little mobility. She did not mix with the other residents nor did she take part in activities. And although her mind was still pretty sharp, her frail body was withering, and she waited for the spirits of ancestors of her Dominican Republic family to come for her and finally bring her home. I never met her New York family, although I suppose in the end they came for her too.
Nanny did not want the clergy to visit nor did she want the dog lady to bring in the great golden retriever who lavished affection on the residents. She did, however, want an appointment to see the healer.
And that was me.
In those days I was very professional. I would play whale songs and flutes on my little portable CD player and focus on hand positions, carefully listening with my hands. I never brought crystals with me. Never spoke of spirit guides. I was careful not to come across too witchy or new-age. I was after federal grant money, after all.
Nanny was just bones in her bed to the untrained eye, but my hands sensed amazing life force contained in that little body. It was very different energy from any other of the nursing home residents which usually felt very flat, depressed or depleted. I was awestruck at her vibrancy! At
the end of our first session she smiled and said, “thank you Oshun.”
“Susan,” I said.
Of course, I assumed (because of her disability or English as her second language) could not
say Susan and what did I care? She was peaceful, not in any pain and she enjoyed our time together. She wanted me to come back. My ego was gratified. I kept notes, documenting it all for an eventual grant.
Each time, I tried to tell her that my name was Susan (soon to be famous Susan, friend of Deepak Chopra and Bill Moyer, right!) And each time I came to give her Reiki treatments she thanked Oshun. Susan. Oshun. Susan. Oshun.
I came to see that her vibrancy was very heart centerd. It was her love force. It was the children she cared for, the beauty of the lake that she loved. Her gratitude for being loved, for having loved. Her life force was her love force. I wrote that down. I was profound!
Toward the end of her life she seemed to gain a little strength, and one day she reached out and took my hand. “Oshun,” she said and I felt a wave of energy shoot through me. Try as I might I could not flow anything to her. Some Reiki Master.
She wanted me to return though and I did but I was beginning to doubt my abilities.
From that day forth I was on the receiving end with Nanny, and luckily I was just wise enough, and just open enough to finally accept it without guilt or judgement. I changed. I remembered.
Why my conditioning and discipline as a Reiki Master Candidate didn’t get in the way remains a mystery. But I allowed the mystery to unfold and Nanny continued to thank Oshun. Then one day, while browsing thru a book about Tarot card decks at Barnes and Noble I discovered that Oshun was a Goddess!
I was able to tell Nanny that I had discovered Oshun and that I understood what she was trying
to tell me. I studied. It was all very different, yet so familiar. I told her about Venus, Istar, Kali. Yemayacame to me in dreams. Oya, Oshun. I began to understand.
Oshun’s holy day is September 11. I told Nanny that was my birthday. She nodded, she knew. She told me pieces of the stories of her remembering. I told her there were similar stories in the Hopi tradition, Zen wisdom tales, and Bilblical parables. She knew. I knew.
She would take my hand and give me her gift. The transmissions were always the same, very distinct energy, although they lasted only a few seconds. An hour long Reiki session seemed ridiculous, infantile, when this energy could be passed in an instant. I began to question everything I knew about spiritual and mind/body healing modalities, including Reiki. It was apparent that I would become a Master of Nothing but Questions.
One day I asked her how she did that. Her answer was simple. “Love you.”
Nanny passed with her hand in mine. I felt her go in a flash of love. She simply became love. In one instant, like light, she was only love. I will never fear death because Nanny showed me how to do it. She was simply restored.
But she gave me lots to fear and and lots to get over in life. She set me upon a path where I confronted my ideas of what a Master is and is not. What a healer is. What spirituality can be. What life is for. What threads connect us all.
Search, abandon. God, Goddess. Create, dissolve. Intellectualize, forget. Finally, all that was left
was the power of love. And the Spirit of Oshun.
Much of this story remains untold because there is no language suitable for miracles. I hold much experience sacred in silence where it belongs. Nanny is one of my greatest teachers, and I have been blessed with some profound ones. Nanny was Priestess, Healer, Teacher, Friend.
I share this story primarily because I want you to keep your heart open, especially when you think you are on the path, doing the do, walking the talk. When you think you are it.
That’s when you need to get ready to re-evaluate in a big way.
Whenever you interact with anyone, remember, by design, each one of us has a profound gift to give another just at the right, life-altering moment. I might have become just another Reiki Master with a massage therapist and accupuncturist sharing space in a strip mall if I had not met Nanny. That's what I wanted to be! That was my highest calling, a dream come true! I never would have become an ebay psychic or swam naked with dolphins and study with Taino elders, or create Oshun Spirit Fragrance Oil, or...
And, I might have even feared an ancient tradition or two, locked in judgement and a false sense of superiority, if I had not embraced the appearance of Oshun in my life.
Like I said, I was just barely wise enough to not let ego and emotion get in the way of a life altering experience. Nanny joyfully possesed Oshun’s dancing spirit, I saw her fully present in the last breath of a tiny, crippled woman. I saw the Goddess in her, I know.
So, instead of becoming a Master I became a student.
Oh, I had the certificate, but it was more of a birth certificate than anything else. The Goddess had taken my hand, literally. She had awakened me to the power of love.
In the hours I sat with Nanny, gazing out her big picture window at the lake, looking at her framed photographs, smelling her roses and lillies, smoothing her beautifully coiffed hair, I also sat with Oshun. With beauty. With harmony. With the love emotion of the initiated. With the knowledge that love is the only question, the only answer, the only prayer.
May you be blessed!
Image credit: www.gods-heros-myth.com/