Hope in the dictionary sense means cherishing something with the anticipation of fulfillment. Hope connotes confidence, even assurance. As each of us allow in hope, a natural unfolding takes place. While it is true that the only thing that is constant is change, when we come back to our higher essential qualities, we actually experience that which is constant and unchanging and underlies all else.
To me, this means unconditional, enduring love. This is the ultimate hope and the ultimate assurance of our immortality! This is what this contribution is all about. As you read this article, do give yourself the time to stop and reflect on these key understandings in the loss and grief process especially as these relate to your own life and experience.
When we live each new day freshly the best we can, we express the hope that love gives us. When we live each day with the inner knowing that we human beings can develop and become more loving and whole, we express hope. In truth, hope means living each new day as fully as we can even as though it would be our last day. For without the hope that love provides, there is despair, desolation, and despondency. This, I deeply believe, also is a sure path to immortality.
In my work both personally and as a therapist with dying and grieving, it has become clear to me that at the heart of avoidance of and difficulty working with grief and loss is our splitting away from unconditional love. This occurred as the natural consequence of personality formation and of seeking a satisfactory life in the world. Along with this splitting away from unconditional love, what arises is the need to forgive ourselves for not loving ourselves unconditionally and, of course, others as we can not truly love others without loving ourselves.
This return of unconditional love, which has always been there in the background before we went away from it, would naturally allow back in all of our higher qualities. The process involves not only befriending our judging mind and reactivity, but literally also engaging in the work of becoming our own best friend and a more whole person. This is the art of inner friendship and ultimately the friendship with life that brings us back to our soul and liberates us into loving and living life each day.
When our son, David, died in an accident at age twenty-five, we knew that he represented hope to all who knew him. There is a Nature Center dedicated in the honor of his life. The plaque simply says, “with hope for future for all who pass this way.”
David gifted us with a profound learning regarding the validity of a life lived in love and joy with an open heart. This past fall, it had been just over 20 years since his passing when a college friend of David’s contacted us proposing a celebration of his life. He and others created this celebration that more than 70 friends from all parts of the United States attended at the Nature Center.
Why was this after 20 years? At the time of David’s passing, these were young friends in their early twenties just beginning the journey into adulthood. At the celebration, one after another of these friends rose to express what David’s life continues to mean to them. How he inspired them to love more deeply, how he shared joy and hope, how he supported their lives at difficult times, and how he loved unconditionally.
While we, his family, couldn’t keep track of all David’s enduring friendships, we knew that his qualities of being were his ultimate contribution to all those in his life. While determined, thoughtful, and disciplined, what really mattered to David were his friendships imbued with love, care, delight, and helpfulness. And, yes, his adventuresome, spontaneous, and fun loving spirit. At this lovely celebration on a warm fall day, one of the attendees, Tracy, summed up the core of his meaning to others in this remarkable spontaneous statement:
“When I first met my husband Mark almost 19 years ago, David’s passing was still very raw to him. So when he would talk about David, I would think, wow, he really has this guy David on a pedestal. No one is that perfect, or that great! But then, I met Bea and she would talk about David in a similar manner. Then, I met Denise, his sister. She too would talk of David with this sense of reverence. Then Marianne, and Brian…and over the years, it didn’t matter who I met that knew him, the story line never changed. It was always the same – he was … is still the essence of love. And it is evident by the love that is here today at the celebration of his life. It is apparent his spirit is alive and his presence, his legacy, is here at this gathering to honor and remember him. It’s palpable. It is real. What a blessing to be touched in such a way, by someone I’ve never met. So I thank you, I thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to know David and experience his love through all of you.”
When we live love each day as best we can, when we manifest hope and joy, these qualities endure in the perpetuity of immortality. Nothing destroys our higher essential qualities – the gift of love lives on in us. Again, this is the “hope for the future of all who pass this way” as the plaque at the Nature Center in David’s honor so simply says. And as Elizabeth Edwards put it shortly before her passing just this last December,
“You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope…These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined.”
Each day, just take a few moments to reflect on hope and love and their connection to immortality. Bring up a time when hope and love abounded in you. It is there inside us all sometimes outside of our awareness. Reflection bring these back. Remember, hope and love do not die; we just go away from them. This is a way of knowing our immortality.
David Daniels 2011Tags: signs and connections