When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone.
Rodgers and Hammerstein, 1945
Three months ago, on September 21st, the 13th anniversary of my dear mom’s death after close to a decade of decline due to Alzheimer’s, I had an experience that I still shake my head about.
I was doing one of my early-morning, long-distance bike rides, in the dark at about 5:45 in the morning. I had just finished pedaling up a longish hill and turned onto a long, straight road. As is usual on my rides, my main mental focus was on the street in front of me and for the lights or sound of cars or trucks coming up behind me. Nothing of note had yet come into my brain, as always eventually happens on one of my hour and a half or longer rides.
For me, these rides are my form of meditation
I remember the thought coming into my mind that this was the day my mom had died 13 years ago. I had been thinking about her all week. Then, from out of nowhere, came the words to and melody of the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
I don’t know how long it had been since I had heard or thought of this song. I know it’s at least six and a half years because that’s how long I’d been long-distance biking as of three months ago, and I can’t remember ever remembering it over that time. It could easily be 10, 20 or more years. But on this day, this special day for me and my two sisters and others who loved my mom, following several days of remembering her, this song arrived as a gift, as if my mom’s spirit was holding me close.
I was stupefied as I realized what was happening. My mouth dropped and I struggled to understand. My first thought was to wonder if this really was a spiritual revelation, an actual visit by my mom from the world beyond the physical world, “the great mystery” as some call it. My initial thoughts were along the lines of, “how could it be anything but this?” How could a song that had been essentially one of many thousands that I’ve heard somewhere in my past but which has never been one which I’ve sung or even hummed to myself—how could that song, so appropriate for this day, so strengthening, so profound, come to me in this way?
As I continued my ride, as I kept thinking about what was happening, my thoughts went deeper.
It’s true that “You’ll Never Walk Alone” wasn’t a song of any special significance. But I had been thinking about my mom all week. I guess I was feeling somewhat “alone,” missing her. It’s also true that it is when I’m on my bike that I often have my most insightful and creative thoughts. The combination of physical activity, being with myself only, inspiration from the things I see and a general openness to whatever comes from within as I ride—all of these make this the time when something very special might happen.
Further, I know from personal stories I have heard from people I trust and from things that I have read that my connecting-with-mom experience is not unique. I have come to believe that there is a transcendent, spiritual dimension to human existence that some, maybe many, have experienced at some point in their lives but which is certainly not the daily reality for the vast majority of us. The daily struggle to survive, to raise children, to keep a family together, to process everything which comes at us or which we hear about in our troubled world, to keep going in the face of widespread evil and injustice—these consume the spirits and emotions of most people. They tend to swallow up transcendent experiences we have, like when we are out in the natural world and experience a deep sense of connection to other forms of life and beauty. They prevent us from being able to open up to the things in the universe that seem to be “out there,” but which are really “in here.”
In virtually all religions a higher power, higher love, is seen as being something to be found not outside of our selves but within us. Jesus of Nazareth preached that what he called the “kingdom of God,” heaven, is something to be found by prayer, meditation, right conduct and action for and with others. “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”
Other religions say similar things:
“What the undeveloped man seeks is outside; what the advanced man seeks is within himself. Confucianism
“If you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the absolute Law but some inferior teaching. Buddhism
“God bides hidden in the hearts of all. Hinduism” (1)
I continue to think about all of these things, the Great Mystery, and as I do I know that I am doing what my mom and dad did, in their own ways, and what they would want me to do.
During this Christmas and holiday time I hope and pray that other seekers for a world based on truth and justice, those who are spiritually-grounded and those who aren’t, experience the love and connection with others, those alive and those passed on, that keeps us going.
1) Oneness: Great Principles Shared By All Religions, pps. 26-27
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist, organizer and writer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.