That Soul-Feeding Sunset
by Rev. Stan Howse
Six months after my wife's memorial service, I was returning home from a trip to west Texas. The road was surrounded by the beauty of oaks, cedar and pecan trees scattered across rolling hills that afforded a gentle rocking motion as my car made its way up and down the country highway. The hot summer sun had scorched the dry land. But the trees had kept their green and stood out sharply against the fading light of day. Standing strong and sure, their full and heavy branches were undisturbed by the wind combing through the hills.
Above the trees, dark and majestic clouds magically juggled lightening bolts back and forth occasionally tossing them just over the tops of the hills to strike somewhere near the lake. Darkened by the turbulence of the welcome rain and angling winds, the billowy puffs formed an imposing backdrop while jagged electric ribbons played hopscotch across the eastern sky. As I watched this magnificent display of heavenly energy dancing before my eyes, I gradually began to feel a presence around me.
I knew Rosemary instantly. Her loving, joyful energy filled the car and my heart at the same time, then moved out into my hand, gently guiding the steering wheel to nose the car to the side of the road. My rational mind kicked in momentarily to remind me that I was not parking in a secluded area protected from passing traffic. Only an instant before I had passed several cars in quick succession and there was no safe shoulder for my sedan to rest. In fact it was a high traffic hour for people who commuted to their homes in this beautiful hill-country location.
Surely it would be only a little while before other cars would be passing and would disturb an otherwise perfect moment. I sat there waiting to be interrupted by a convoy of travelers and continued to feel Rosemary's presence even stronger. To my surprise the traffic had evidently stopped. In my rear view mirror I saw no one topping the hill behind; and ahead on the horizon I could see no cars at all. No one. Nothing but the beauty and romantic privacy of a scene like so many we had witnessed together during our marriage.
Still marveling at the lack of passing cars, I stepped out of my car, leaving the engine running. I was ready to move quickly out of the way of commuters who I felt sure would arrive any second. All the while, I could feel my dear Rosemary's presence. It was a mystical moment when the veil between the seen and unseen became almost transparent. Her whispered words of adoration at the splendor of this twilight hour seemed audible.
Many times when we traveled together, she would reach over and touch my hand--and point at the radiant beams of light emanating from a golden sunset, piercing and coloring the clouds and streams of light across a meadow, over a mountain, or through the tips of a tree. We would pull over to the side of the road and sit holding hands as the multi-colored sunset nourished our eyes, hearts and souls with wonder and awe. She was there this evening as surely as she'd ever been. As I took my eyes off the fabulous show of lightening and dark clouds filled with refreshing showers, her invisible hand turned my head toward the opposite direction. What I saw was enough to take my breath away.
The sun had formed a half circle just behind a huge oak tree sitting atop a hill about 500 yards from where I stood. I had no idea how long I had been there, but as I reached back in the car and turned off the ignition, I realized it had been several minutes since I had even seen another car. Awestruck by this wondrous and mystical moment, I turned my head in all directions to see the glorious spectacle. The sun's hat was golden red and mauve and its light refracted in multicolored hues across the sloped countryside as it tipped itself to say, "Goodnight".
I stood drinking in the beauty, looking first to the east, where lighting bolts chased frantically looked for a place to connect. Then turning, feasted my soul once more on the unfolding glory on the western horizon. I knew that Rosemary feasted with me. While her presence, which felt as real as the sunset, the clouds and the storm, enfolded me, I was intensely aware of the warm caress of her arm upon my arm.
The power and presence of our souls live on together so that we are forever connected with those we love; the pain of physical separations never touches our spirits. Life has many sunsets and perhaps that which we call death is but the sunset of spirit in which its glorious rays burst forth elsewhere into a celebration of light. We are forever joined to those we love, even if they appear to depart.
We continue our rendezvous with those we hold dear, not only during storms and sunsets, but also at unexpected times when our souls are calling for love and added strength. A friend wrote some special words upon Rosemary's passing. "My darling, I have stopped meeting you in particular places in order that I might meet you everywhere".
A beautiful photograph hung in a frame on our bedroom wall during the early years of our marriage. The picture has long since been lost. It's frame got broken in one of our many moves. Then it was stored for awhile and from there must have found its way to wherever bundled and forgotten memories reside. Even so, the beauty of its setting is strong in my mind today. It was a scene set upon a hillside. A giant oak tree was in the center of the picture and behind it was a sumptuous, soul-feeding sunset. Many times we had admired it together and blessed our good fortune to enjoy such natural beauty pictured in our home every day.
At twilight that evening, on a quiet Texas hill-country roadside, we saw it once more.
Stan Howse is an ordained Unity Minister currently serving at Unity Church of Burbank and North Hollywood. He and Rosemarie founded other Unity Churches, which remain vital community resources to this day. Stan and Annemarie, a long-time friend and member of Unity were married on December 5th, 1998. More about their church at http://unitychurchnhb.org/