By Karen Mehringer

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Unknown 

Sitting at my father’s deathbed, watching every breath, wondering if it would be his last, my family and I were totally present and vigilant. We talked to my father as if he could hear us, attempting to comfort him, although we were really comforting ourselves. Already, he was in another world. His eyes were glazed over and his body was becoming rigid. With tears streaming down my face, I whispered to him, “I will always remember you every time I step onto a sailboat.”

At the early age of four, my father introduced me to sailing. I remember being on summer vacation at the Stanford Family Camp, near Lake Tahoe in northern California . Surrounded by pine trees, we sailed in the middle of a beautiful alpine lake aboard our 22-foot Catalina sailboat. Every time the boat heeled with the force of the wind, I was afraid it would tip over and capsize. Although, my father reassured me that this would never happen.

Sailing into the wind, on the San Francisco Bay in our 31-foot Pearson, the swells were large. The boat teetered and tottered like a toy horse. Grasping the helm with both hands, I anxiously held the boat steady into the wind as my father raised the sails. Feeling greatly relieved as he climbed back into the cockpit and took over the helm, I let out a huge sigh. I was only twelve-years-old.

Despite my earlier trepidations, my love for sailing grew. So much so, that my husband, John, and I, while taking a year off to re-invent our lives, decided to crew a 46-foot sailboat traveling from Fiji to Singapore for six-months. On our first ocean passage, sailing into open sea, away from the sight of land, I felt like an explorer, heading into the unknown. Dolphins playfully swam at the bow of the boat, as if to escort us on our great adventure. Satisfied, I smiled and felt fortified with a deep sense of knowing that all was well. Growing up sailing with my father, not only did I develop a passion for adventure, but I learned to trust in life.

Shortly after his death, John and I made a commitment to follow our hearts and pursue a vision we had during our one-year hiatus…to own a cabin in the mountains and a sailboat on the ocean.

Sitting in the cockpit of our 30-foot Catalina in our Oxnard California marina slip, leaning against a pillow resting, I noticed the sound of sea gulls; sea birds darted into the ocean attempting to make a catch; boats glided past on their way out to sea. A feeling of peace washed over me and then a thought surfaced, “I would not be experiencing this wondrous moment if it were not for my dad.” I began to cry, missing him. But as the tears rolled down my face, a deep feeling of gratitude welled up and a profound insight developed…”I would not be feeling this much grief if it were not for the depths of love I have felt for my father.” It occurred to me that my grief was in direct proportion to the amount of love that we shared. I realized how blessed I was to have experienced so much love in this lifetime. In awe, I was transcended, as my grief was transformed into a deep well of joy that bubbled up to the surface of my consciousness. In the moment, I was overcome by God’s amazing grace.

“… joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” – Kahil Gibran  

“What is to give light must endure burning.” – Victor Frankl

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” – Psalm 126:5

Meditation on Joy  

Sit quietly in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Begin by focusing on your breath, allowing it to draw you inward to a place of stillness and silence. Notice areas of your body that feel tense and send your breath there, softening and relaxing the tension. Allow your thoughts to become still like a crystal clear mountain lake. Next, ask yourself the question…What brings me joy? Allow a vision to develop of joy. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Once your vision appears, allow the energy of it to fill your entire being, every cell of your body. Then, allow joy to flow out from you into your energy body and into the room, expanding even further out into the world, as far as you feel comfortable. Sit in this awareness of joy for as long as you desire and then slowly make your way back to the room and your body. Focus on your breath for a few moments and then gently open your eyes.

Next, find an image that reminds you of joy and place it where you can easily see it several times a day like near your computer or bathroom mirror. It may be an image from your meditation or something else that resonates. Whatever it is, make sure that it evokes the feeling of joy to arise within you.