I spent the day helping a friend go through the belongings of a dear loved one who has passed. It’s tough going. One might think it’s the expensive toys, gadgets, and gizmos which you’d want to hold on to but instead, it’s the little things; sheets of paper, old license plates, CDs, notepads. Items which wouldn’t sell at a yard sale or purchased at Goodwill are of immense value, a treasure to the ones who remain.
Death is often an open wound. Scabs may form, some healing might occur, but grasping at past memories and experiences, strains and pulls apart the wound and the pain, heartbreak of loss returns. Its hard letting go. It’s difficult to say; “goodbye.” but death demands we do it again and again in many ways, on many occasions and you wonder if it will ever be the last time.
Moving on requires that one live open-handed, no clinging to earthly, temporal things, allowing the shared life of the one who is gone to be enough.
To be unselfish is the key to abundance. To not hold on to anything, desire anything, be covetous of anything or anyone. Abundance comes from being content and this comes from acceptance of all life brings our way.
Too often we see the lives of others or review our own lives and wish they would have turned out different brings suffering. These illusions only lead to pain and heartbreak. What we have received is only temporary. As hard as it is to accept this world only gives us transient treasures and trinkets. Whether it be people or things, our inability to control when and how they leave our lives is a lesson we need to learn.
Only eternal gifts last. When we are given them we may hold on to them as tightly as possible but to do this we must let go of what we hold dear that is not eternal. Transience is not evil. To love those who bring wonder, kindness, and love to our life is not wrong. However, it is a bittersweet connection because it is temporary. While this is painful to know and experience it also makes every moment more treasured.
Most of our lives are full of abundance but knowing they are not ours forever is the test of true life, true love, true wisdom.
Dashed Hopes –
One of the incarcerated fathers I work with was told recently by the parole board that it would be at least another 12 months before he would be eligible again. The board didn’t think he was to the point where he was ready to be released. He was crushed by this revelation. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up,’ he said, ‘but they were raised anyway. Now I’m just down and lost.” We spoke for a while about making good choices while he was still incarcerated, using the time wisely by taking other classes the jail offers, hanging around the right people and not giving up. He agreed but I could tell he was coming to grips with dashed hopes.
Hope is a wonderful thing but it can also be devastating when what you desire, long for, remains elusive, out of reach. Hope can help us through the most trying of circumstances and drag out difficult and challenging seasons. Hope can be the driving force behind our survival but it is also the reason we burn ourselves up and out. Trying to figure out when to keep hoping and when to give up hope seems impossible to know. Perhaps giving up hope is not the solution but rather learning where to place our hope is true wisdom.
Open Hand –
I was speaking with someone this week about what it means to live a life of simplicity and poverty. Both of these are part of the vows I took when I became a Benedictine Oblate (http://www.osb.org/obl/intro.html).
I told him it was best summed up as the philosophy, theology, of “the open hand.” Life is transient. It moves, is never still. All the things and people we love are constantly changing, growing, getting older, decaying. Sooner or later we say; “Goodbye” to all things, even ourselves.
To live with an open hand it to allow and accept when any and all things come into our life. We do not grasp, possess, control but let them stay for as long or as little as they’d like to or can. Then, all things leave. They go away, decay, are fickled, stay for a season, die. As the remnants of what was, blows from our hands, we accept the truth that nothing is forever. We are blessed not because we have but because we experienced and this is enough. The experience changed us, taught us to love openly and to be reminded us there is nothing which is ever truly; “ours.”
To live with an open hand instead of gathering, collecting, hoarding, imprisoning we become detached to all that is only for a moment, and so make ourselves available to be held by the one who is eternal.
Someone asked me last week; “How long does it take to heal a broken heart? How long before you’ve moved past the pain, betrayal and loss? How long before it doesn’t hurt any more?” I wearily smiled and replied; “I’ll let you know, as soon as it happens.”
The act of forgiving someone is more than saying the words; “I forgive you.” It is a head and heart change, a spirit and emotional shift that takes time. Forgiveness is a process, a journey, which begins with some of the most difficult steps we can ever make. When someone has consciously, purposefully wounded us, torn apart a relationship, chosen to grievously harm us, there is no; “quick fix” prayer, magical spell or shortcut to a place of healing. To forgive is to make the choice to move on, not hold on to the bitterness and heartache, to allow the offending party and yourself to be free, and this choice is repeated many times.
The path of forgiveness is at first a downward spiral. We journey deep into ourselves and come face to face with the pain caused by the other. We admit and accept the hurt which has been done to us. We then bring the injury into the light by talking about it with someone we trust, someone who can help us navigate the path from brokenness to wholeness. Depending on the depth of the wound, healing, forgiveness, could take years. Remember it is a choice to let go of the blame, the pain and the burden of carrying around an act of selfishness, carelessness and callousness done to us by another. The choice is to hold on to the hurt or embrace freedom of mind, body and spirit. The decision might be made countless times until the impact of the betrayal is finally, permanently, all gone and we find the long, hard path to restoration complete and worth it.