“There is a gift behind each disappointment and sadness.” These are words my mother spoke to me countless times growing up. I have found that sometimes the gift comes quite quickly and, at other times, the gift comes slowly, perhaps years later. But we need to trust that a gift will come. This trusting can be difficult though, especially when it appears over time that no gift is coming.
Recently, I had the experience of a gift coming quite quickly. Barry and I work at Esalen Institute once a year giving a couple’s retreat. We love this Big Sur ocean-side retreat center dearly.
Barry was giving a men’s retreat in our home and I needed to find a place to go for the Saturday of the retreat. I was allowed a guest pass to Esalen, which is a beautiful but very curvy drive along the Big Sur coast. Though the drive is so spectacular, I was not fond of driving it by myself. But I really needed a massage and a place to be for the day so I drove by myself.
I called several weeks before, and scheduled and paid for my massage. I said good-by to Barry and the men very early in the morning and took off for Esalen. I arrived early and waited in the hot springs with a young woman. I only knew the name of the person who was to massage me, so I prayed that this person could be used as an instrument of healing.
At the appointed time, a male massage practitioner approached the tubs. For some odd reason, I hoped it was not the person massaging me. He called the young woman. Other practitioners came and got their clients. I was left alone. I went up and asked about my massage, and gave the name that was on the receipt. He left to check the schedule and quickly came back to me announcing that I was not on the schedule.
“This is a mistake,” I spoke up. “I have receipts.” The man at the office apologized profusely and said there wasn’t anything that could be done. It was a mistake and they could refund my money. “But I drove all the way here.” I felt like I might start crying. “I am sorry,” he said. “There is nothing I can do.”
He was about to end the call when he said, “Oh, wait a minute.” At that moment, the head of massage at Esalen happened to walk by on the way to her office and overheard his conversation with me. She told him it was not right and that she would come right over and gave the massage.
So I happened to get the very best person at Esalen and she shared with me that before she gives a massage, she always asks that her hands be used at instruments of healing, just what I had been praying for. That amazing gift came quite quickly!!!
But other gifts come slowly. When I was almost forty years old, we had a baby girl that died before birth. My parents were visiting at the time and my mother said to me, “I know this is hard because I had twins that also died shortly after birth. I know the heartache, but there will be a gift for you that will bless your life…”
My pain was so great that I felt for sure this time my mother was wrong. How could any gift come from this sorrow? We already had our two darling daughters and that would be enough. I was going to forget my dream of having three children, as I was too fearful of the same thing happening again.
But gifts do come, and I finally became pregnant even though we were being as careful as could be. Three years after our baby Anjel died, I gave birth to a ten-pound baby boy. John-Nuri brought a burst of light and love into our lives, and he continues to do so. My mother was right after all.
Sometimes the gift comes in the form of more compassion or understanding or patience. Sometimes, because a person had to go through a very difficult challenge, they are then able to help another. Look for the gift, and surely it will come, bringing meaning to the hardships, sorrows, and disappointments of life.
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964 are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.