“When face to face with life and death, the heart will ignore all history—it’s own and the world’s—in order to make friends with being alive. I discovered this in my sixty-second year when sitting next to my mother in the emergency room, waiting for my father to arrive. She and I had not seen each other in seventeen years, deep scars between us. But when her lip began to quiver, my heart ignored our history and I rocked her gently. My heart, which had carried all our grievances like heavy beads, didn’t resolve our history or keep it alive. It had been waiting for this moment, which I could never have foreseen, and simply put everything between us aside.” Mark Nepo, The Endless Practice, p. 167
I noticed this in my 57th year, 2016, with first the death of my brother in law, a cherished female client and friend, and then the untimely death of my 30 yr old nephew. My nephew and I shared the same birth date of March 17. That date has taken on a new dimension of meaning. I have observed and felt relationships change, as a minister and in my personal life.
Life is too precious to waste and becomes even more precious for me with every death. The death of my sweet dog, Sophie in April of 2015, still feels fresh. I had 13 years with her. I had hoped that she would accompany me in the next pivotal period of my life. The death of my father in September of 2014. I spent many afternoons with him at the nursing home while he slept and I studied as I was training in clinical pastoral education to become a hospital chaplain. I miss him and my mother misses him every day.
Like death, love has no rules either. Neither of them have any boundaries. Many individuals are unaware that they make the rules and call the shots creating the conditions in their life. Through my studies in becoming a Unity minister, I learned that we always have a choice even when it doesn’t appear that way. We can choose what we give the power to, a person or situation, money, love , and the loss of a loved one, etc.
The first death that had a deep affect was that of a mentoring minister, Rev Ken. I learned that he had died the day before I was giving a Sunday lesson. The lesson itself was a difficult one to give and I felt his presence with me as I spoke. I was so glad I had been able to spend quality time with him and his family a few years before. My dog, Sophie, a chocolate lab mix with bull terrier, was invited over to his house with me on New Year’s eve. We were in Florida where I was renovating a house for a past board member and Rev Ken had taken a church in the area. We also got invited to watch the super bowl.
Sophie and I got closer than ever since it was just the two of us. I drove down with her from Maine and the drive back home was a fun adventure as well. She was my second dog and I loved her so much that it was hard to let her go. We had another dog, Abbie, that was also a lab mix so our home wasn’t without a dog. And yet, still very empty without Sophie by my side. Be sure and take time to grieve because that is an important part of letting go.
Love has no rules or boundaries on how deeply one loves. We always have a choice in how much power we give to it. Lord, Alfred Tennyson wrote the line, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
And when apropriate, in my work as a chaplain with a family at the death bed of their loved one, I will say, “It hurts so deeply because we love so deeply.” There is a true resonance in that moment.
Love is the foundation and where it all begins!