I don’t know whether I have shared the water story yet. After searching through my archives I have come to the conclusion that I have not and feel compelled to write it now.
It all began a couple of years ago as I was dealing with the latest “bombshell” from our daughter. I knew to the depths of my soul that I was in deep trouble internally, because I wanted to “shut down”, run away, not see or talk with anyone. Those are all danger signals for me.
I immediately alerted my support network and began what turned out to be two years of intense personal work. I firmly believe that God provides – always, even when we are not quite aware of it. In the month or so before the “bombshell”, I had heard about a couple of people who offered new-to-me alternative therapy, and I had put them in a file for future reference.
Well, now was the future, so I contacted them and made appointments. They have both helped me tremendously in my personal growth, but more importantly they gave me incredible support as I dealt with very difficult times. I also began working with an amazingly skilled and talented male massage therapist who was referred to me by a very trusted friend/female massage therapist. There’s nothing like male energy to “shake things up a bit”.
At the time, I was also involved in some special one-on-one work with one of my very dear friends. As I spent some time with her one morning she suddenly said, a propos of nothing that we were talking about in that particular moment, “Margo I read something this morning and I think you would like it.” She then proceeded to show me the 78th Verse of the Tao Te Ching written by Lao_tzu, as presented and commented on by Wayne Dyer in his book Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life, (which I then had to promptly go and buy!!).
I am going to write out the verse as it appears in the book:
Nothing in the world is softer
and weaker than water.
But for attacking the hard, the unyielding,
nothing can surpass it.
There is nothing like it.
The weak overcomes the strong;
the soft surpasses the hard.
In all the world, there is no one who does not know this,
but no one can master the practice
Therefore the master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow;
evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is the people’s greatest help.
True words appear paradoxical.
The ensuing chapter was titled “Living Like Water” and Wayne Dyer comments on the verse in the following way. “Be like water seems to be repeated throughout the Tao Te Ching. ……..Water is elusive until you cease grasping and let your hand relax and be one with it – ……… Overcome the unyielding parts of your life by yielding! ……. Remember to stay flexible, willing to lower yourself in humility and appear weak, but knowing that you are in harmony with the Tao. …….. When you stay soft and surpass the hard, you too will be indestructible. There’s nothing softer than water under heaven, and yet there’s nothing that can surpass it for overcoming the hard.”
I knew in that moment that this was a huge lesson that I needed to take to heart. I needed to practice being soft and flexible rather than being tough. I needed, just like water, “to find my own level below all strong things”. I needed, just like water, to return to my own Source (which for me is God) and allow Him to use me over and over in ways that He sees fit.
After reading this passage and processing my thoughts, I came to a great place of peace. Even though I was in the midst of great spiritual, emotional, mental, and consequently physical, turmoil I could feel God’s love and grace surround me and sustain me.
My husband was in San Diego at the time. Later that day he called me and I was able to share my “water experience” with him. As I was telling him the story, he suddenly said, “Oh my God, Oh my God!”. In somewhat of a panic and with my heart beating wildly I shouted down the phone, “What’s the matter? What’s happening?”
His response sent chills up and down my spine, and I get goose bumps all over again as I recount these events. He replied, “It’s OK, everything is OK. It’s just that a girl is walking past and her T-shirt logo says ‘Water is Life’. Needless to say I felt the hand of God right there. I felt His presence and I knew that no matter what, He would always be there for me.
A couple of months ago I was part of a team putting on a women’s retreat. We had come together on the Friday evening to do the set up and preparation for the weekend. There was a lot of physical work involved and by the end of the evening I was tired, disheveled, and sweaty. Although I felt in inner satisfaction at the work achieved, I did not feel pretty in that moment.
Some of the team had already gone home; family schedules or sheer tiredness. But a handful of us put the finishing touches to things, and then gathered for a few moments of prayer together in the small chapel we had just created for the weekend. One of the ladies said a spontaneous prayer about us being instruments of the Lord and asking God to let His light to shine out from us.
On my way home I had to stop off at Publix to pick up a few items. It was almost closing time, about 9.40pm by the time I got there. I ran in, grabbed what I needed, and headed out the store to go home. As I stepped out and into the parking lot a gentleman had just parked in the Handicap slot and was exiting his truck.
In that moment my mind took in a couple of things: he had parked in the Handicap slot and he was using a cane for support as he walked. I took my second step into the parking lot as he turned toward the store and our eyes met. It wasn’t a “frozen-in-time” moment. I’ll try to explain it.
The next three or four seconds seemed to run in slow motion. Everything that happened was like a .1 of a second, frame-by-frame shot of those moments. I took in the gentleman’s physical handicaps (possibly the result of cerebral palsy). I saw his eyes light up as he took in my presence. I watched as his mind began framing a thought and then started transmitting that thought from his brain to his mouth.
Speaking slowly and with some difficulty he said, “You are so very pretty ma’am”. I was totally caught off guard. I think I hesitated for a fraction of a second in my step as I tried to process the words that I had heard and the context of the moment. And then I gave him a huge smile as I replied, “Thank you sir.” Again, I watched his thought process form and the transmitting order going from brain to mouth, and he added, “You are glowing with prettiness”. Without hesitation I said, “That’s because I’ve been about God’s business”. He nodded, tipped his baseball cap, and we both went about our ways richer for our encounter.
This story so far, in and of itself, is beautiful. But it didn’t end there. I went home feeling light as a feather and feeling truly beautiful inside and out, as only a 65 year-old women who was feeling very scruffy at the time of this occurrence could possibly feel. I was not only smiling with my mouth, but it felt like I had a huge smile inside my stomach that was just spreading all over my body.
