Dad hugs his daughter, exuding fatherly affection. It's clearly felt by the little girl. She reflects back happiness. It would make a great photograph, but I don't have my camera. Soon I hear the dad's words, "I love you. Goodbye!" And he's off. Don't know where. Don't know for how long. But Dad is gone.
As I watch this happen at the train station, for an instant it doesn't make any sense. Why would someone who loves someone else ever have to say goodbye?
Then reality kicks in. Life is like that. Full of partings. Sometimes because of our lapses and failings. At other times, despite our best intentions. Even a good life can't avoid partings but copes with them with grace. Or, better still, transcends them.
My life has involved many abrupt partings. There are the obvious ones leaving home for college, switching jobs, bereavements. While challenging, these are considered part of life. Then there are partings you don't plan. Like when my best friend from college became engaged to a woman who lived 3,000 miles away. When Frank told me their plan was to live on Joanna's side of the Atlantic, it just about knocked me over. I was so used to having him around that it never occurred to me it would be different. Then, suddenly, he was gone.
He didn't leave me worse off, though. Frank went where he needed to go, and although his departure deprived me of his company, I was glad he had found what we each had wanted for so long a life-long companion.
I took comfort in knowing that he and Joanna were doing well where they were. More than that, I was soon able to feel the comfort of being happy and doing well myself, where I was, by turning to the main thing besides the soccer, laughter, cafes, etc. that Frank and I had shared: spiritual discovery and practical prayer.
"Nature abhors a vacuum" as the saying goes. I found that this is, in a sense, true for the divine nature the goodness of God. More than abhorring a vacuum, it overrules a vacuum. The provision of God's goodness is already present to discover, right where it feels as though there's a vacuum in our lives. Discovering this truth turns what feels like a loss of something good into a gain a spiritual gain.
A book written by the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, captures this beautifully, if poignantly. It says, "Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth" (pg. 266).
I was already looking for spiritual growth before Frank moved away. I just hadn't expected an accelerated impetus to come about in the way it did, through dealing with unanticipated change. But I turned to God and found out something startling. That I am one with God we all are and that God is full of unconditional love for me as His/Her cherished child. That's why there can't be a vacuum.
In that infinite, divine oneness is a sense of spiritual completeness that can't leave us high and dry, lacking anything good. If it is good truly good it is in God, and is available to all, at all times, including me, and you, now. "When you're at one," as another friend put it, "you've won!" When you're consciously knowing and feeling that you are at one with God, you can claim victory over every thought and experience that would argue otherwise.
When I attended Frank and Joanna's wedding, I got to visit the United States for the first time ever something I had always wanted to do. I have seen them several times since then, both here and there. I've made new friends. I've had new adventures. Good goes on, rooted and grounded in our oneness with God, who is infinite good.
Imagine a universe where a parent embraces his or her child and conveys the words "I love you" by responsive, caring actions, without ever having to say goodbye. That's the way it is in the spiritual place where we are each a child of God, who never leaves us for a moment.