I am interrupting our regular series with a reflection on grief, shared by a good friend of mine on the passing of his brother.
To me interrupting a series with a reflection on grief is so appropriate. For grief does interrupt our lives. I know a few weeks ago, it did interrupt my life.
As regular readers would know, last year my wife of 12 years passed. I have reached the place that I am very happy with life. There is so much joy and wonder in my life. I have a job I love. I have so many wonderful friends. I am engaged in things that give me life.
Yet a few weeks ago, I woke up and could barely pull myself out of bed. My heart was heavy. I woke, as much as I love the life I have been building for myself on the other side of this heartache and loss, wanting only in all the world to be in the life I once had but have no longer, with the woman I loved and shared life with for 13 years. I felt crushingly alone.
I did what I have learned to do in such moments. I took time to sit with the pain, to acknowledge my loss. And I leaned into my life. I worked in the community garden. I kept to my commitments at volunteer organizations. I went to the gym and to the farmer’s market. I reached out to friends. I found as I did so the joy of life returning, including gratitude for the good in front of me, gratitude for the life Kat and I had shared, but also the peace of knowing as I do deep in my heart that her illness and suffering is over and in our own ways — me, here and now, and her in the next world — our lives move on. Life springs forth beyond death.
By Monday my peace had returned.
Grief is like this. Days, weeks, months, years, after our losses, the pain returns. The sorrows falls upon us. Our heart aches. We reel, disoriented. Yet as we take time to listen to the voice of our pain and the lessons it teaches us, some comfort and healing comes. As we take time to reach out to our friends and community of support and engage in those things which help us connect with life and beauty, we are able to find our bearings again.
So as a way of remembering and honor all of our griefs, dear readers, I share these traditional Jewish reflections on grief and loss. To me they beautifully remind me how these occasions of unexpected outbursts of grief that come again and again after every loss need not crush us. Rather they can be openings to deeper understanding of ourselves, deeper compassion for others, and renewed embrace of the beauty, love, and connection in life.
May these words help all of you in your journey of grief, loss, and new beginning.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
“Meditation before Kaddish”
“When I die give what is left of me away
To children and old men that wait to die.
And if you need to cry, Cry for your brother
Walking the street beside you.
And when you need me, put your arms around anyone
And give them what you need to give me.
I want to leave you something,
Something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved,
And if you cannot give me away,
At least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.
You can love me best by letting hands touch hands,
And by letting go of children that need to be free.
Love doesn’t die, people do.
So, when all that’s left of me is love,
GIVE ME AWAY.”
From the Talmud:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”