I seem to live more in the desert than anywhere else. I almost passed on this week as I am dealing with the death of my mother. She passed away last Thursday, February 25. February 25 is also my wedding anniversary and the birthday of one of my grandsons. I find that odd how this happens. We have other dates in our family that are like this – they seem to have multiple significance.
I found this dying experience to be very different than I expected. It was more rich than desert. As with all the rich experiences of life, I learned so much. If you haven’t read any of my reflections on this on Sounds of Hope, you may want to read them. It seems the month of February was all about dying. I shared the experience of my granddaughter’s death, sudden, unexpected, and way too soon. Within a few days, I was experiencing the death of my 91-year-old mother. I attended to her as she transitioned from this life to the next.
I live in the desert. South Dakota is tundra. Even in the snow, the cactus grows in the western part of the state. I have actually wanted to live in the desert, just not a frozen one. While the natural beauty of the western part of South Dakota is astounding, the coldness of the surroundings is unbearable for me.
I fell in love with the desert of Arizona in 1997. That year was the hardest year of my life. Space does not permit me to share this in detail. Just before the year began we had a house fire, early in the year our son was sick and homebound for most of the year, our granddaughter died, my husband made emergency trips to his native Pakistan because of the critical illness of his father, I was falsely accused at work ruining a career and reputation, a major crisis in my marriage-this just scratches the surface.
As the year was closing, I was numb, almost comatose with despair. My husband took me with him to Tucson, Arizona. As we flew over the desert, I thought what a horrible place. As we drove to Tucson from Phoenix I asked, what do people see in the desert?
Within 24 hours, the desert had captivated me. There was something healing about the desert. The first night we were guests at a colleagues home. Under a beautiful desert sky with crispness in the air we ate our meal outside. The next day we went to walk through the desert and experience its intimacy.
What originally just looked dry and brown was actually full of life. The desert has everything needed to sustain life. Each plant and animal has been uniquely created to live in this environment. Rains will come. In fact, they will come with unexpected force. The arroyos formed by the rain, change the landscape sweeping away all debris.
We resist the desert. Its starkness and seeming desolation are frightening. I don’t know a lot about the Desert Fathers who helped perpetuate and mature our faith. I do know that the desert is necessary. I know the desert restored me and refined me. I know that when the rains come, with force, it sweeps away the debris of my own life.
I’ve always wondered about the scripture that say the Holy Spirit led him into the desert (Matthew 4:1). There are times we are led into the desert. I have embraced the work of the Holy Spirit; if I do, I need to follow even to the desert. It will be good for me.