She finds herself at a McDonald's late one night, sipping black coffee from a plastic cup. The place is empty, except for a small night crew, half asleep. She finishes her coffee and looks around, and realizes that no longer is there anywhere to go.
She waves to a worker cleaning the floor, but he doesn't see her; she is old now and people just don't notice her any longer. She quietly slips out of the restaurant into a cold night, turning up her collar and putting her hands in her pockets. And as she walks down the street, a sweet memory of what was suddenly appears somewhere in a little backwater of her mind. . . and a tear drops.
It rolls down her cheek and drops to the ground, falling to the earth; making its way back to its source. She is too involved in her memories to watch the tear, but it knows where to go, it knows what to do.
It has been waiting a long while for her to release it, and now is its time. And as it flows into that great ocean of tears that humanity has shed, becoming lost in the vastness, the endless stream of sorrows that we have made for ourselves, she feels a tremendous emptiness, and it is as if this tear is much more than a tiny drop of water; this tear is a part of her that she is losing, and will never know again.
And as her little tears patiently wait in humanity's ocean of sorrows before again catching the ring of that great merry go round we call life, they prepare themselves for the inevitable, that time when someone sees the truth, which is too much to bear. . . without a tear.
Her tears release her, for a moment, from that horrible truth, so that she can again become lost in her dream world of life, in the fantasy of her existence. But this time, she can't quite seem to pull that off.
She walks along the pavement, the excitement of life and life's anticipations now all but gone, because she has seen it all before, and now she is lost, not knowing where to go, what to do. All the promises that life made to her have somehow been broken, her little girl dreams shattered, and her heart hopelessly broken in the process. Now all she carries in her chest is an empty shell of a few memories.
How could she ever know what really happened to a life that began so full of hope? How could she? She trusted life, but everything changed, so much, so unexpectedly, almost as if she was lost in a dream that she didn't want to wake up from, and then she couldn't wake up, and she never woke up. She remained in her dreams because she had nowhere else to go. She would gratefully never know how life could be so cruel, because she still trusted it unconditionally, and would never accept that life could end like this, because her heart remained open, even now, but there was nothing left to her heart; it was gone.
They found her in her car, parked not far from the restaurant. An empty bottle of pills on the floor, a few possessions, a picture of a family, a tear stained note saying that she was sorry, but not saying why. The tears had already evaporated, their essence forming a small cloud in the heavens that would eventually fall into that vast ocean of sorrow we call life.
But we never lose our tears; they always belong to all of us. They never die. They will always be there, waiting for that moment when we can't do it anymore.
And then, they will help us surrender.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is co-founder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com