Thursday, July 13, 2006

letter to a mourning friend

A life is steeped in sorrows

Paths may end that just begun
But in our thoughts and memories,

earth and heaven can be one.

Dear _____________,

It's just me.

I wanted to talk to you, one on one, about everything that has happened. Somehow the window of opportunity never seems to open. If it does, it is so brief that I don't get the time to say what I meant to say. I would like to tell you my own thoughts, for what they are worth (if anything) on death and dying. I don't flatter myself that they will be helpful at all, but still I have to say them.

I have felt such concern for you. I want to "be there" for you as much as possible, and yet this kind of thing leaves one feeling useless and a bit paralytic instead.

I know that you are not alone. That is a great comfort to me.

At the same time, grief is such a private and personal thing. We can pray, surround you, give you space or keep you near; but ultimately the ache in your heart is something you alone reckon with. We still cannot take it away.

One realization I've come to accept is that heaven really does exist. It's an intangible proof; I have no evidence, and yet I believe it truly. Your loved one has been loosed from this mortal prison and has transcended into the embracing arms of all those who passed before.

The beautiful thing is that when magnified, love becomes almost supernatural; there is no definition for how far and how deeply it can extend, any more than we can define where heaven is and how it can be found.

Even in your grief, if you pay close attention you will see the signs that love still abounds about you; and that the love you felt has been transformed into something even more lovely and long-lasting. And, in an inexplicable way, even more honorable.

It is always an upward progression. Nothing is ever lost.

Situations change and reality is flux but people -- even if we leave them, or they leave us -- still live in our hearts and minds.

Love is the life force. "It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" -- it took me so long to understand this. How could this be true, when the subtraction feels so brutal?

But if one is fortunate enough to both give and receive love, one has found the secret to living peacefully on this earth; -- that the very act of loving opens one up to other dimensions which are equally powerful or even more so.

Even when we know and accept this, it is so hard for the living to be suddenly robbed of those we love. Even if they are around us in our thoughts and memories, they cannot be seen or touched. We miss them so much.

It is terribly, terribly difficult to let go and to accept this cruel change in reality, the random cruelty that is nature [Hemingway].

I can only imagine how heartrending this is for you. But I so want you to know that the relationship you had is not terminated in the course of death. The relationship has merely ascended to a higher level -- more abstract, yet just as real, and even deeper and more complete then it could have been on earth.

If you know these things to be true, nothing and no one can truly be taken from you. If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't be able to go on living. After all, the love we feel for others lives on whether we are still able to express it to them or not.

And as you go about resuming your daily routine after enduring this loss, you may find that the aftermath is the most difficult of all. If you reflect on all the memories you have which are pleasant, you will find that in your mind is a rich bank upon which you can draw whenever it pleases you, knowing that you were a fine and much-loved friend.

Those who have passed on before us -- if they loved us truly, and they did -- would want to be remembered in this way, not drowning in regrets and sorrows for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

When there is love, there is no seeking for alteration [Shakespeare]. If there were things you still wanted to say; they are already known. Though you could still write your thoughts down on paper if this explanation does not satisfy you; or you could honor the memory in any way you see fit, and they would, again, be known to the recipient.

But most of all, living the rest of your life knowing you knew such a person, and was so immeasurably touched and benefited; is a gift to the loved one in itself. Don't you think so?

I know these statements are not original or new. Still, I feel a need to write them to you because it worries me to see you in such pain. I want you to know that you have friends who love and support you with all their heart. You will never be alone; in fact, you are less alone now than you ever were.

Always your friend,