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I was in a deep sleep when I heard my pager go off. I glanced at the clock on my night table. It was 3 AM. I stumbled to the telephone and called the office. They told me that there was a death and a family was in need of spiritual support. They gave me the address. I washed my face and threw my clothes on and proceeded to my car. As I gradually faded out of the embrace of sleep I realized that this address was in one of the more violent parts of town- there were often shootings and robberies and I was afraid to proceed, though I knew that I had to. I locked my car doors as I searched the desolate and dark streets this Miami neighborhood, for house numbers. The houses were falling apart, and there were no street lights. I thought I had entered a third world country. Signs of poverty were everywhere. My thoughts turned to the people in our world that are oppressed and who cannot live with dignity. How can we, a nation of plenty, allow this to happen? I knew this went on in our society, but was shaken when I found myself actually occupying the space where the richest country in the world had failed miserably.
Finally, I found the street I needed to be on, though it seemed like more of an alley than anything. The space was large enough for one car to drive into it from either direction. As I approached the house I saw many people in the street blocking the way. They were people of color. I am white, and was probably becoming whiter with fear. There were probably 30 people outside the house. I parked my car and made my way through the crowd and to the doorstep. I entered the house and introduced myself as the Chaplain. The house was neat and clean, the furniture reminded me of the furniture of my grandmother’s house when I was growing up in Philadelphia. I was warmly greeted, and then escorted to the room where the body was kept. In the bed I saw the remains of an elderly woman who had lived past ninety years. Her frail body revealed her bones and she could not have weighed more than sixty pounds. Her huge black eyes were covered by strands of gray knotty hair, and she had a look of contentment on her face. I went to her side and invited the immediate family in the house to join me. The family spoke of her with love and respect, and told me how she was the matriarch of the family. The family told me that she taught them about love, respect, dignity and honor. She taught them right from wrong, and always spoke of how lucky they were to have all that they had, and the blessing of being able to live free. She never complained when she came home from work after cleaning other people’s houses all day. She provided for all their physical and emotional needs. They loved her. We all gathered at her bedside and joined hands.
“Holy One, here before us is Millie. Her soul has come to join you. Please open your arms and welcome her into your garden. Let her be greeted by familiar faces of her ancestors. Allow her soul to know she did good for her family and her values will live with them thru the generations. Send your angels to escort her through the valley of the shadow of death without fear. Allow her family to know she is safe in your arms, and bless her soul.”
After completing my paperwork and waiting for the funeral home to pick Millie up, I sat with this wonderful family and shared in their stories of life. I hugged them and bid them farewell.
I started to walk to my car. By this time there were well over sixty people in the street. I was no longer in fear – it melted away in the presence of this holy family. Millie’s oldest son took my arm and asked that I please join them. We formed a circle, and held hands while we sang songs of praise, old fashioned gospel songs for God. The energy was sacred. My heart was completely opened as I became part of the extended family of these people. I feared them a few hours ago and now we traveled together into a holy spiritual space. Time stopped. When I did return to my car it was about six AM. I was not tired and I felt that I did not have to recite my traditional prayers this morning. I already prayed straight to the source.

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