Across the Water

from Sheila Nichols

My daughter was six when Ron married us. We had twelve wonderful years together. Then, at the age of forty-seven, Ron died of cancer.

The cancer had surfaced four years earlier. But, after surgery, he was declared “cancer free” and sent home without further treatment. He was still in a lot of pain; but when his doctors recommended nothing more than codeine pills, we accepted their decision without question.

In retrospect it seems obvious we were scared and didn’t want to know what else might be going on inside his body. Three years passed in relatively good health. Then Ron expressed a desire to visit the Holy Land.

We had explored the spiritual path together, reading Autobiography of a Yogi, among other books. I was immediately drawn to Yogananda, and later to Ananda; Ron was lukewarm about it, but supported me in my interest.

It was the summer of 1984. Our daughter was eighteen, and the trip seemed ideal for all of us. On the strength of my job as a schoolteacher, I was able to borrow $10,000 to cover the cost. We had a fabulous journey together—our last, as it turned out. Again, in retrospect, some part of me knew what would take place; that’s why I didn’t think twice about going into debt to make that trip happen.

A few months later, Ron developed what appeared to be a terrible flu. He could hardly eat and had to be hospitalized. Tests soon revealed that the cancer had metastasized. My formerly big, strong husband left the hospital in a wheelchair and was never able to walk again. From then on he needed constant care.

Most of the time I took care of Ron myself. Only when his mother came from Ohio to our home in California to be with him did I feel comfortable leaving. I would go to Ananda Village, to rest and to pray for Ron.

In early July 1985, Ron was very ill in the hospital. His mother was there, and I was assured it would be fine for me to go. Ron was fully conscious when I said good-bye to him, never imagining it was good-bye for the last time.

At Ananda, one of the ministers invited me to take formal initiation as a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. By that time I had learned to meditate and was regularly practicing the teachings, but it hadn’t occurred to me to take initiation. I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but some deeper part of me understood. “Yes,” I said.

I was initiated on Sunday morning, July 7. Afterwards, as I was kneeling in front of Master’s picture, I had a vision of my husband and me sitting together in a small rowboat. He was in the front; I was working the oars, moving the boat forward. He was as I had last seen him, too sick and debilitated to help me row.

Master appeared, walked across the water, and stood silently in front of the boat. My husband, who hadn’t walked in months, stood up easily, got out of the boat and joined him. On the horizon, toward the left, Light appeared. I watched as Ron and Master walked over the water and into the Light.

A beautiful, bright blue, female figure appeared in front of me. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Divine Mother,” she answered.

Later that day I found out Ron had died. At first I felt terrible guilt that I wasn’t with him when he passed. Gradually though, I came to understand that God had taken me to Ananda to give me initiation.

If I had been sitting with Ron in the hospital room, I believe my attachment to him, and his to me, would have made the transition difficult. This way, my love for God, my love for Ron, and my commitment as a disciple opened the way for Master to come and take my beloved husband into the Light.

Knowing how devastated I would be, I believe Divine Mother came also, to remind me that even though the form of love changes, the death of a loved one is not the end of love.