Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Bless You, Peggy Harmon" by Mitzi Linn

Peggy Harmon must have been in her late 60’s when I met her. She seemed timeless though, a single British woman who ran the Theosophical Library out of her home in Eugene, Oregon. I met her at the Library. At the time I was studying many different esoteric disciplines and teachings, I found being able to borrow her books a great deal of help. I, like others, paid a small yearly fee to use the Library.

Peggy’s life piqued my curiosity. Her appearance was nondescript, an older thin woman with medium length gray/white hair and glasses. She dressed conservatively in dark skirts and white blouses often with a cardigan sweater. She seemed void of dogmatic tendencies or power tripping. She never pushed any Library patron to become a Theosophist. Her reserved nature kept me from asking too many questions. I noticed that she always expressed a positive, supportive point of view. I found her insights and tidbits of information gleaned from years of study helpful. Her kindness flowed out towards everyone. She exemplified what it meant to be of service.

The Library, a large room in her apartment, held books on Astrology, Kabala, Tarot, Theosophy, Healing Methods, Yoga, reincarnation, and mystical religious experiences. Books by Alice Bailey, Annie Besant, Krishnamurti, Madam Blavatsky, G. Manley Hopkins and many others crowded the shelves. Some of the books were antiques and, of course, many were out of print. Books about Indian, Japanese, Egyptian, and Tibetan spiritual practices asked for exploration. Sometimes I spent an hour examining books before deciding which to take out. Of course when a book fell from a shelf in front of me, I saw it as a message from the Universe that I needed to read it. The library was only open a couple afternoons a week.

At some point Peggy and the Library moved over to Springfield, a smaller city east of Eugene. She bought the perfect house on the edge of a park, not far from a hospital. The Library enjoyed it’s own space now, the converted garage. Books that Peggy once kept in storage, got their day on the shelf. The Theosophical Society had grown some and volunteers helped keep the Library open more hours per week. Pots of flowering plants filled the unused driveway. The dimly-lit Library space nurtured calmness of spirit and soul. Visits to exchange books anchored my higher mind. I thought about the fabled esoteric library at Alexandria, Egypt, destroyed by Roman Christians. Libraries have always seemed like temples to me and this one, housing books of sacred knowledge, was really useful.

During this time I was teaching Tarot Classes, Psychic Development, Healing Workshops and leading groups on the Goddess. I also saw clients for readings and healings. Many times I recommended the Library to others as a unique and precious source of wisdom. The mystic arts and personal growth flourished in Eugene.

Over five or six years Peggy and I developed a friendship, based mainly on my visits to the library. I often stayed to talk, and at least once she invited me to tea. She loved organic gardening, which she could do at her new house. While she was always a bit formal, “Bless you” fell from her lips like pearls. She said it more than anyone I’ve ever known. Spending time with her helped me in a somewhat emotionally rough time of my life.

One sunny autumn afternoon in the early 80’s I went over to the Theosophical Library to borrow some books. Across the street the park’s sweet gum trees were changing from green to red, yellow and orange. Peggy was alone, sitting in the front window. She was happy to see me. After our greeting she said, “Guess what? I found out I have lung cancer.” I don’t know what I said. She continued in an upbeat tone, saying that she didn’t want to get treatment for it, except having the liquid removed from her lungs when needed. Luckily the hospital was down the block. Peggy had just turned 75 and thought she might have a year to live. She also mentioned she had always wanted to die at age 75 so she was ready for this next adventure.

We talked about her feelings and plans. She wanted to stay in her house until she got to a point that she couldn’t take care of it and herself. Some other, younger Theosophists would take over the Library and house when she got closer to passing over. She is the only person I’ve ever known who cheerfully announced she was dying. I noted that this was radically different than my previous experiences with friends dying of cancer. I’d already lost a couple of younger women friends to breast cancer. They had fought to live. Peggy though felt she’d had a full life, and was ready for its completion.

I put Peggy on my appointment calendar promising to come see her at least every two weeks. I offered laying-on-hands, energy treatments for her tumors. I didn’t think the treatments would cure her but perhaps they would relieve her pain. It also gave me a focus for our time together. She had many friends and associates who were going to step to help as she needed it.

I made a point to see her as autumn became winter, visiting with her and laying my hands on her tumors. We talked about the her process of dying some and about my chaotic life. Often the tumors shrank, and her pain lessened with the treatments. She opened herself entirely, very helpful for receiving energy treatments. She reported that she didn’t have much pain in general and she got the fluid drained from her lungs every couple weeks. Her “bless you”s accompanied me home.

