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  • Writer's pictureGiacomino Nicolazzo

The Moment of Surrender...

Updated: Jan 6


THE MOMENT OF SURRENDER

Edition 60. January 2024


I want to see your face in the final moments of my life.

I want you to hold me in your arms as I take my last breath.

I want to hold your face in my hands as the world disappears...


These were the last words he’d spoken to her. He uttered them on the morning of his passing. And since that day they have played over and over in her head. On a loop. They haunt her. They elate her. They drive her to her knees. These were the words she was remembering as she walked to the Croara Church.


She hadn’t really understood the depth or breadth of his love for her until he was no longer there to show it. Not that she’d ever taken a moment of it for granted...not once. Ever. But now that it was gone, she simply could not believe the void it left behind.


What you will read in this month’s blog is the ending to the story I began telling you in November of last year. Many of you did not understand the abrupt ending of the December chapter but now it will all make sense. There is a lesson to be learned here if you will but take a few minutes out of your day to read.


We start where we last ended...


She found herself completely alone...wondering what to do next. In anguish she cried out...


“I am lost without you!”


Her words echoed down the empty hallways, filling the empty rooms of the empty house...


“I am weary. I am grieving. I am carrying within me a broken heart.”


The only thing waiting for her was an empty bed, and she knew that. So, she walked without thinking, into the bedroom they’d shared. She pulled back the covers of the bed, but before laying down, she walked over to the window. Standing there in the dark room, she stared out at the first rays of sun that were peeking over the distant hilltops. She whispered softly...


“I still believe in your promise, you know.

I still believe I will see you walking down the lane once again.

I will hear you coming into the house and calling for me.”


But there would be no sign of him that night, or any other for the foreseeable future. So, she turned and stumbled into the bed. There, she fell into a shallow sleep…a troubled sleep.


She tossed. She turned. She dreamed.


For good and bad, her nights were filled with dreams of him. He would come to her, gently and quietly, in her sleep, and when he did his presence illuminated the room. He'd linger long enough for her to remember and revel in the smallest of little details of their life together. Minutia that she might otherwise forget with time. Then he would leave and her heart would ache to watch him go. When he left, the room returned to darkness again.


She woke several hours later on this particular day, feeling an urge rising up within her. He was calling to her from beyond the hills. She heard it and knew it was him, just as plain as day. He was telling her to walk to that old church again and he would be there. She knew she must go. She would sit on those steps and say good-bye to him for he was yet one more person that she’d loved more than life itself.


These were her thoughts as she dressed and readied herself to leave...


You are gone. But let there be no mistaking it...I knew you were here.

Though your body is no longer mine to hold...

your voice cannot soothe my soul...

your touch no longer can comfort me...

your presence is still very heavy in the air.

I feel it and I feel you every moment of the day.


Oh, dear God! What a long, wonderful and incredible journey they had! He allowed her to experience true human love for the very first and only time in her life. But now he is gone. And she asks herself...


“Does any of it really matter anymore?

Why? Why must love return to whatever it was before it came?

Where? Where does it go? Where are you now?”


What he brought to her and what he pulled out of her...what they shared together, now that she looked back upon it, was as indescribably joyous as it was life altering. Together they were more than they ever could have possibly been apart. She was not just a woman and he was not just a man.


They were love personified...


It was all so surreal. It altered them. He changed her. She shaped him. It compelled them and impelled them to the furthest reaches of human experience. But now he was gone, and she had no choice but to face each day alone...


“For thirty years you were always here.

I don’t know how to be alone.

All I know is that my life will never be the same again.

My heart is broken, and I have no idea how to heal it.”


She sat down at her dressing table for a few moments, to brush her hair and pull it back from her face. In a silver frame there was a photograph he’d taken of her one morning, a week or so after the death of her mother, several years before.


It was a cold day in January, and it had been snowing for the last several days. She’d gotten out of bed early, thinking he would not notice. But he did. He noticed everything she did.


