This month in our year to have “The Courage to Imagine”, we celebrate being Blessed! Nothing speaks to me on being Blessed more than this article in the Unity Archives. Not only is it a story of tremendous love, it is a story of bringing the Presence into an unimaginably (unless you’ve been there yourself) painful situation and allowing the blessings to unfold no matter how outer circumstances appear. I hope you enjoy!
“I Am There” by James Dillet Freeman
It was 1947 when James Dillet Freeman heard the words that would inspire his most beloved and widely known poem, “I Am There.” His wife Katherine was in the hospital after undergoing surgery for cancer.
It was a time of deep personal need, Freeman recalled. “I was in great anguish of spirit.”
When the doctors told him Katherine had terminal cancer, he left the hospital and went to the Silent Unity Prayer and Healing Room at the then-Unity Headquarters at 917 Tracy Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri.
“God,” he prayed aloud, “if you are there, please allow my Katherine to live. Oh, God, where are you?”
Freeman would later recall that he heard a “clear and audible empathetic voice” speak to him, “Do you need me? I am there.”
He looked around to see who was talking, but saw no one. While he bowed his head, he could still hear the words and felt hope and comfort.
Upon reflection, Freeman recalled that hospital scene when the doctor emerged from the surgery room. The doctor, he said, walked slowly over, shook his head and told Freeman, “I am sorry, the cancer has spread.” He said Katherine had just months to live.
A few days later, while she was still in the hospital, Freeman shared the doctor’s prognosis with Katherine, but she seemed to already know. Amid her weakened condition, he said, the couple kept an upbeat façade to comfort each other. Freeman recalled taking her hand and laying down beside her.
“All at once there was a presence in the room with us, and we knew we were not alone,” Freeman later wrote.
Several days later, he took Katherine home. She was in a lot of pain, Freeman said, but her courage carried them both. In the evenings when the pain was nearly unbearable, Freeman would often read to her the words he had heard in the chapel.
Katherine lived for 10 months after the diagnosis. Although a great loss to him, Freeman said he did not lose faith. Rather, he was sustained by his wife’s faithful influence. He said the experience taught him that God’s love is always present.
The original verses of “I Am There” tell of each phase of the months leading to Katherine’s transition. Freeman remembered the question, “Do you need me?” and the divine response of assurance, “I am there.”
On August 7, 1971, the poem was famously carried to the moon by Apollo 15 astronauts James B. Irwin, David R. Scott, and Alfred M. Worden. Stored in a microfilm file, the poem was intended to be left there for future space explorations.
Freeman received a letter from Irwin on August 30, 1971, verifying that in fact his “I Am There” poem was onboard the Falcon lunar module on its mission to the Hadley-Apennine region of the moon. In November of that year, Irwin visited Unity Village to meet with Freeman.
The poem was also adapted into a planetarium video at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A musical score, artwork, photographic support, and special effects were added, and the adaptation was named “A Christmas Star.” It was shown to the public for the first time at the academy on December 12, 1980. Freeman saw the production on December 30, 1980.
I Am There
By James Dillet Freeman
I Am There by James Dillet Freeman
Do you need Me?
I am there.
You cannot see Me, yet I am the light you see by.
You cannot hear Me, yet I speak through your voice.
You cannot feel Me, yet I am the power at work in your hands.
I am at work, though you do not understand My ways.
I am at work, though you do not recognize My works.
I am not strange visions. I am not mysteries.
Only in absolute stillness, beyond self, can you know Me as I am, and then but as a feeling and a faith.
Yet I am there. Yet I hear. Yet I answer.
When you need Me, I am there.
Even if you deny Me, I am there.
Even when you feel most alone, I am there.
Even in your fears, I am there.
Even in your pain, I am there.
I am there when you pray and when you do not pray.
I am in you, and you are in Me.
Only in your mind can you feel separate from Me, for only in your mind are the mists of “yours” and “mine.”
Yet only with your mind can you know Me and experience Me.
Empty your heart of empty fears.
When you get yourself out of the way, I am there.
You can of yourself do nothing, but I can do all.
And I am in all.
Though you may not see the good, good is there, for I am there.
I am there because I have to be, because I am.
Only in Me does the world have meaning; only out of Me does the world take form; only because of Me does the world go forward.
I am the law on which the movement of the stars and the growth of living cells are founded.
I am the love that is the law’s fulfilling. I am assurance. I am peace. I am oneness. I am the law that you can live by. I am the love that you can cling to. I am your assurance. I am your peace. I am one with you. I am.
Though you fail to find Me, I do not fail you.
Though your faith in Me is unsure, My faith in you never wavers, because I know you, because I love you.
Beloved, I am there.