A Gift Behind Every Disappointment

“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. To me, there is no more beautiful place on the earth. Every once in a while we are able to receive a guest pass, which is a super treat. We always make sure to schedule a massage as well while we are there.


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 was sent receipts which I printed out and took with me. I said good-by to Barry and the men very early in the morning and took off for Esalen. Esalen suggests that each person who is getting a massage soak in the hot springs for a half hour before. 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. Finally a man kept calling a name over and over. Obviously his client was not there yet. I went up to that man, asked about my massage, and gave him the name that was on the receipt. He told me that practitioner had just come and called the young woman who was in the tub with me. 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.”  He called the office for me right before his client showed up. 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 from Santa Cruz for this massage and I really need this,” and 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 give the massage.


So I happened to get the very best person at Esalen who had keys to the very best location to have a massage there. 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. And the massage was indeed heavenly. 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. This was devastating for me. 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. Every day thank God in advance for the beautiful gift that is being prepared for you.” My pain was so great that I felt for sure this time my mother was wrong. How could any gift come from this sorrow?  I totally closed my heart and mind to any possibility of having another child. 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.  Barry agreed and we were very careful to not get pregnant.


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. The gift did come and I love him so much.


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. And sometimes the gift that comes from pain is the gift of a more open heart or a deepening of spirituality. Look for the gift, and surely it will come, bringing meaning to the hardships, sorrows, and disappointments of life.



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