She got dressed, bundling herself against the freezing winter wind, and quietly slipped outside through the door in the kitchen. Crossing the snow-covered terrazzo, she headed up the hill toward the vineyard, passing through a short stretch of woods. She carried with her all the issues, all the disagreements and all the arguments left unresolved between her and her mother.


It was a heavy, heavy burden that she’d been carrying for decades...literally.


Without her aware of it, he had followed for a short while. He needed to make sure she was safe. He knew she was struggling. He had the presence of mind to bring his camera along. Just before her path turned to the left and started up the steep hill, he snapped the photograph I told you about a few moments ago.


As he watched her walk away into the woods that morning, he whispered into the air. He knew she could not hear his words, but he spoke them all the same. He wrote them down and gave her the photo and the handwritten note a few days later...


"I am here for you always.

I will love you forever.

I do not care how far away you run.

I will always be right here waiting for you.

There is nothing you can ever do to lose my love.

I will adore you always.

I will protect you until the moment you cease to exist.

And then I will go on cherishing and protecting the memory of you.

I am stronger than your fears and braver than your sadness.

Nothing will ever take me away from you."


But something did take him away from her. It was he who had ceased to exist first, and it was her who had to go on cherishing and protecting the memory of him. Now her fears had become even stronger. Her sadness so much deeper. She was left with so many unanswered questions.


(Here is where I want to take a brief pause from the story and break in with the beginning of the lesson I want to teach today...)


There are few experiences more crushing to the human spirit than losing, to death, someone we love. Our world quite literally shatters and everything in it is turned upside down. We feel lost. Helpless. We don’t know what to do or to whom we can turn. The only person we want to talk to is now beyond our reach. But this does not mean that happiness must be set aside. It is a simple choice.


You may find me crazy, or you might be asking yourself...


How can he say such a thing?

What does death have to do with happiness?


On the surface, there is merit to your doubt. What I propose seems somewhat antithetical. But my message today is for those who are grieving and when it comes to getting closure, today’s lesson might mean the world...it might mean the start of a return to normalcy.


It’s not unusual...in fact it is quite normal, to feel the urge to talk with those we’ve lost. It is a perfectly normal and effective positive coping mechanism. This is why the grieving woman in my story is headed to that old church. To talk.


When we lose someone dear to us, suddenly or with little time to prepare, there’s much left undone...unspoken words and unshared emotions. We feel cheated, at a loss because of all the things we were never able to do or say or experience with them. But by talking to them, even though we know they will not speak back, we are able to find closure for some of these issues.


We can make promises to them that make up for what we weren’t able to do. We can seek their forgiveness. We can tell them things we wish we’d said while they were with us...


It can be the start of healing.


There’s a great deal of adjusting that must be done after we lose someone close to us. Some unfairly believe grief is something we process and then get over.


Sadly, this is never how it works.


We must transition, learning to live without them. It’s not something we can just get over, no matter how much positive thinking we use. We move from a world where we were with them to a world where we aren’t...and never will be again. We have little choice but to change and adapt. Talking to them can ease how long and how easy or difficult this transition process takes.


Now, if I may, I will get back to the story...


Before leaving that morning, she cut a bouquet of wildflowers from the field outside his writing room, tying their stems with a piece of white ribbon. She could not help but notice the garden she’d been neglecting for months.


After a good while of brisk walking, through the woods and down the winding country road, she reached the old church. Climbing the steep lane, she found a place where the sun was shining on the steps, warming them. She sat down to catch her breath and gather her thoughts. She knew focusing was a must if she was going to accomplish what she’d come to do.


Today she would say goodbye. She did not expect to leave with answers, but she needed to close this chapter of her life if she was going to be able to continue with the next.


All was quiet around the old church...as it always was. It was an exceptionally peaceful, serene place for her. It had always been this way. Other than the distant cooing of a pair of doves hiding in the eaves of the old monastery, not another sound was to be heard. A slight and warm breeze blew silently through the treetops. She thought she was alone. But as it would turn out, she was not. Unbeknownst to her, someone was there...


someone was waiting, anticipating her arrival.


