Susan L. Taylor

One of the most helpful things we can do for someone who is grieving is to stay in touch.  It often happens that within a week following the funeral, people have forgotten about the bereaved, or have forgotten that the person left behind is still in a lot of pain.  Remember to give a friend who is in mourning a call each day.  Ask "How are you doing today?  What are you feeling?" and allow her or him to tell you, or else to say nothing.  We can be of great comfort to grieving hearts simply by lending an ear and allowing those who are bereft to express just how much they hurt.

We can find solace in reminiscing about those whom we have lost, in recounting the stories that best characterize them, in laughing at the humorous moments we have shared.  By sharing such stories, we keep our memories of our loved ones alive and remind ourselves of the ways our lives have been touched by theirs.  In West Africa it is believed that the deceased continue to live for as long as there is someone to call their names.  By allowing a small spark of our loved one's spirit to live on in us, they remain with us still.

Remember, too, that life only appears to begin with birth and end with death.  The flow of life is in fact continuous and eternal; birth and death are merely transformations.  We are made up physically and spiritually of the billions who have passed before us.

They gave us life, they gave us our culture, they gave us the world on which we have built our present world.  Our values and traditions, our habits of thought are in large measure the wisdom of their experience passed down through the ages.  Our breath, the very air we breathe, was once their breath.  We are, each of us, an integral part of something vast beyond comprehension--a vital link in a process so perfect that it wants for nothing and wastes nothing.  That something is life.  Death, the inevitability of it, or the illusion of it, helps us to think about and appreciate the miracle we are moving through.

Our lives are characterized by transitions and transformations, by necessary losses and unexpected gifts, by an unending series of passages.  Life is change.  All our lives we are confronted by letting go.  Western culture teaches us how to hold on to things, not how to let them go, but letting go is one of the encompassing themes of life.  Nothing in the material world is forever.  Throughout the many stages of our lives we experience myriad transitions and what we might call loss:  We are forced to leave the warmth and security of our mother's womb, give up her breasts, her lap, our innocence, many of our childhood dreams, our youth.  Critical to our growth and happiness is learning how to live with loss; we simply cannot have everything as we wish it.  Parents, children, lovers and friends part, and sometimes it is we who must part.

Our lives are full of separations that shake us up, force us to attend to our emotional selves and to learn new ways of being in the world.  Although many of our losses are painful, they encourage our gains.  The lesson life is trying to teach us is that, regardless of the challenges and changes in the physical world, we will abide in peace by aligning ourselves with our inner changelessness.  The power of God in us is more than equal to any moment--no matter what it brings.  We live in a loving, supportive universe that is always saying yes to us.  Every transition, even the one we call death, is part of a continuum of being.  Death is not the end, but rather another step in the unending process of our unfolding.  It is a pathway to God.

It may sometimes seem as if our baptisms are all of fire, but in the fire we forge new strengths.  Though we sometimes despair, the wakes we plan for ourselves are always premature.  Time and again we emerge from this chrysalis changed, remade, born again.  This is the pattern for all life, the end of each journey marking the beginning of new and different ones.  Have faith.  When those who are dear to us make their transitions, when we ourselves approach with trepidation that threshold of infinity, know that their lives and ours are cared for by a power greater than any pain.

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Those persons are happiest in this restless and mutable world
who are in love with change, who delight in what is new
simply because it differs from what is old;
who rejoice in every innovation, and find a strange alert
pleasure in all that is, and that has never been before.

Agnes Repplier



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Change is the end result of all true learning.  Change involves three things:
First, a dissatisfaction with self--a felt void or need; second, a decision
to change--to fill the void or need; and third, a conscious dedication
to the process of growth and change--the willful act of making
the change; Doing Something.

Leo Buscaglia


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