I have a dear friend who had multiple strokes in 2013. Prior to the strokes, she was a business leader, philanthropist, and playful, generous, creative friend. Since the strokes, she is primarily confined to home and cannot remember the day of the week, the names of her children, or what she ate for lunch. However, she is still very articulate and astonishingly lucid– about the present moment.
I’ve discovered that SoulCollage® gives my friend a way to share her inner world. Through SoulCollage®, Erica expresses her ongoing experience of life. She breaks out of isolation and loneliness. She can “find herself again,” as she says. SoulCollage® also allows her friends and family to see the beauty of her soul and wonder at the persistence of her remarkable spirit. SoulCollage® allows us to remain connected to the essence of the woman we love.
I use a very direct and simple approach when guiding Erica through making cards, which we call “Erica Cards.” I bring a box full of pre-cut images and ask her to choose images that remind her of herself. After she chooses images, I help her glue them down. Usually she just puts one or two images on a card. Then I ask her to talk about the card she’s just made, and I take notes. I’ve transcribed below the notes I took as Erica described a card she made recently.
“Some people think this is frightening, but not me. I think this is the most beautiful picture I have.” She presses the card to her heart.
“Between the glass, there is man on one side. On the other side is Reality or God. There’s a liaison. It’s the difference between me and how I seem and how I really am.” She tears up, gulps for air, pauses. Tears roll down her cheeks.
“The beautiful thing is it’s me…Erica… on this side — she strokes the picture, tracing the window frame — and on the other side is Reality.”
“If I had to choose just one film — this would be it.”
“This is my heart.
We pause while she looks at the card and continues stroking it.
I ask, “How does it feel to look at that picture?”
“Yes,” I say.
“This is me. That’s the truth. That’s me.” Erica pauses, then continues, “If you ever find a picture that’s you, that’s really you, I would like you to show it to me. Because I would like to know you that way too because I love you.”
“I will,” I say, a lump rising in my throat.
Erica returns to gazing at the card.
“That’s me. It’s not like in the morning and something changes in the afternoon. No. That’s me.
I say, “There is a Meister Eckhart quote that goes something like, “When the soul wants to understand something, it throws an image out in front of itself to look at.” Erica asks me twice to repeat this. After the second time, she says, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That’s it.”
Then she asks, “Do you have an image of yourself that you encountered? That told you as much about you as this card tells me about me?”
I hesitate. I want to be completely truthful, but I’m conflicted. My SoulEssence card is complex; I would lose her if I tried to describe it, I think. Then I remember another silent card — one I resonate with very clearly and deeply.
“Yes. I have a close-up image of a baby bird, some kind of swan, but mostly what you see is the sheltering feathers of the mother. It’s the baby’s eyes tucked under downy feathers.”
She nods, and pauses. I feel a deep, intimate connection. Erica returns to gazing at the image.
“This is the most important image of me. It is the Essence.” She gazes at the card.
I’m shocked. I’ve never described Transpersonal Cards to Erica. She has encountered Soul Essence organically, in her own soul journey.
“This is what’s defined –” she strokes the card “– this side. The other side is me, but bigger. All the big things. The internal side. And the super side.”
“I wish… I hope… O God… I hope I remember this picture. I would get great, great gratitude by a picture on the wall of this.”
“We will put it on the wall,” I say.
“And this is not all of me. Other things are happening on the other side…. I am the playmate. I am made out of the image. But I also make the image.” Again I am stunned at the depth of Erica’s inner experience.
“This gives me great, great comfort in knowing that the image I see and the image that is Real are buddies.” Erica beams and gazes at the card, then up into the sky. We are silent for a while.
I ask, “Tell me what this card says about you.”
Posted between living and Living-a mysterious phrase. To be with Erica now is to enter into living mystery. So much of ordinary daily capacity has been eroded, but layers of existence have been revealed, and we are privileged to witness them.
Erica’s husband repeatedly expresses gratitude for Erica’s cards. They give him a way to see and communicate with “the new Erica.” In his heroic post-strokes journey, her SoulCollage® cards give him sustenance, hope and a vision of the beauty that persists in the woman he loves.
This card is about the future. I think it’s beautiful. The mermaid is core. The green is how beautiful she was when she began. The jumping lady is me. The church is like God. It’s where I’m headed.
This article was first printed in the SoulCollage® Community Update, May 2016. For more information about SoulCollage, see www.soulcollage.com.
The image of the head of King Amenhotep is courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.