As she sat on those old steps of the church, thick slabs of stone cut from the veins of gessi rock buried beneath the hills of Croara, the sun was steadily crossing the sky. She stared at it and tracked its arcing movement. The hours passed. By the time it had reached the ridgeline of the hills to the west, she'd found herself growing anxious. Restless. Fearful. She looked at her watch. It was nearly 6:00. She’d been there for more than eight hours. She concluded that whatever it was she’d hoped to find was not going to show itself...


“Coming here was a mistake,” she said to herself. “I knew it before I left home. I am not meant to know peace again. I have had my happiness and now life takes over again. There is nothing here for me today.”


Just as she spoke these words, an orange tabby cat, one with white rings on its tail, jumped through the courtyard gate and walked right over to her...


Have a little faith in me...


Where that thought came from, she did not know. It startled her a bit to be honest, because she heard it a second time...


Did you hear me? Have a little faith in me...


Have a little faith in yourself. Don’t lose sight of the things you already know...


There it was again.


“Piccolo,” she said to the little cat that was weaving its body lovingly through her legs, “are you talking to me? Was it you that said these things?”


She knew such a thing was impossible, so she looked around, expecting to find someone speaking to her. But she saw no one...nothing. It wasn’t until she felt a strange sensation...a vibration of sorts, filling her body, that she began to sense something was about to happen.


She heard a strange humming sound...like a gentle song. Turning to her left she could tell it was coming from the cemetery. The gate was open and it was never open. She found it strange. Inside that gate, amongst the graves, was one place she refused to go since his passing. It frightened her to no end...


There is no need to fear this. You know that. I am here. I am waiting for you. Come.


This was the moment of her surrender. Slowly she stood from the steps. Every fiber of her body was telling her to stop but she couldn’t. She was being drawn into that cemetery. The cat followed her.


His grave was in the corner. At the back wall that met up with the bell tower. She slowly plodded along the path of tiny white stones that lined the way. The cat stayed right with her. She reached his grave and instantly felt crippling sadness.


The bouquet of flowers...the ones tied with the white ribbon, was in her hands. She laid it down, just to the right of his headstone. And she began to cry.


They are beautiful! The wild rosmarino has always been my favorite. But you know this.


Startled, and turning quickly, she could see someone, a man, slowly emerging from the shadows of the belltower.


You have never been so beautiful. I miss you more than you can imagine.


The man frightened the cat and it took off running, leaving just her and him standing in the cemetery, looking at one another.


“Am I dreaming?” she asked. “Is this possible? Is it really you?”


Yes sweetheart. It is me.


She placed her hand over her mouth and gasped, exploding in tears. He moved closer and put his arms around her. She could feel it...she could feel his body against hers and she collapsed into him.


“This is not possible,” she said, her words filled with pain and anguish. “This is not possible. It cannot be you.”


But it is me my dear. I told you I would love you forever and I would never leave you.


“But you did leave me,” she said, pushing away from him. “It was not true what you promised.”


Touch me. Feel me. I am here sweetheart. I am different now, but I am here.


“Why?” she begged. “Why did you have to go?”


It was my time. It was not my choice, but it was my time. Yours will come too.


“I am afraid,” she said. “I don’t want to go. I fear it terribly so.”


But there is nothing to fear...nothing to be afraid of. Very little changes.


“How can this be so?” she asked. “You are dead. I buried you. This cannot be happening.”


I am going to share something with you now. I want you to listen to what I have to say.


He could feel her trembling. This was beyond her comprehension. This should not have been happening...but it was. And this is when he revealed the ultimate truth to her...


“It was in my final moments of life...in the moments I was surrendering my body, that every single one of the questions that had plagued me my entire life were answered. You were there. You were right there. You were by my side. Do you remember? You were holding my hand. Before I passed from this realm to the next, my eyes opened. My heart was calmed. My value became clear to me.


All those books we were forced to read when we were younger. All those rituals. All the doctrines. All the prophets Everything we were taught...all of it was revealed to me to be meaningless.


The holy books...they are not holy. They were written by man, not by God.


The rituals we were forced to partake in...the ones that we were told would save our souls and provide us salvation...they all were empty. Impotent.


The doctrines...all lies.


