Most likely many things mattered a lot when we were young. Finding our way through the world, whether you want to call it becoming successful or becoming self-actualized. Wishing to be seen and wishing to be under the radar; the first when one seemed to have done or said something that we thought was admirable, the second when we saw through our facades and recognized our embarrassing inadequacies. The quandary of relationship; wanting to be desirable, but desirable only in the eyes of someone whom we desired. Wanting new experiences, new vistas, new worlds to explore, outwardly or inwardly. Trying to understand spiritual paths with our minds.

Slowly, over the years of our lives, something may have changed. What now may seem to matter most is the fact of love and the experience of loss. Love of all the parts of creation that have touched our heart. And, along with love, it is the accumulation of loss that inexorably accompanies every adult as they grow older. And what we may have come to see is that it is the losses that have helped to cause the love that remains to take on the importance that it finally has. The sadness of the many losses has caused love in all of its aspects to deepen. 

And it is not always only age in years that causes these feelings to arise. Many younger ones among us are “old souls”, who have come to such ideas early in life. Their knowledge of all of this is just as true.

***

This fall I have been struck again and again by the sunlight on the autumn yellow leaves of the trees in our woods and have loved with a passion the very act of seeing, all informed and heightened by the knowledge that such moments will come to an end one day in the not so distant future.

It has also been about seeing the face of someone I have known and loved for years, seeing the changes in that face, as the youthfulness of their complexion is now diminished. And, seeing this, loving that person even more than before, as I recognize that they are on the same journey as I, moving at their own pace to the end of their life.

Perhaps it is not that something in us has developed that has caused the heart to begin to open, but rather that the contact with life, resulting in the abrasions and yes, the wounds, visited onto the heart, has caused the heart to come more into the foreground of each day. 

And we have come to understand that not only the facts but even the truths of a spiritual path are just dry shells without the heart’s participation. For it is not the mind but the heart that knows what it is for which we seek. 

I believe that the experience of love and the sense of loss may arise from the same source. This source is a feeling that I cannot call by any name I know. It seems to be an emotion that is more complex, more real, and more true than either love, at least the love I am capable of, or loss.  

This deep feeling underlying both love and loss must lie somewhere in the realm of connection, connection leading to oneness. In this realm differences between love and loss are in appearance only. Here love is simply the feeling that makes loss more real, and loss is the experience that cause the heart to come forth.

Perhaps a path may be for one to include the experience of loss with the same level of acceptance as the experience of love, instead of wishing for loss not to have come. Easy to say, but so hard to live. To trod such a path requires an acceptance that perhaps may grow as we live out the years of our lives.

***

I am nourished by the fact that many friends read these posts. What do you wish to say about all of this? Your comments will be read by others who are likely close to you. Let us begin a dialogue.

 

8 Comments

  1. Acceptance and letting go may be the result of a spiritual practice that leads to more love in the face of loss. There’s more space available for love.

  2. Dear Fredrica, yes, the point you make, “There’s more space available for love.” is, for me, spot on. In growing into the practice of letting go, one creates room for love. The weeds and overgrowth resulting from my small mindedness no longer flourish, there is now space for real feeling to come.

  3. I am caught this morning as I read this beautiful piece. 14 years ago this week, I would learn of my beloved husband’s fatal diagnosis and lose him in just 4 weeks. We both had much to learn in such short time, but forgiveness, love, and acceptance held the center as we parted. I remember feeling especially sorry for myself one day on the oncology ward when all of a sudden a woman burst out of the next room somewhere between a sob and a scream. It jarred me awake. I reflexively opened my arms to her and caught her as she fell into my embrace with nowhere else to go in that moment. As she released her grief to me, she told me that her 35 yr old son was dying and begging for more radiation so that he could watch his 5 yr old daughter grow up. The Drs had given him more than any other patient and nothing more could be done. They would stop treatment and prepare to die. It is truly the moment of no escape. In that moment I discovered the difference between what is called heaven or hell. Hell is wallowing in my own pain moments before and heaven ( or the opening of compassionate presence to another) offered great relief to my friend but also released my pain. Grief and loss have been my best teachers, for although my husband was creamated it was I who turned to ash. I had to stay with the painful process of learning to come to life again. In that process, the preciousness of each and every thing became more vivid. I write today from Clermont-Ferrand where I will watch my daughter graduate with her Masters in Toulouse next week. We talked deeply last night about this journey we have taken, through love and loss as she is considering building a life with a man with whom she has fallen in love. I am so happy to see how love has transformed her loss and healed it. And her father is sure to attend her graduation in whatever form he abides these days. Knowing this is sweetness and peace. Thank you for your timely words.

  4. Dear Patti, I remember you telling me back then of your husbands passing. It is hard to imagine that it was 14 years ago. So much time has passed, and yet just a flash. Your story of the woman in the hospital makes so clear the fact that we are everywhere surrounded by others who are working their way through the journey of life. Your words expressing the whole range of sorrow, compassion and joy illustrate so well what we all share. Thank you very much.

  5. Implicit within the experience of love is the reality of loss. Love and loss are inextricably woven, as a consequence of impermanence. This truth makes us painfully vulnerable. And this vulnerability leads many to erect distancing barriers to create the illusion of emotional safety Sadly, it is that very vulnerability that bonds us: it is primal to our humanity. It is when we are able to share our most vulnerable self, acknowledging the risk of wounds and loss, that we become most connected.

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Jill. You bring a wealth of professional experience to the topic, in addition to your own human experiences. It is very good and useful to read what you wrote.

  7. I have experienced the death of quite a few people in my life & sometimes was with them when they died. When my father died when he was 81 of liver disease I was with him and mom in the nursing home. As he was approaching death, and had shut us out, he called out “Franz”, a brother he hadn’t seen in maybe 60 years. In my mind Franz came to get him.

    After one death, I felt totally empty or maybe drained and a strong feeling of peace came over me. Through this I felt a deep sense of love– the only feeling I had. Love. Empty of all else. Love. Now I think that is our core–love–and we get so entangled with life, that we lose our core. Of course to me God is Love and love would not exist without God.

  8. Dear Joyce, I love your words about getting so entangled with life that we lose our core. It is, for me, the heart of the matter. It is all so clear in those moments of epiphany that we all have had. Then, well then, yes, I am entangled, caught in a web of my own making, and what was clear is now forgotten. Thank you for sharing this.

    Dennis