Next morning I was up before dawn to head over the St. John’s river to the church. We had an awesome first day of retreat and early on Sunday morning we gathered together in our chapel for morning prayers which Deacon Paul had written especially for our weekend. Imagine the synchronicity, the God-incidence that I felt when we came to read the response that he had created for our Intercessions. The exact words were (thank you Sue!), “Lord, make us shine with the brightness of Christ.”
I practiced as a massage therapist in Italy for about seven years. I came to Signor Ludovic via a local parish priest, Don Rafaele. My husband and I would occasionally go to the little Italian church for Mass and Don Rafaele told the story of Signor Ludovic to illustrate the gospel story in his sermon one Sunday.
Signor Ludovic was a Local farmer, a man of the earth with no formal education. He had worked the land all his life and raised eight children. Suddenly, at age seventy, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheel chair. His whole reason for living, working the land, was taken from him. He spent all his days moaning his lot and railing against God “for what He has done to me”.
At the end of Mass I got up fully intending to leave the church and go home, and instead went and spoke to Don Rafaele. Before I knew it I had volunteered to give massage to Signor Ludovic if he and his family would like that and if his doctor said it would be all right. Several weeks later I found myself in my car with Don Rafaele, massage table, linens and lotions in the back, driving to Signor Ludovic’s home.
When we arrived Signor Ludovic was asleep in his wheelchair on the patio. He was unshaven and somewhat unkempt and he drooled in his sleep. I began to wonder what on earth I had gotten myself into and raised a prayer to God asking for His help to do what I could to bring some comfort, some release to this man. And so in April 1999 began a year long relationship that was to bring me many gifts and blessings.
Michele, Signor Ludovic’s son was very badly physically deformed and because he could not work outside the home, to him had fallen the role of caregiver to his father. He would undress him and help me get him on the massage table and when it was time he would help me turn him over. Initially Signor Ludovic said very little to me and would just stare at me in disbelief as I massaged him. I don’t think they knew how to take this purple-haired woman who had appeared out of the blue to offer this service.
Signor Ludovic wanted to pay me after the first massage (he was very proud), and I refused explaining that massage was a gift that I had received from God and that I wanted to share it with him. He cried and just hung on to my hand. I made arrangements to return the following week and once a week thereafter. Each week he would ask to pay and I would say no and continue to repeat that it was my gift to share.
It was about the fourth week, and after we had dressed him and put him in his chair, he crooked his finger at me and with a sly smile told me, “today I am going to pay you”. I began to refuse, but he ignored me and said something in local dialect to Michele who went into an adjoining room. He came back a moment later carrying a bulging plastic bag full of fresh picked green beans. With a big toothless grin Signor Ludovic said, “It’s a gift I’m sharing with you.” And so it went from week to week, whatever was in season and producing on their land, I would receive a bagful freshly picked that morning.
As time went by Signor Ludovic built up trust with me and told me about his wife who had died several years earlier. He told me how he had built the house he lived in with his own hands and how all he longed to do was return to the land. He frequently asked me why I came to him every week and I always told him, “it’s a gift from God that I want to share with you”.
His son Michele told me how his father no longer complained about his lot in life and was much happier to be around. He said that before I began coming to him, his father would break into uncontrollable sobbing several times a day and that now he rarely cried. He also said that the rest of the family enjoyed being around him more now too. Signor Ludovic told me that his legs felt less “heavy” now and that his back hurt him less and, like a true Italian, he also started to flirt with me a little!!
The weeks that Don Rafaele came to visit and sit and pray while I did the massage, he would talk to me afterwards and reiterated what Michele told me. He also marveled at the fact that he was being given the opportunity to see how the healing powers of God worked in many different ways – even through the hands of a purple-haired massage therapist!
But for me the most amazing part of the relationship with Signor Ludovic was the unspoken friendship that we enjoyed. He was able to communicate so much through his eyes, and the biggest gift he gave me was his pure gratitude and the total feeling of satisfaction that he received from the massage. His eyes would frequently seek out mine during the massage and he would either be saying “thank you” or “oh that feels so good” or “you’re here again – how amazing!”.
I also came to realize that he was giving me an awesome gift in the shape of a mental and spiritual healing with my father. I would frequently think of Dad as I massaged Signor Ludovic, and I was able to come to a place of peace and forgiveness with him for never having said “I love you” to me when he was alive. It seemed as though Signor Ludovic was saying it on his behalf. This was a huge blessing for me.
In February 2000, Signor Ludovic suffered a second stroke which increased the paralysis and robbed him of his speech. I would go and sit with him, place my hands softly on his head and hold him then massage his Hands, one of which was now totally seized up. He would grab my hand with his good hand and carry it to his lips, drool and all, and just hold it there. I saw the life ebbing slowly out of him so began visiting almost every day. His eyes had become rheumy and glazed as though he were absent.
I last saw Signor Ludovic alive in the afternoon of Friday 31 March 2000. He had not eaten for about eight or nine days and was very weak. He was sitting propped up in his chair. There were several members of his family around him. I sat with him and took his feeling hand which he immediately carried to his lips. When it was time for me to leave, I told him I was going out of town for the weekend and would not see him until Monday.
His eyes suddenly cleared and he focused them fiercely into mine and I knew instinctively that he wanted to “tell me” something. I gazed back intently into his eyes and “heard” him tell me that he needed to go. I could not speak out loud, so focused back and “told” him that he should do what he needed to do for himself and thanked him for his presence in my life. He kissed my hand and I leaned over and kissed his cheek and whispered “arrivederci” in his ear.
At 6am on Monday 3 April 2000, before I could get to visit him again, Signor Ludovic passed away. I have thought of him frequently over the years and am truly grateful for the gift of our special relationship, for the joy that he brought into my life, and for the quantum leap in the lesson of compassion that he gave me .