“Awake teacher, your new students are gathering.” Christobel whispered gently into my ear. “It is time to share your wisdom and lessons with the world.”Startled at first, I rose up slowly on one elbow and peered around my sleeping area in the dark damp cave. “Christobel love, can we light a fire to take the chill off?” I asked as gently caressed the side of the young woman’s face. “I’m too old these days for this cold.” As I spoke the young woman helped me sit up, and then like a mother hen she carefully wrapped a fur around my shoulders and tucked it under my chin. Christobel I thought; what an appropriate name for this kind and loving creature.
She was not my daughter but I loved her as much all the same. As I shivered in the cold I watched my young charge attend to the fire. Slowly the flames began to rise and flicker off the mica in the walls. Reflections everywhere, a myriad of little stars began to shimmer and lift the gloom from the room. Despite the fact that the heat had not increased in any measurable way I felt better, warmer and more comforted than I had been had been in the relative darkness of the two small oil lamps near the cave entrance. As I had aged, and even before when everything had finally collapsed, I had begun to fear the darkness. Something that had once been my friend, a time for quiet reflection as my family slept had now become a murky place filled with thoughts of death; the kind of death that reaches all people in the end when their bodies wear out, and the more stealthy violent kind that comes at the hands of man, the most fallible creature on the planet.
For 18 years death had reigned supreme throughout the world; avarice and greed its closest friends had paved the way for a complete collapse of all social systems, democracies, republics, dictatorships; no form or style of government, no continent, no single country was left unscathed. The multi-national corporations and their supporters had won…temporarily. It was only later when their house of cards began to collapse too that they saw the error of their ways…sadly much too late to benefit man or even themselves.
As I watched my young charge attend to my meal, even now at 86, I could still feel the pain I had experienced when I lost my own daughter. It’s a pain shared by millions of women across this planet, a pain that is exacerbated by a profound resentment of men who were the driving force in our destruction. Always at the back of my mind will be the question, would women have done better by the world? Or would we have changed like the men did once we achieved the power and control? This resentment and these questions force me to temper my interactions with men to insure that potentially great men like a 2nd Gandhi or a Martin Luther King are not squashed before they have had a chance to develop.
Lost in thought I did not hear Christobel approach. “Have you warmed up yet teacher?” she asked as she placed my porridge upon the ledge. I smiled at her and shrugged the fur off my shoulders even as she sat to assist me with my food. At 86, my body wracked with arthritis, simple tasks like holding objects and walking had become nearly impossible to do without extreme pain. Our healer, as we had taken to calling young David, concocted medicinal teas that helped to take the edge off slightly. Other than that there was no real relief from my creeping old age. Knarled like an old tree in the woods, I could do nothing more substantial than share the wisdom I had achieved in 86 years of living, while watching as the world self-destructed. For those around me, my caretaker tribe, and those that came from far and wide to learn, it seemed to be enough.
“Are you thinking about the class teacher?” Christobel asked as she scraped the last bite out of the bowl and proffered the spoon in my direction.
“Yes child, about the class and the past and the fact that soon I will no longer be here to teach all of you.
"Christobel lowered her head, her dark hair sweeping across eyes that I knew she was struggling to keep dry, “Please teacher don’t talk about that. You have been a Mother to me for far too long. I cannot bear the thought of you going,” she said quietly as a shimmering jewel like tear rolled gently down her face.
Reaching up I brushed the hair from her face and caressed the tear on her cheek with my palm. There was such a sadness in her; a sadness I knew all too well after experiencing my own Mothers death. Her eyes shimmered in the fire light as I gazed upon her. “Come child let me hold you and tell you about passive death,” I said as I reached for her. “Sometimes death can be a welcome thing, an appropriate ending to a life lived in service to others and filled with love. While it is still a painful thing for those who remain, for the deceased it can be a welcome change; a change that brings with it an end to pain and physical suffering. Look at me Christobel, look at my body and what’s left of it. Understand that a body that does not function is a curse to the mind and spirit in it. I feel like I am a burden to the people I love the most.”
Before I could continue Christobel pulled away from me and declared, “You are not a burden! How can you say that after everything you have done for us?! What we do for you we do out of love and respect; out of an earnest desire to help you teach others so that maybe someday our world will change!” The tears were flowing now but angrily as she struggled against the inevitable.
“Christobel I didn’t say you thought I was burden. I said I feel like a burden. To feel this way when you are dependant on others for your care is part of being human,” I said as I cupped her face in my hands and stared into those beautiful hurt eyes. “To deny this very human emotion; to not understand it; is to deny the very underpinnings of my teaching. It is this understanding of the human condition that I teach; understanding and learning the history that brought us to where we are today. Death comes to all of us, the question is will we allow man to decide our fates or let nature determine our actual endings. In my case nature seems to be ruling the day, a fact for which I am grateful after watching man destroy himself for the last 18 years.”
The tears began to ebb as she gently pulled my hands from her face and gathered them to her lips. “I shall never forget you Mother,” she said as gently kissed them.
To help relieve the tension I chuckled and said, “And so you should not child, because that would certainly hurt my feelings!” She laughed back as she wrapped her arms around my neck, gently rocking from side to side as she shared her affection. “Remember my love that I will never be far away. You will see me in nature; in the trees and shrubs my ashes feed; in the wild life that grazes on that same foliage; in the ashes that rise up into the wind to create rain. I will be all around you and you have but to speak my name to feel comforted.” I said softly into her ear. With one last deep hug we separated.
“I feel that this will be my last group of students Christobel.” I said as her smile dimmed. “So let us make it the best possible session we have ever had. Let us build the passion necessary in these new students to create change. Is it sunny or wet out today?”
“It’s a beautiful day,” she responded.
“Were there any perimeter breaches in the last few days?”
“No, things have been pretty quiet lately.”
“Alright then, gather the students in the glen. After they have gathered would you send David to come and fetch me please?” She looked at me long and hard one last time and then leaned over and kissed my forehead. “As you wish Mother,” she said as she pulled back. Gathering my food bowl, she moved towards the cave entrance, her young body long and lithe, ripe for the possibility of providing a new generation of people. I smiled; I knew that David loved her and I suspected that she loved him as well. As I pondered the possibilities and what it would be like to hold their first born child my mind drifted to thoughts of my only living grandchild. He is a man among men; a man who grew up in the dark times, and has gone on to become a great teacher. I miss him and wonder if I will see him again before death stops by to pick me up.