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Heywood, Rosalind - The Infinite Hive - Go to my mother now, straightaway, and tell her to stop all that ridiculous mourning at once; I'm very happy here

Identifier

023067

Type of spiritual experience

Background

A lot of things happening here.

A description of the experience

Rosalind Heywood – The Infinite Hive

The background to this was Washington in the thirties.

The diplomatic merry-go-round whirled madly enough to dim the threat of war in distant Europe, and I whirled with it, for when my husband joined the Foreign Service I packed my inner life away in mothball, foolishly assuming that my sole job now was to make friendly contact wherever we went. Not that this was unenjoyable: the world seemed full of friendly people, and it was only too easy to dance like a mayfly in the sun and ignore the fact that such a life was little more than a masked ritual, practically devoid of real communication.

At parties we often met a beautiful and seductive woman called Julia, who was also kind hearted in the nicest American way. We both felt drawn to her for she made us laugh, but a soap bubble would have counter-weighed any talk we had together. One hot summer's day Julia and I were idling with some friends round the swimming pool of a millionaire. No one appeared to have a thought in the world beyond enjoying the sun which dappled our mahogany bodies through the trees.

Suddenly she thrust out her hands. 'Read them for me,’ she said.

Laughing, I took her hands and looked at them, and then heard myself saying, very gravely, 'You will never find what you are looking for in this world, will you?'

She replied, equally gravely, 'No.'

This startled me. It is always a shock when another order of things erupts, like Poseidon, from a foaming sunlit sea; but this time, as usual, the foam swept over it as our care-free friends surrounded us, and the moment of truth was gone.

A few weeks later Julia gave a farewell cocktail party before flying to Peru on a visit, and at it she brought me a snapshot of herself, saying 'This is for you, Rosalind.'

I made a futile cocktail-party reply, 'Oh, surely you meaning for Frank?' (my husband) but she said seriously, 'No, I mean for you.'

At that Orders said, 'Take it. This is important;' and so I thanked her quietly and took the snapshot.

A day or two later the news arrived that her plane had crashed in the Andes with no survivors. Then followed a strange forty-eight hours, which, whether or not they were self-induced, have at least enabled me to sympathize with people who feel themselves to be mediums or even possessed, I could not get Julia out of my head-not the crash, not any sense of disaster, just her. Even when driving my car I found myself muttering her name, 'Julia, Julia, Julia!'

This puzzled me. It was not natural. Of course, the news of her death was a shock, as it always is when someone very much alive suddenly ceases to exist. But much as we liked her, she had in no way been part of our lives, and my constant thought of her did not make sense. I supposed, however, that the suddenness of her death had been more of a shock than I had realized.

Two days later, most unusually, I found myself with a free afternoon; no parties, the servants out, a glorious pause.

'I'll just write my condolences to Julia's mother,' I thought, 'and then I'll lie down on the garden room sofa and do nothing, nothing at all.'

The letter was a feeble effort, shy, stiff and conventional. I felt ashamed of it, but could do no better for I hardly knew Julia's mother, I had little in common with her, and I did not believe that anything of Julia had survived the destruction of her body. When finished I put it down on my desk with a sigh of relief and then settled myself on the sofa beside it to enjoy the lovely peace. I did not enjoy it for long. Although our house stood back from the road in a little-used side street and its garden side was utterly quiet, a few minutes later a Viennese woodcut which was hanging at the far side of the desk fell with a sudden crash to the ground.

Very puzzled, l ran over and picked it up. It was undamaged and the cord intact. I looked at the nail. It was just as it should be. Then why and how had the woodcut fallen? I was standing by my desk trying to puzzle out this conundrum when my eye caught the letter to Julia's mother, and at that inside my head I heard Julia speak. She spoke in no uncertain terms.

'Don't send that silly letter,' she said. 'Go to my mother now, straightaway, and tell her to stop all that ridiculous mourning at once. I'm very happy and I can't stand it.'

This sudden eruption of the remote 'other' caught me quite unawares, but at the moment I had no more doubt that it was Julia conveying to me her urgent wishes than I doubt it when my husband asks me to pass him the honey at breakfast. But I also had no doubt that were I to rush off to Julia's mother with this extraordinary story, my husband being at the British Embassy the town would buzz with talk. The more I hesitated the more insistent 'Julia' became, until at last I rang my husband and said, 'I don't know what to do. '

As usual he settled the thing at once. 'Better be a fool than a knave,’ he said, 'Go, if you feel you ought to.'

At that, feeling indeed every kind of fool, I got out my car and went. What made the situation yet more embarrassing was that at the time I knew nothing of the conventions of Americans from the Southern States in face of death, and ignorantly assumed that Julia's mother would behave like mine in similar circumstances, wear her ordinary clothes and hide her grief under a mask of frozen normality. If this were so, to barge in and ask her to stop an excessive display of mourning seemed both pointless and rude. However, on arrival at her house l found all the blinds down and in the hall a covey of melancholy women, talking in whispers and looking like crows.

'May I see Mrs Howard?' I asked them.

They looked shocked. 'Certainly not' they said, 'she's in bed, mourning.'

That settled it. 'I must see her' I insisted, and after much protest they took me up to her room. There, indeed, was the poor woman, alone, in the dark, in bed. Intensely embarrassed, for I supposed this was by her own choice, I got out my message, expecting to be thrown out at once as mad or impertinent. But her face lit up.

'I knew it,' she cried 'I knew she'd hate it, and I didn't want it. I shall get up and stop it at once!’

On me the effect of her response was curious. From that moment all sense of Julia's presence vanished: it was as if, content, she had gone off at once on her own affairs, and from then on I thought of her no more than was normal, and certainly with no sorrow. I was told later that the wife of the Counsellor in another Embassy had also given the mother a similar message from Julia, whom, she said, she had seen. I did not go into this.

The source of the experience

Heywood, Rosalind

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

Activities

Observation contributed by: Francis Keeble