Jump to content
Grief Healing Discussion Groups

What Defines Us?

Recommended Posts

Dear friends,

I took down the Christmas tree yesterday. I had thought about doing it earlier but it gives a spark to the house in the evening.

I did what I said I would do New Year's Eve. I had two glasses of champagne--one to toast the past with and one to toast the future with. I was elated for a time--and the good vibe continued through a part of New Year's Day. Then I got the call I knew was coming: a friend's mother died in mid-afternoon. She had been ill for a long time and her passing was peaceful--and long expected.

I have never been one to read obituaries--and this past year I have avoided them more than ever before. I do not need the reminder that life is fleeting--that no matter our success at beating this disease or that disease, death is always going to be out there waiting. Sometimes it will come as an ambush. Sometimes it will arrive as an old friend. But for those left behind it is frequently an unwelcome guest.

I had planned to watch a movie New Year's Eve. Instead I encountered a program on PBS about the life of the Buddha. There was much there I had forgotten--and some perspectives that were new to me--or at least felt that way. In the West there is a word we translate from Sanskrit as "suffering." But it turns out the meaning is closer to "dissatisfaction" --though even that is an approximation that is not quite accurate.

There is a great gulf between those two terms--a gulf that is not easy to reconcile. There is little we can do about suffering--it must be endured. Outside agencies can have an impact on our suffering, but there is little we ourselves can do to end it. Dissatisfaction, on the other hand, leads us to change what we are doing and try something else in hopes of making the situation more satisfactory.

Irritation is a necessary ingredient in bringing about change. It is what, in an oyster, creates a pearl.

As human beings we can either suffer through the things we do not like--or we can use that suffering to inspire us to do something about the things that cause us to suffer. When we do that we move from suffering victim to dissatisfied actor--a person who is willing to become an agent of change.

In order to bring about change we must first change ourselves. Jane undertook that change the day we visited her first oncologist. "I am not going to let this disease define me," she said. "I am not dying from this disease, I am living with it." Her refusal to be a victim was the first step in her courageous battle with the disease.

For those of us who have lost someone, our grief cannot become all that we are. I am not saying, "Do not grieve." Nor am I saying that it is wrong to let grief consume us for a time. But just as our loved one's life was about more than the illness that claimed them, our lives need to be about more than their deaths and our grief.

I took down the Christmas tree yesterday, but the light of it still burns in my memory--and in my soul. And the light of Jane's life burns there too, only far more brightly and far more powerfully.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...