The prophets...all false. Charlatans, each and every one. Usurpers of our faith and our trust.


All those horrible fears that were instilled within me by the priests and the nuns, over all my years...they simply evaporated. They faded away...into nothingness. They were, and had always been, unnecessary. But most of all, they were cruel.


It was in my moment of surrender that I let go of the need to have answers to all my questions and reassurances to all my doubts. It was because of those unanswered questions, questions that no living man can answer, and because of those unresolved doubts, doubts that I was never going to be able to conquer on my own while alive, that I was being kept from knowing the truth.


I let go of it all. And what rushed in to fill the void was the simple understanding that none of that nonsense really mattered...


Please know this. You don’t need to know everything sweetheart.


All those years that I’d allowed myself to be swept away by this nonsense of religion! It all came together into one heap and it burst into flames. The smoke swirled around my head and the ashes piled up at my feet.


All my life I had been missing the point. I’d been misled by people...some well-intended but ignorant, but most were shrewd and cunning, wanting nothing but power and control over me.


None of the guilt. None of the shame. None of the inferiority or feelings of undeservedness that I’d been taught was necessary. It wasn’t even real. None of this nonsense about sin or the need for repentance was true.


How foolish I felt when I realized that all I ever needed to do was to step out of the darkness and into the light. I could have known the truth when I was a young man. My entire life could have been different.


There was no bright, burning, shining light at the end of it all...there was only darkness. Only blackness. There was no one there to meet me...only peace and quiet, silence and calm. The silence and the calm continue, but the darkness and blackness were momentary. Quickly it all began to fade the further I walked into it. And then I heard a voice. From where it came, I do not know. Whose voice it was, was not offered. But the words it spoke calmed every atom of my eternal essence. I was overcome by the bliss....


Do not confuse the departing darkness with the coming light.

You are home now.

You are learning now in death that which you could have sought and learned in life.

You see, life and death are the same.

There is no difference.

It all continues...it simply transitions.

You are home again.

You are back where you started.


The sun had long since set by this time and darkness was enveloping them, save for the glow of some sort he had to him. In that dim light she could see his beautiful face again and it made her cry out with joy. She had held her body next to his. He had touched her, and she felt calm. He had spoken to her, and his words had soothed her soul.


He reached out his hand to her and spoke...


I will take you home now.


She took his hand and, in an instant, they were back in the bedroom they’d shared for thirty years. Exhausted, she lay down on the bed...


“Can you stay with me until I am asleep?” she asked. “I am not ready for you to go.”


I am right here sweetheart. Close your eyes. Go to sleep.


And she did. She fell quickly to sleep and did not wake until the morning came.


The sun had been up for several hours when she opened her eyes. It was the first time she’d slept all night in months. She woke with a smile and a sense of peace and calm about her, though she knew not why. She thought she’d had another dream of him...a wonderful one, though she could not recall any of it. She got up and went about her day with a renewed sense of purpose...


“I think I will work in the garden day,” she mused. “Yes...that is what I will do. I will plant today.”


Here is the lesson I wish to impart in all of you today...


There really is no way of knowing when the final curtain will fall for any of us. Therefore, we really should live each and every day as though it is our last. There are no guarantees. Make every moment count and take nothing for granted. If there is one thing that we can learn about ourselves after the death of someone we love, it should be that we are much stronger than we realize. We must take these lessons and apply them to our life. They may help us to find our way through the grief.


When things or people show up in your life and make a difference in its quality, know that they were brought to you by something so much bigger than yourself.


Today, begin to honor the memories of your loved ones...those who have passed before. Do this by loving, unconditionally, those that remain. Look for them in the people you know and love.


Any crying you feel to do for those who have died, replace it with compassion and concern for those who are living.


Honor your deceased loved ones by never again taking any moment of life for granted.


At some point, even you will fade away. What will be left is what you have become. If you allow yourself to become more and more the living presence of love, then love will be precisely what you leave behind.


People die. Love does not.


Honor those who have passed before you by touching all the living with tenderness and care and compassion. Happy a nd blessed new year to everyone... Gia

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