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Commentaries and observations about the conflicting moral beliefs and psychological issues facing our culture.
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13 July 2019
Reflections On The Death Of A Friend
In my years passing, I have witnessed much suffering and, as we all have, experienced the loss of many loved ones and have grieved with many others. I know all too well that the death of those we love and cherish brings persistent sorrow and inflicts upon us much heavy emotional weight.
Grief is deeply embedded in each person, extremely riveting in its focus. It can paralyze us as it takes over our thinking and self-control. It is like a massive tsunami, sweeping over us with crushing weight, overwhelming our willpower and our emotional balance. It's energy and force are entirely centripetal, pushing us inward toward our own center. With the loss of a loved one, we are rendered empty and helpless, barren and bewildered. We are often without the power to extricate ourselves from the grip of our sadness.
Our loved ones are now beyond all that, of course, so we try to remind ourselves that if we are not cautious, our grieving can, in time, become so relentless that we might render ourselves less able to bear our loss and sustain ourselves and find meaning in our lives.
The truth is that grieving is not about those who have left us in death. It is about us, the living, and about how we will accept these periods of loss and the emotions of grief and the futile wonderment which stuns us. It is about how we respect our need to grieve and yet still strive to achieve some balance between what is painfully real, i.e., our grief, and what is even more real, our obligation to allow grief to rise, to express itself and then to take its proper. if painful, place within the flow of our continuing life.
This is a hard and difficult truth to put into practice, to be sure, but like so much in life that is hard, it is also essential to our living effectively in faith and in heath and in the future….. for how we shall live and whom we shall choose to be is still -- still – a responsibility which we must embrace in heart and soul.
Grief is strong because it is emotional, physical and spiritual. Its grip is immense because its meaning is so deeply and utterly personal. Thus, our grief must always be expressed in some deeply personal ways. It is best that we express it in private ways, with those very few people who merit our trust and inclusion into our most private selves. It is best with people who know us well and love us enough to share grief with us appropriately, in tears and in silence and in quiet prayers of hope, in shared words of acceptance and in the clarifying light of that sustaining love which unites us in the first place.
But grief must then be gradually perceived for what it also offers us, i.e., a contribution to our entire character, a heavy but fundamental building block in our soul's maturity, a period of intertwining grace and loss, a time of growing in virtue in which much can be gained for our soul, even if our heart is, for a time, made empty.
But grieving is not a source of strength unless we are able to include it and still move with it and, eventually, beyond its debilitating weight. Grief must be given due and proper time to be expressed … but it must also inspire us to move beyond its confines, so that we may find meaning beyond grief, hope beyond sorrow, clarity beyond sorrow -- for this is the point and the meaning of the Resurrection.
So, the focus of our grief is the loved one who has died, the loved one who gave so much meaning to our life, the loved one who offered much richness to our individuality. But death's real message and meaning are for us, the living, for those who live on, for those who must soon bring themselves to the recognition that this painful path of loss is the only path which befits those who choose to love wisely and well in the days of life ahead.
The Value Of Vulnerability
True love always includes personal vulnerability, i.e., our ability to be wounded and our willingness to risk it. Thus, love in this life is never without some measure of pain, especially when death intrudes. This is true except in our relationship with God Who can restore us and uphold us beyond ourselves.
As we proceed in life, we are never without painful reminders of our loss. We will always bear painful scars of loss in heart and soul. We will always carry the emotions and the memories of loss which will forever serve as our life's wounds.
These wounds will always remain within our soul because we have loved -- and because we will choose, again and again, to persist in loving. We do so, not despite the cost of loving but because we choose to keep loving, no matter the cost. And in our grieving, we also honor and give tribute to those whom we loved – and still love -- so well.
But let us always be aware that our pain is not without purpose or insight. We go forward. We have a choice to make, and the best choice in life is to love despite grief.
We choose to pursue the mystery of love and the risk of loving. We choose to love … because doing so is who we wish to be, who we are. It is our soul's best choice, a reflection of our character and our spiritual maturity in the ways of God, Who values the humbled and giving soul.
The Cost Of Loving
Were it not for those whom we have loved, we might never understand the authentic cost or depths of loving which loss reveals. Furthermore, we might also miss the invitation to live more wisely and to choose the difficult path of God's own Son -- but to do so with gratitude and generosity, even when we feel otherwise.
Without the loss of a loved one and our ensuing struggle to recover and go on with dignity and wisdom, we might never know how to love even more deeply and clearly. We might not otherwise rise above the benumbing limits of avoidance and denial and pettiness which so often mislead our nature’s search for simplicity and goodness.
Without the grief of losing our Beloved, we might never become persons of true and abiding character, persons who travel the hard road of selfless virtue and self-restraint, who rise above the petty dictates of self-pity and anger … because we choose to. We might never be exposed to the enormous grace of empathy and the irreplaceable value of humility’s stark candor.
Without grief’s humbling finality, we might never become persons of deepening goodness and conviction, persons with a soul strong enough and insightful enough to love over and over again --- and regret none of it.
It is, then, only through personal suffering and the ensuing choice to love again that we can be at our very best in the life we have yet to live, in the love we have yet to give, in the words we have yet to utter, in the endless moments when our kindness awaits expression, in the time which God kindly grants, in the days of our life ahead.