Song Stories – Breathing Together  (as recorded on the Love Shines Album)

I loved Christmas eve as a child. I loved that night so much. Going to a candlelight service was so meaningful to me; a lover of ceremony, ritual and story. I loved the sense of community, of holy anticipation, of quietness, of sacred beauty, of wonder, of unfolding into a hope. I loved family time, togetherness and closeness. I loved circle, shared food and singing together. That night – well, it held it all.

As an adult, I found that I had to let go of so many of these rituals and traditions because we couldn’t share in them as a family unit anymore. I could no longer share the spiritual and sacred traditional moments with those I wanted to in the way of my past. I had to explore new ways of creating circle, family and being together that felt safe for all. But at times, there was longing and heartache around this for me.

And one year I decided to attend a Christmas eve service by myself. I had avoided them for years, dedicating myself to creating new kinds of memories with my family. But I missed the spiritual aspect of the evening and so I found myself heading to a service alone. Near the beginning of the service, I experienced pain welling up in my chest and I had to leave where I was sitting and stand in the back. I found myself crying and having a very difficult time breathing.

Quietly and with great gentleness, Sue, a beautiful friend of mine, came up beside me and in silence placed one arm around me.

And then she began to breathe.

Slowly and with calmness.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Slowly, slowly, slowly.

And I found myself beginning to breathe with her.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

The great companionship of breathing.

There were no words. None.

Only presence.

On retreat a few years earlier I had found a book of poetry by Rene Fumuleau, an Oblate priest who lived with the Dene people in the north. The poem, Prayer, expressed exactly what I had tasted through the breath of my friend.

“you did not proclaim solemn beliefs

preach with big words

or even give me sound advice

 you did not stand taller than me

but you lay down on the ground

at my level, by my side, very close…. 

Your arm rested on my chest

On my heavy heart

As a lifting power

Your breath caressed my cheek

As long as it took

To quiet my own breathing”

(pg 129)

Later, in the writings of Henri Nouwen, I learned how the word Spirit means ‘breath’. Is the very act of breathing a way to become aware of the Presence of Love?

Is The Beautiful Presence as close as our breath?

Over the years as I have journeyed close with others in their moments of grief, this posture of ‘breathing together’ has helped me to know how to be present. So many times there are simply no words, no ‘advice’ that one can give another. How we all long for the simple gift of presence. Our simple presence can tell another, ‘I see you. I am here with you. I honour your story right now. You are not alone. You are significant to me. I cherish you. I will remain with you as long as you need.”

When we experience this kind of presence from another, we are so deeply comforted and experience a Love that transforms both the one grieving and the one breathing with the grieving.

As I pondered this aspect of ‘breathing together’ in my heart, I was also drawn to the imagery of Psalm 23. The beautiful images of being invited to ‘rest’ and ‘lie down’ somehow matched the poetry of Rene Fumuleau.

Could it be that as we are in need of rest, that The Beautiful Presence lays down with us and breathes with us?

Could it be that as we are suffering, we are accompanied in such a powerful way beyond words?

And one day as I sat in my living room and pondered Rene’s poetry, my Christmas eve experience and the images from Psalm 23, the words of the song, Breathing Together emerged along with many tears. This song became an outpouring of what I had tasted, the profound accompaniment of Divine Love

Breathing Together

When my soul is weary

When my heart is heavy

Then you come and tell me

Lie down, lie down

Then you come and you tell me

Lie down, lie down

 

As I rest my body

Then you lie beside me

And you breathe with me

Mmmm

And you breathe with me

Mmmmm

 

Then your strong arms lift me

On the path you carry me

And you whisper tenderly to me

Of your love

And you whisper tenderly to me

Of your love

 

Then my soul my strengthened

And my heart is healed

For your love enfolds me

Mmmm

Yes your love enfolds me

Mmmm

 

And we walk together

Through the heights and valleys

We’re always breathing together

Mmmmm

We’re always breathing together

Mmmm

© 2010 Cathy AJ Hardy as recorded on the Love Shines album

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