One rainy, winter day, I arrived to find Peggy in a yellow rain jacket at the back of her white wood frame house. She was digging foot-deep trenches in her organic garden and putting compost in it for next spring’s planting. The dormant roses next to the trenches had been pruned. A bare fruit tree stood in the middle of the small, grassy backyard. No, she wasn’t overdoing it. She felt strong.

She was getting the house and its Library ready for George and Marilyn. As members of the Theosophical Society they would continue the Library after Peggy died. She had no children of her own, so they would become her heirs. Peggy asked to be cremated and have her ashes spread around the base of her rose bushes. She still lived alone, continued doing things for herself, seeing friends, running the Library and consciously finishing up this lifetime’s endeavors. She was slowly letting go of her physical life. I knew George and Marilyn, but I barely knew her other friends and associates.

One afternoon in early spring, I went over and did the hands on treatment while she lay in her large recliner in the semi-dark living room. I proposed we also do a little guided meditation into what leaving her body would be like and what she might be doing when she did leave. She was game to try but stressed she always had a hard time doing guided meditations, and they never seemed to succeed. Well, we would try anyway.

I relaxed her using my low and soothing voice. I talked her intellect into loosening its grip on her being. We found her spirit guide and proceeded to pass through a dark tunnel to the light on the other side. We went slowly. I didn’t ask for descriptions as I usually would do in a guided visualization but just kept her going on her own journey into the next lifetime or situation. Wherever she was, she seemed calm and safe. Later, she reported that she met with her guides and they showed her what she would be doing next after this lifetime. It made her extremely happy, peaceful, to know she would continue serving humanity. I felt grateful just to be there.

Peggy must have been a long time meditator though she never talked about it. She embodied the IMPERSONAL LIFE as it is often described in esoteric teachings meaning her personal agenda seemed to be the well-being and happiness of others. As her illness progressed, she became weaker. Her “bless you”s never faltered however. She talked about dying without it being a big deal. It seemed she had no fears. Her pain wasn’t all that much. Doctors took the fluid off her lungs. Late spring arrived and her red and white roses started blooming.

In early summer Peggy turned her house over to Marilyn and George and moved to a small apartment where she didn’t have so much to take care of. I saw her weekly now and by the end of the summer her friends were bringing her prepared food everyday. She spent most daytime hours lying on the couch in the living room. She didn’t own a TV so she was just there undistracted when I or any of her other friends arrived. Many came by to visit and help out. She blessed us, smiling, and never complained. In fact, I began to feel her lightness of spirit during my last visits. Peggy had once told me she wished to die when she was 75 and I noted, as a Virgo, she’d soon have a birthday and become 76. I mentioned it seemed like she was in sync with her plan.

Her body wasted away but her beingness kept blessing all who came to be with her. Still, her passing out of her body got closer. Though she was only taking Tylenol for pain, she became noticeably very frail. Her friend Margret and others had started spending the nights at her apartment. I remember thinking one time after a visit that she should stop eating, as the tumors were now claiming her chest and torso. It would help her to go on since the transition time was near. When I saw her next, she said she had stopped eating, just taking liquids, water and juice. She smiled, reporting she still had little pain. She was really letting go.

By now her body had shrunk to almost nothing, luminous flesh stretched over thin bones. These last times I always held her hand and expressed my gratitude for our connection. I wasn’t sure I’d see her alive again. She blessed me. I went home to my busy life, with husband, step-children, clients and students. I wanted to be there when she left her body, when she died, but none of us knew exactly when this would happen.

Margret called one morning to tell me that Peggy was in the dying process and she hoped I’d come. All that busy day I kept trying to get out of my house and over to her apartment. At some point I remember feeling like she was about to depart. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t there.
When I finally arrived at her apartment late in the afternoon, I learned that she had passed into spirit about an hour before. Her friend Margret had been with her during her passing. She reported it went well, that Peggy died sitting up and awake. Arrangements to have her body cremated had been made, and her body would remain at home another day.

In the bedroom Peggy’s body still sat upright in her bed. She seemed larger dead than she had been while alive. I stayed with her body awhile. Sitting there I felt that Peggy’s spirit had already departed, had flown the cage of earthly existence. The room’s energy seemed very light and loving. I let that lightness sink into my being.

Peggy was never glamorous. She appeared to be a very ordinary human being. I often consider that she may have been a saint, or a bodhisattva. Her kindness and humility, and her choice to die consciously and share the process with her friends, was a great teaching. It taught me more than all the books in her wonderful library.