Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 7 - The Transfiguration Chamber

March 1948

Springtime in Rooster Cove is a blessing, Solomon thought. Walking home from the clinic today, he counted blessings. It was a little game that he and Ma played over supper. He’d count off all the blessings he could think of, and then Ma would count hers. The walk home from work was always a blessing. It was time to commune with nature, to celebrate the forest creatures, to delight in the wild flowers, to marvel at the ancient folds in the mountains, to wonder at the handiwork of God.

The clinic and all that he’d learned in it was a blessing. Dr. Wall was a lot more pleasant to him since he and Alice were dating. That was a blessing. The sex was great and most definitely a blessing.

When he walked in the house, Ma said, “Solomon, yer great-great grandmother wants to meet with ye.”

Solomon’s mind snapped to attention. He knew that Ma was talking about Sarah O’Hara.

Sarah had spent her youth in County Limerick in the River Shannon’s tidal basin in the heart of southwest Ireland. She was of the Scot-Irish Ulster lineage, and she had been raised on stories of the new land across the sea.

In 1736, Sarah’s great-aunt Hazel had arrived in Pennsylvania and traveled through the Cumberland Gap to Tennessee. Hazel wrote to her sister, Sarah’s grandmother, of the beauty of the Appalachians and of the religious and political freedom she’d found there. Sarah O’Hara knew that when she grew up, she would go there too.

When Sarah was twenty-one, she bought her passage to America. She traveled with a shipload of Ulster Presbyterians. Sarah was not Presbyterian like the others. She followed the old ways of her Celtic ancestors for she had grown up in the meadows of the stone circles of Lock Gur.

In 1792, Sarah’s ship arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. By 1796, she had made her way to a cove in the mountains of East Tennessee. She declared it to be her home. The blue Appalachians reminded her of the Slieve Bloom Mountains and the Ballyhouras of her homeland.

It was there that she fell in love with a ruggedly handsome frontier man named Joseph. His family, descendants of Spanish conquistadors, had settled in the Tennessee Valley two hundred years before the first Irish immigrants came. He was of a proud race called the Melungeons. Ma Patsy and Solomon had the large eyes and the full sensuous lips of their Mediterranean heritage.

Sarah handed down her woodland medicines and her Celtic spiritualism to her daughters and to her daughter’s daughters. She passed down the knowledge of the transfiguration chamber. She instructed her daughters in how to bridge what seemed to be a gaping abyss between this world and the afterlife…so that the chasm was no more…but in its place the Light World—closer than a life vein—beat within the seeker’s breast. Solomon would be the first man-child of Sarah’s offspring to receive her wisdom.

The chamber was simply a small nine-foot square room in the center of the house—a cube. It had no windows. Its walls and ceiling were covered with plush black velvet. The only door to the chamber was also covered on the inside with black velvet. When the door was closed, there appeared to be no exit from the cube.

A Persian rug of the Bakhtiari tribe covered the floor. Sarah had brought the carpet with her across the Atlantic. Opposite the door, a large mirror leaned against the wall. If one sat on the floor in the middle of the room facing the mirror, it was impossible to see one’s reflection in it. The image in the mirror was of the wall behind and of the ceiling. The black velvet in the near darkness left no demarcation between the wall and the ceiling. The blackness seemed to float into infinity. A delicate wind chime hung above the mirror. Its brass and silver segments were as thin as paper and as tiny as a postage stamp. The smallest breeze set it tinkling.

When Ma entered the room, she called herself a seeker. Behind the seeker a small ceramic incense burner sat on a tripod. Ma Patsy made her incense pellets just as Sarah O’Hara had done. They smelled of vanilla, a fragrance reminiscent of mother’s milk. Behind the incense burner, a beeswax candle inside a blackened and shaded glass lantern flickered. After the seeker’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, the lantern gave the room a diffuse glow with subtle moving shadows.

Solomon was lost in his thoughts. Ma asked him again, “Will ye go into the chamber to meet with yer great-great grandmother?”

“Aye,” he said unaware that he had taken the Irish response from Sarah. Solomon had wanted this since he was a child. When he’d asked to go in, Ma had always told him that it wasn’t time yet.

“When we go inside,” Ma said, “I’ll say a prayer, and then we wait. Look into the mirror. At first ye will only see smoke from the incense. Soon it will look like a mist is swirling in the smoke, and a figure will begin to take shape. The figure will become clearer as ye watch it. Eventually ye will see the face of yer great-great grandmother, Sarah O’Hara.”

