I lost a dear friend four days ago - - a sudden death - - a cerebral aneurism suffered in her own driveway as she was getting into her car. Her death leaves a huge tear in the fabric of my life. She was friend, teacher, spiritual mentor and guide. Her death is the sixth personal loss in as many months - - all people whom I loved and cared for deeply and who loved and cared for me. Integrating the meaning of so many significant deaths in such a short period of time is a strenuous process. There have been days when I have just wanted to shut down and fall asleep. On other days I have questioned the “why” of so many losses and on still other days I have wondered “who is next?” And I have wondered when it will be my turn.
This morning as I awoke, I had the experience of feeling supremely connected with my friend by golden strands that reached from her heart to mine and I realized that in some way her death is part of a greater whole and that while we are no longer in each other’s physical presence, we are still in relationship - -and I felt my heart being opened and healed.
This deeply personal experience of loss and then re-connectedness led me to wonder about the experience of loss as it continues so inexorably and universally in this world of all things temporary. I wondered how the thousands of human souls who have lost loved ones to war, starvation, slavery, drug crimes - - how do they make meaning of the losses? A sweet death, peacefully anticipated in old age is hard enough to bear. A sudden death ravages the spirit, throws everything out of balance, sends the soul scurrying in search of meaning.
I have support systems. I dwell in a variety of circles of spiritual awareness. My friends bathe me in a rich array of spiritual metaphors and share with me the ways they have made sense and meaning of the tremendous losses in their own lives. They hold me when I cry. They wait with me while I heal. How dare I whine????
Where does a parent whose child has died of nerve gas poisoning turn for comfort and understanding when the whole community has been affected by similar losses? How does a community recover when large numbers of its inhabitants die quickly and violently under enemy fire? Where does the soul turn when home and loved ones and community and all that makes life meaningful are swept away in the floodwaters? Does the spirit ever truly recover?
When I am at my lowest, I can feel the temptation to let my heart close against any more loss or pain, to build barriers against entrusting myself to anyone because they too might disappear from my life. But this is not a viable life path for me. There are too many people playing Jesus to my Lazarus, calling me out of any self-selected tomb. But I do not live in a world where violence and fear rule every waking breath. The losses I suffer become part of what makes me more whole, more compassionate. This is not a luxury afforded to the multitudes who must carry on without comfort for or respite from their suffering.
So, just for today, I sit in the autumn quiet and focus on the golden strands connecting my heart with the heart of my friend and I feel myself called to expand my vision, to let those golden strands enfold my heart and then flow out to all who suffer loss and sorrow - - unrelieved pain and suffering. Just for today, this is what I give to the wounded-ness of the world.
Photo by Don Jergler for Insurance Journal