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the essence of a beautiful life

the essence of a beautiful life

by Andrea
April 30, 2016

I hope you read Judy's last post, the landscape of my being. In her essay Judy continues to explore her experience of loss and grief from the passing of her mother over 10 months ago. She shares with us her discovery of what I feel is a lesser known secret about living a beautiful and whole life. She shares that by staying close to—and not avoiding—her experience of loss and grief she is finding an expanded landscape within her self. She then takes a leap, and goes beyond the loss and grief she experiences about the passing of her own mother to the sense of loss and grief she experiences in her contemplation of climate change. She weaves these two dimensions of reality together in one heartfelt, unbroken tapestry. 

In my own contemplation of this raw and courageous essay, I realize that by staying real with and close to my own experience of loss and grief, whatever it may be, reality can penetrate more deeply. When I stay with this long enough I feel courage growing inside—courage to let in even more reality. As Judy puts it: “It’s almost like I am beckoning my being to let all this sink in more; to land in a ground that holds both lightness and depth; joy and sobriety.” Beautiful.

Beautiful, yes, and yet as we all know, grief can be very difficult to stay with. The impulse to move away from it is strong. The perspective that Judy shares with us is hard won. For her, this forum of writing every two weeks (for this blog) has helped her to stay with her process of grieving. As one of her closest friends, I continually witness deep and soft changes in her—some quiet and some more expressive—all changes that seem intimately connected to her process of grieving. I see this in others as well. My sister Pat lost her husband 17 months ago (Gerry: a forever love). Pat is not writing blog posts, but she stays very close to her experience of loss and grief in a way that is real, open and deeply spiritual. She walks the beach, visits the cemetery, spends time in church and with close friends and family. In these 18 months she is discovering life on her own after over 50 years in partnership. This is not an easy journey, but as with Judy, she is changing in a way that is expansive. Unexpectedly, I have watched a friendship spark between the two of them, a friendship through this blog, a friendship born of a solo journey that each of them have courageously embraced. In Pat, as with Judy, I see steadily growing courage. She may not see this in herself at this point—as others do. Sometimes the grieving process keeps us in the dark, as we navigate with only a few flickers of light. Or sometimes, no flicker at all.

Acknowledging loss and grief as an ongoing part of every day reality is at the core of my relationship with my aging mother. By this I do not mean it is morbid, depressing or sorrowful. Quite the contrary. The relationship I have with my mother is full of light, joy and very deep love. It is pure and untouched by complexity. It has ripened with age. For me, this relationship is not only a restful harbor, but an open field of inquiry into the paradoxes of life and love. Paradoxes that hold loss, sorrow and grief in the same quiet temple as joy, love and celebration. There is loss of my mother as the youthful, active and spunky woman that she was—but somewhere a long the way her life tranformed into a quiet stillness and penetrating warmth.

Sometimes when I reflect upon my mother's 98 years of life with all its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, I feel enormous gratitude and tenderness for her own solo journey with loss and grief. Like Judy and Pat, I feel the essence of a beautiful life born of that journey, and that same expanded landscape "that holds both lightness and depth: joy and sobriety."

my sister Pat Judy with my mom


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