-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!