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  • The first time my husband and I went to hang out with the Sufis in the Canadian Rockies, they gave us a name. In their tradition, a Sufi name is a way of recognizing your essential nature. And too, of calling out those aspects of yourself, even if they are hidden or unrecognized. My friends were given the names Fazulanissa, for Princess of Blessings, or Shanti, for Peace, even the aspirational Kuan Yin was offered to a dear one.

    The spiritual leader brought Richard and I together and said henceforth we would be known as Wali and Walia. (I believe I whispered some joke about it being more like Wally and The Beav.) We learned that Wali was known as The Friend in Sufi parlance. To be as Wali and Walia was to be a friend to each other and to all, in the same way the Divine is The Friend. I was bemused, touched and the feminist in me was more than a bit angry about my name being tied to my husband's name. No one in our community had received this joined condition. Even our children were given their own gemlike, perfect monikers.

    Years later, after the visitations of illness and death, after the brain injury that took his memories of our life together, after children have been raised and left, after we have been together and apart in strange and wonderful places around the globe, I can see that we are joined as The Friend. Our friendship is a continuous conversation of silence and words, of presence and absence, of existence and emptiness.

    Rumi said:
    When someone asks what it means
    to "die for love," point

    I point to myself. Walia. I am that one.

    (Image: Wali & Walia in Haridwar for the Kumbh Mela 2010)
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