“Since this is yer first time,” Ma added, “I don’t know how clearly she will appear to ye. I don’t know how long it will take for ye to see her. I only know that she told me it was time to meet.” Ma touched his hand and said, “There is nothing to fear.”

Solomon nodded and said, “Okay.”

Both Ma and Solomon were quiet during supper. He felt that he on the brink of a momentous change. It wasn’t the beginning of the end; it was the beginning of the beginning. Ma was apprehensive. She knew that he would not be the same after tonight. Solomon sensed her uneasiness about the approaching metamorphosis. He would walk into the chamber a man-child. He would walk out a wayfarer journeying through a world of dust with his eyes fixed on his eternal destination…the Light World.

The cove was silent. Solomon had never known it to be so quiet. He heard no birds, no insects... nothing. He watched the sun go behind Bear Cave Mountain to the west. It sank into the trees on top of the ridge. Suddenly a ray of sunlight flashed through the tree branches. He closed his eyes. The after-image of a skeleton key floated before him. It jerked in response to his eye movements. A soft female voice said, “The universe is preparing thee for what thou wilt receive.” He looked at Ma. Her head was leaned back against the rocker. It wasn’t Ma’s voice, and she didn’t appear to have heard it.

The sounds of the forest took up again. The cicadas screeched. Crickets chirped, and a whip-o-will sang nearby. Solomon saw his first firefly of the season.

Ma raised her head and said, “Are ye ready, son?”

“Yes,” he murmured.

They went into the house as the rocking chairs continued to rock. Ma opened the door to the chamber and motioned for Solomon to come in. His heart pounded. He had wanted to do this for so long. She led him to the center of the room. “Sit here,” she said. He sat down Indian-style. The wind chime jingled in the draft of the open door. Ma closed the door and sat on the floor beside him.

His pupils dilated in the darkness. The chime stopped making any sound, but its shiny surfaces still moved and reflected the candlelight. It cast hypnotic patterns on the black walls and ceiling. It reminded him of the mirrored balls used in dance halls except that the light was more random. As it settled, the tiny lights grew still.

Solomon gazed into the mirror and waited. In the quiet darkness, he was alert to everything. He could hear Ma breathing. He could hear his own breathing. He heard the blood swooshing through his ears as his heart beat. Suddenly he felt as if the carpet beneath him moved! He became disoriented and dizzy.

“Slow ye breathing down, son,” Ma said softly.

“O Thou kind Lord,” she began, “O Thou, who art the Creator of all things, we humbly beseech Thy blessings upon all who assemble in this chamber. Thou knowest our hearts. We pray for Thy protection and for Thy guidance in both this world and the world to come. Thou art the Merciful, Thou art the All-Knowing.”

Shadow figures moved around the chamber in the flickering candlelight. Solomon tried to watch it all.

“Look into the mirror,” Ma whispered, “stay with the mirror.”

This isn’t working, he thought. He watched the shadowy figures in the mirror as they cavorted in smoke spiraling up from the incense. The wind chimes moved slightly. The sound gave Solomon goose bumps. It was moving in the stillness! Ma had told him to stay with the mirror, so he fixed his gaze on it again. The smoke spirals and the flickering shadow figures seemed to move in concert now. It was as if they were communicating with each other. The shadow figures paralleled the smoke’s spiral, mimicking the maneuvers. Intelligence is behind the movement! Solomon thought.

Within the smoke a mist emerged linking parts of the formation together. An amorphous shape expanded and contracted inside it. Solomon was mesmerized by what he was seeing. As he stared, the formless took on form. It metamorphosed into the shape of a woman...a beautiful woman. Transparency gave way to what seemed to be a solid form floating in the darkness and reflected in the mirror. Solomon watched her slowly descend out of range of the mirror. He looked behind, and there she stood! The most ravishingly beautiful creature he could ever have imagined was standing behind him. He could see her every feature. She glowed with a light from inside. She lit up the chamber. He twisted around so he could see her better.

She slowly raised her head and her eyes locked on Solomon’s eyes. They were the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. The woman’s long auburn hair fell in ringlets around her face. Part of her hair was swept up by a mass of white primroses gathered with small, white ribbons. Random knots were tied along the ribbon’s length. Her face shone with the color of youth. Her lips had the glossy velvet look of a red rose petal. A crimson skirt brushed the tops of her bare feet. One side was gathered up with ribbons. White petticoats of Irish lace showed at the gathering. A white peasant blouse was tucked in at the waist by a black bodice. It was the tiniest waist that Solomon had ever seen on a woman. Plump, ivory mounds rose above her low-cut blouse. A small Celtic cross lay in the cleavage of her breasts. She was a petite woman…no more than five feet three inches tall.

