On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!

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My Heart Will Always Be With You

My Heart Will Always Be With You

For Erica*, Veronica*, Kelly*, Ted,* Chris* and Elizabeth*  (*=names changed for privacy) 

 

For all that we have been through

Both for the good times and bad

For all the laughter and the tears

My heart will always be with you

 

For all that I have learned from you

For all the truth you showed me

For the joy that you are to me

My heart will always be with you

 

Even when you have to leave me

Even if I can’t be with you

Or your face I can’t again see

My heart will always be with you

The Legacy I Want To Leave

Having gone through depression and being an Advocate personality (a, la Myers-Brigg personality type), I had rarely felt like I belonged anywhere, and thus the subject of death came up many times in my mind.  However, in the past few years, when I think about death and dying, I think more about the legacy I want to leave and what kind of life I want to have lived should the inevitable happen.  Recently, I visited one of my fellow congregants, who is now in hospice. Thinking about the pain and the triumphs that she has been through, I started also thinking about the legacy I want to leave when it is my time to go.  Here is the legacy I want to leave:

First and foremost, I want to lead a legacy of love. I don’t want to leave this earth with people thinking that they were not valued and loved by me.  Sure, I may have bad days, and inevitably this may happen to some degree, but as far as it is possible, I want people to know that they are valued.  I not only want to speak encouragement into others’ lives, but also want to show tangible demonstrations of God’s love to them whenever I can.

I also want to contribute to ending social injustices, such as abuse and slavery.  One way I aim to continue to do this is to spread awareness about these injustices and help some of those who are or have suffered through this.  I want to continue encouraging and coming alongside, as a support, to those I know who have been through abuse or any other type of social injustice.

I also want to buck the trend of apathy in this society, by going against this trend. For instance, I have seen a lot of people both in the places where I work or used to work, do their job solely for the paycheck, and have no passion or joy in what they are doing or for the people they are supposed to be serving. For me, I don’t want to be that person who has no joy or passion for others or for life.  I want to serve others, both at my job, and at other places, with all my heart. I want to work hard because I know it will all be worth it in the end.  When I see someone hurting or suffering, I want to at least stop and pray for them.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to them, but see where I can help meet their need.

One of the reasons why I don’t ever want to be known as apathetic is because I know how it feels to be devalued by seemingly apathetic people, or people that just gave up on me.  When I have been visibly upset, I lost count of how many times people either just judgmentally stared at me, or avoided me altogether, not even trying to help or seeing if everything is OK. I was also rejected by caretakers at a daycare because I was too unruly for them to handle.  Also, because I had had a demanding personality when I was a child, most of my peers didn’t really want to be close friends with me. When I was going through hell and back in my early teenage years, I could probably count on my hands the number of people that actually cared enough to ask me what was going on with me.

I also want to be able to let go of the things that won’t matter after I die.  Right now, what I am working on letting go of  is a.) holding grudges and anger against individual people. b) the need to be always in control.  c) little things that bother me now, but won’t matter after death.

Sometimes (ok, often), when people offend me, I tend to replay what they did and how I would respond if it happened again.  This replay-tape in my mind tends to build up my anger and bitterness for those people.   I am working on (and getting a bit better at) not replaying the tape so many times. I want to be able to let go and forgive, because I don’t want to be holding grievances against any person when it’s my time to go.  I also want to let go of the need to have everything go my way. I always had thought that if everyone would just cooperate with me and everyone and everything would exactly be this certain way, I wouldn’t be stressed or upset at anything anymore.  However, I have learned that even if things don’t all go exactly my way, I still can find joy and peace in the fact that everything will turn out how it is supposed to and that God will give me the strength I need during each season of my life.  I also want to let go of all the other things that bother me in life, but that won’t matter when I go, such as not finding  something that I want to use or waiting in traffic.

Finally, I want to hold on to the things in my life that will ultimately matter. I aim to always value my God, my family, and my friends, in that order, and above all else, than anything else  this life has to offer. I want to value people over things. I want to hold on to continually developing and improving my character.  I want to be less angry and anxious. Ever since I was little, I have had the propensity to worry. However, I want to leave here not worried about anything anymore. I want to be at complete and total peace.  I also want to be more compassionate to others and less self-centered. I don’t want to let one more day go by without being thankful, in some way, for the people that are in my life. I want to glorify God every day of my life, and I want to love others the way that my God and the people that He brought into my life have shown love to me.  I want to cause a positive chain reaction and ultimately change my world for the better.

Don’t take people for granted

Death. Goodbyes.

They seem so final, so haunting. But why am I mentioning them in a post about not taking people for granted? Because often that is what God uses (at least in my life) as a teaching tool for us  not to take life, or more so, people in our lives for granted.

I confess there have been times when I have taken people for granted or have never properly thanked them for what they have done for me. For example, before my brother left for school he used to fix almost all family computer problems and appliances and just cared for everyone in our family a lot. Now that he is gone, I realize what an impact my brother has had on my family and regret that I’ve never formally and properly thanked him. And many of my good friends are or have moved away, and I feel that I have never had the time to really tell them what an impact that they had on me. ( For those people and my brother, if you are reading this, I would like to thank you for all you have done for me and all the validation and care I have ever received from you. So, thank you.)

But I’m sure it’s not just me who has taken people for granted. Many of us probably do too, at least a little. Why is it that when someone dies that everyone takes the time to say nice things about them, but when they are/were alive people have the audacity to say nasty things to them or about them behind their backs? Why is it that we don’t properly thank people who have made a positive impact on us in our lives now  rather than wait until they are dead and can’t hear us anyway.

Also, I don’t want to sound morbid, but we are all going to die eventually. I know this is hard (also for me), but what if we lived each day as if it were our last day, and made a positive impact on others’ lives as if they were going to be gone from us either by death or by some other form of goodbye that day, because you never know if you are ever going to see someone again or not. We are not guaranteed to live the next day. Neither are they. So, let’s start today by thanking those in our lives that have helped us in any way, and making a positive impact on others’ lives before it’s too late.