Beneath the Brightest Star in Barbados

Beneath the Brightest Star in Barbados

On Sunday, the Anglican and Catholic churches of Barbados will be full of women dressed to the nines, men in suits, and children showing off their new shoes. It’s beautiful.

I live next door to an Anglican church but witness Easter in Barbados as an outsider. Even as a child, raised with no religion, I was an outsider to Easter.

Fortunately, to be without religion is not to be without spirituality. Spirituality comes when I am quiet for a moment and allow myself to open to that which is outside my conscious realm of knowledge.

Barbados opens me spiritually — and why wouldn’t it? This island sits at heaven’s doorstep.

A Barbados Holiday Unlike Most

My sister’s three dearest friends arrived from the U.S. last Thursday; we gathered here to celebrate my sister Brooks’s short life, her beauty and grace and generosity.

My husband Greg had purchased front row tickets for last Friday’s jazz performance at Holders (and here), the site of Barbados’ annual outdoors arts season.  We took a picnic and pink champagne to the lush ten-acre grounds of Wendy Kidd’s 17th-century plantation home that gives its name to the festival.

It wasn’t quite dark when we arrived at Holders. We made ourselves comfortable and opened our picnic. A single star (or was it Venus?) dangled over the horizon.

Brooks had been the focus of our conversation since the three friends arrived. When we saw the brilliant entity shining over the horizon, one of us remembered that Brooks, herself the most brilliant and beautiful woman in any room, used to say she wanted to be a star in the heavens.

None of us said it but I think we all wondered if the twinkling in the heavens might be …. naaaa, silly women! I told myself to sit quietly and enjoy the concert and stop thinking airy-fairy thoughts.

The concert began. None of us had ever heard of the musicians that were about to play.

Liane Carroll and Ian Shaw Play Holders in Barbados

British jazz musician Ian Shaw came onto the stage, sat at the grand piano, and performed brilliantly; he was bright and engaging and seriously talented.  What a delight.

Then a large woman in sensible shoes and an unflattering polka dot dress bounded up on stage.

We usually know when something wonderful is going to happen; that’s why we go to a fireworks display or attend a friend’s party, for instance: to be a part of something wonderful.

But we can’t know when something transformative will take place. And I couldn’t have ever predicted it would be with the woman wearing sensible shoes on stage that night, Liane Carroll.

Ms Carroll sings like an angel, is as sensuous as Aphrodite, and could play the piano in her sleep (and with her energy, she probably does).  I sat mesmerized. I closed my eyes. As she sang, nothing existed but this woman’s moving and magical presence in song — and me.  And the star.

Liane Carroll in Barbados

Jazz performer Liane Carroll performed in Barbados at Holders Season 2010

Ms Carroll’s final song of the evening was “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen.

It was Brooks’s favorite song. It was the song Brooks played on her iPod on her final day on this earth. My eyes fixed on the star in the sky; it was blurred through my tears. I was simultaneously seized by grief and lifted in joy by the spiritual presence of something far greater than any of us.

The song ended. I stood, sobbing. The three friends were also sobbing. We hugged.

I don’t believe in life after death; I am not a religious person; I don’t believe in astrology; I’m well-grounded and practical.

…. but I’m open to there being more than I see and know and understand. I think that’s what spirituality is: surrendering to the possibility of there being more than we see and think we know and understand.

And as I stood there in the warmth of my beautiful island home of Barbados, beneath the most brilliant and beautiful star in the sky, on the wings of Ms Carroll’s song, Brooks was with us. Of that there is no question.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

6 Responses to “Beneath the Brightest Star in Barbados”

  1. Greg says:

    This is a great, heartfelt post. And yes, it was a memorable and moving night. I’m surprised that we all felt the same things independently yet simultaneously.

  2. Lynn says:

    I’ve no doubt that you are correct; Brooks was with you that evening. What a beautiful story Jane…you’ve touched me.

  3. Thank you for this, Lynn. I appreciate your writing.

    It was palpable, Lynn. As Greg mentioned in his comment, all 5 of us felt it independently of one another; it wasn’t until after the concert was over that we realized we’d all had exactly the same sensation. That evening still resonates with me.

    Anyone who doubts has every right to, of course … we absolutely can’t know for sure, can we?

  4. Rod says:

    Hi Jane,

    Loved the group photo with yourself and
    Brook’s friends.Call me a sap,but I believe in all that stuff.I have no doubt that Brooks was there.So nice to
    witness joy at Easter.

  5. You’re right, Rod: Joy at Easter. I wish you could see the women going to church … amazing and beautiful hats and such elegant suits and dresses the ladies wear!

    Such a meaningful visit it was with those three women … I am still savoring the time we shared.

  6. It’s one way to know how you are and knowing you better…. YOU are MY shining star. I long to see you and Greg again. Remember thoughts become things.

    I love you girlfriend.

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