“Do not assume that she who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good.  Her life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours.  Were it otherwise, she would never have been able to find these words.”

— Ranier Maria Rilke

When I read these words, I knew immediately that they were written for a circle of women who have come to know one another through the magic of the internet.  We live in different corners of the U.S., and most of us never have met in person, yet our shared experiences bind us together as though we always have been sisters.  The topics of our circular communications vary.  Sometimes we share philosophical questions.  Sometimes we share humor.  Sometimes we simply revel in the sisterhood that binds together, much like the fierce loyalties that led us in our childhoods to set up clubhouses and make pacts with other girls.  Sometimes, as is the way of women — the way of the Divine Feminine — we nurture and comfort and love one another through difficult times.

Recently, our theme has concerned fathers and endings and experiencing the profound yet difficult, honored yet painful task of seeing our fathers reach the end of their lives.  Some of us are in the midst of watching our fathers, the first strong men in our lives, struggle as they relinquish this world inch by inch, unwilling to leave behind their days of invincibility.  Some already have seen their fathers pass from this life to a place beyond their grasp.  And as we do when a common thread comes to light in the group, each of us weaves her part of the story into the shared tapestry that depicts the story of fathers and daughters, of life and death, of struggle and release.  And we comfort one another.

Comfort is one of my favorite words.  It is a powerful word.  It troubles me that we have allowed it to become synonymous with “console” or “coddle.”  The origin of the word, “comfort,” lies in the Late Latin, confortare, which means to strengthen very much.  This is what we do for each other — we bring the strength that has grown out of the challenges we have faced, and we lay it out in the center of the group for all to see.  Those of us who feel powerless at the moment see the strength that has grown out of the adversity of the others, and we are strengthened as we trust that there will be growth and understanding in the midst of our confusion.  Those of us who carry the strength of the past with us into the present grow in compassion — another favorite word —  as we touch the familiar pain of our sisters and acknowledge the times when it  has been our own.  Nowhere is there room for pity, the helpless and superficial response.  We bring compassion, the “feeling with” that is strengthened by our own experiences, not only of loss but of triumph over adversity.  As we grow, separately and together, we become confident that even in the midst of our own present challenges we have something to give; and that is the deep and abiding knowing that in the end what will remain always has existed.  It will not blow away in the wind of change.

We are the weavers, pulling together the threads of our lives — some of them colorful and some in shades of gray and white.  Each day we add to the tapestry that tells our story, and this is a beautiful thing.  What is powerful and holy and creative and feminine is the way we sometimes are called to weave our threads in the same pass with those of our sisters.  It is then that we bring incredible strength, incredible healing, incredible comfort to ourselves and to the world.