“Ye would be Solomon,” she said with a lilting Irish accent.

“Yes,” he said smiling, “and who are you?”

“I would be Sarah O’Hara,” she said.

A surprised Solomon said, “Sarah O’Hara! I thought you’d look older.”

“I can if ye’d like.” She tilted her pretty head.

“No, no, I like the way you look. It’s just hard to think of you as my great-great grandmother.”

Sarah walked around Ma. It was amazing. Instead of casting a shadow, she cast light where she walked. She said to Ma, “Thank ye, Patsy fer bringin’ yer man-child to meet me.”

Ma Patsy nodded and smiled.

Sarah sat cross-legged on the floor in front of Solomon and asked, “Do ye know how special ye are?”

“Special?” He shrugged his shoulders, “I’m not special.”

Sarah grinned, “Do ye know why ye’re here?”

“I’m going to be a doctor for Rooster Cove,” he said.

“Aye, that’s what ye’ll do everyday while ye’re goin’ about yer purpose,” she said.

“I guess I don’t understand your question,” he said.

Sarah leaned forward with her hands on her knees. Her elbows jutted out to the sides. “Ye’re here on earth for a fleeting moment, Solomon. Compared to yer eternity of existence, ye’re here only for an instant.” Leaning even closer she said, “But…it’s a bloody important instant.”

“Well, it definitely feels important to me,” Solomon chuckled.

Sarah straightened up. “Every soul has a purpose,” she said. “Ye see, God emits souls.” She bobbed her head. “That’s right, He gives off souls all the time…yer soul, my soul, Patsy’s soul, souls on the other side of the universe.”

Solomon knit his brows and frowned like he still didn’t understand.

“Think of it this way. God breathes out souls just like He breathes out His Spirit, and He wants to breathe all these souls back into Hisself.” She drew a circle in the air. “But…before He can breathe a soul back into Hisself, it has to be purified. It’s been out in the world,” she spread her arms in front of her, “and it has to be purified to return to Him.” She drew her hands to her breast.

Solomon said, “What do you mean by purified? Sounds like it could be painful.”

She smiled. “Aye, it can be. God has specific qualities, ye see. And each soul that returns to him has to have those qualities.”

“Do you have a list?” Solomon chuckled, and then he blushed. “I’m sorry,” he said.

Sarah smiled at him and winked at Ma Patsy.

“Actually, there is a list,” she said. “Moses gave ye the list, and then Jesus gave ye the list.

Solomon sat thinking. “Okay, I guess you’re saying that we have to keep the Ten Commandments and be like Jesus.”

“Well,” Sarah said with a twinkle in her green eyes, “if ye live in Arabia, then be like Mohammed. He gave ye the list too.” She smiled at the bewildered look on Solomon’s face. “And if ye live in India, well...Krishna gave the list too.” She hesitated to make sure he was following her. “The list—the qualities of God—is the same everywhere.”

“Oooooh, okay,” he said. He raised his eyebrows and looked at Ma.

“God’s a lot bigger than ye realize,” Ma said. “No matter what ye call Him, we all pray to the same God.”

“There’s something else, Solomon,” Sarah continued.

“I was afraid you’d say that,” he said.

“Ye have been chosen for something so important that ye canna begin to understand it right now.”

He raised his eyebrows and blinked. He was feeling more and more confused.

Ma looked puzzled too.

Sarah said, “Solomon, ye have been chosen to receive the Sign.”

He looked surprised. “I dreamed about that,” he said quickly, “but I don’t know what it is.”

“In the Light World it will appear as a bright beacon emanatin’ from ye,” Sarah said. “It’s like the floodlight of a lighthouse. It will flood the realms surrounding ye with light. Ye’ll attract lost souls that be needin’ yer help, and ye’ll attract other souls that just want to be near ye.” Sarah put the palms of her hands together under her chin and bowed towards Solomon. “It’s me profound honor and blessing to be kin to ye.”

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Ye must pass five spiritual tests,” she said. “Each test is a key. When ye receive the fifth key, the encryption will unravel, and the Sign will be embedded in ye...for eternity.”

Solomon looked perplexed. Sarah knew he’d had more than enough for his first time in the chamber. “I’ll be leavin’ ye now. Ye have a lot to ponder, Solomon.”

“When can I see you again?” He looked worried.

“Think of me. It’s that easy,” she answered.

Solomon reached out his hand to her. She extended her hand towards him. His hand passed through hers. He laughed so loud that it echoed through the house. “That’s amazing,” he said to Ma.

Then Sarah O’Hara vanished into thin air.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

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