Synchronicity is a concept named by Carl Jung and described as two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner [Wikipedia, Synchronicity]. Serendipity is similar yet different: a happy accident or pleasant surprise or having a talent for making fortunate discoveries by accident [dictionary.reference.com, Serendipity].
I have experienced more than my share of synchronicity and serendipity. Maybe you have, too – at least if you’ve been paying attention. When we aren’t paying attention to the happy accidents or fortunate discoveries that occur all the time, we are likely to think they are just random coincidences, and dismiss them with little thought. There have been so many in my life that I am no longer surprised when they occur, just grateful. I believe that such happy accidents are God’s reminders that I am loved, that my life has meaning beyond what I can imagine, and that if I look around with eyes to see I will recognize signs of the Holy.
Just this week, it happened again – something unexpected and not likely to be noticed seemed to jump out at me and connect me with a powerful experience from my past. I was 27 and nine months pregnant when I was widowed without warning. My grief at the loss of my husband, Rich, was complicated and overshadowed the joy I had felt at being pregnant. I knew of no one else who had experienced the death of a spouse at such a young age, nor of anyone who had birthed a child within days of being widowed. In my isolation, I felt like a pariah, an alien, an outsider. Others were uncomfortable around me and averted their eyes or avoided me when I came near because they didn’t know what to say.
I longed to find someone who was like me – a young widow facing both grief’s ache and the joy of being a new mother. I had no idea how to walk this path alone. I needed a mentor.
Then . . . synchronicity or serendipity or whatever you want to call it. Three weeks after Rich’s death, Jessica Richelle was born. The doctor laid her, blue eyes and red hair and sucking her thumb, in my arms. I could not believe she was mine. I fell in love with her immediately but my joy couldn’t heal my broken heart without a partner to share it.
Sometime during those first weeks of Jessica’s life, I found a thin pamphlet of true contemporary Christian stories of hope. One of them was written by a young mother, Paula D’Arcy, whose husband and 18 month old daughter had been killed in an auto accident. Paula, a few months pregnant, survived the accident and shared an excerpt from her story. I devoured the short excerpt. The end note said that D’Arcy had written a book (Song for Sarah) about her experience. I bought it, read it cover to cover and then read it again. I felt like I was reading my own story. D’Arcy’s story broke through my isolation and estrangement. She knew. She had lived it. She had survived it. She had a 2 year old daughter and they were making a life together.
Because of Song for Sarah I could live with hope. The burden of feeling so different began to lift and I began to build a life for Jess and I with confidence.
Occasionally in years afterward, I would come across references to D’Arcy. It seemed at times that we were living parallel lives – like me, she had deep faith and felt a call to healing ministry as a psychologist specializing in grief. Like me, she offered retreats and was a frequent public speaker although I never had the opportunity to hear her – at least until now.
Last week I saw a half sheet of unremarkable text posted on our Seminary bulletin board advertising a local fundraiser for a spiritual direction center. And who was the speaker to be? Paula D’Arcy. She will be speaking on October 27 at 7 pm at Wesley UMC. I never told Jess about Song for Sarah until now. Jess and I will be attending D’Arcy’s presentation.
One more thing. I hadn’t thought to see if D’Arcy had a website until last night when I was thinking about this blog. On www.redbirdfoundation.com was a notice about a pilgrimage she is sponsoring from Paris to Chartres in France. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pilgrimage and labyrinth fanatic. So our parallel lives are even more parallel than I knew.
Synchronicity? Serendipity? Whatever such happy accidents or fortunate discoveries or meaningful occurrences might be called, to me they are tiny miracles – cosmic sticky notes – sent by the Holy One as reminders of Love.
And I am so, so grateful.