Approximately 6 months after my wife passed away, when I was still deeply grieving and attending therapy, the parent of a good friend of mine passed away. I found myself at the first funeral since my wife had died and the hollow empty feeling I felt took days to shake. Since then I have attended other funerals for parents of friends, grandparents of friends, even direct friends. And these early funerals I attended left me feeling broken and grieving inside – I could put myself right there in the shoes of those families. I had touched the coffin, I had seen the shroud, felt he cold skin of the departed and felt the anguish that I could see on their faces. But I believe that I have reached a new place through a personal philosophy I adopted in the years before my wife actually died.
In the last 4 years of my wife’s life as the cancer really began to take hold, I found that I buried myself in caregiving. Subsuming a great portion of myself in order to make sure she was fed, took her medication, was bathed or carried down the stairs gently. My wife once warned me that if I was not careful I could lose a portion of who I was in becoming so involved in making everything good for her with the time she had left.
And do you know? I did, I left behind anger and frustration. I left behind narcissism and greed. I left behind corporate ladder chasing. And I found compassion. Kindness. Love. And probably most importantly my true and genuine self. I did not consciously set out to become the man I am today. But through the horrible things that twisted themselves into my life, I came out the other side of it changed but clearer. Not perfect, but honest about myself and my failings.
I believe that it is through my daily practice of kindness, genuine-ness (whether a word or not), and compassion that I have survived and flourished. I will always have the scars from the period I went through, but by becoming my true self I have become whole once again. By practicing compassion over the last 2 years since my wife’s death in the form of feeding the homeless, helping orphans, giving direct aid from my hand to those who need it, paying for a surgery for a child I will never meet far away in Lebanon, giving a smile, holding open a door – this is what heals me. And there is a world out there for me to discover and I am not afraid to sail into any waters or try any path. I am present, here and now – the future has potential but is a novel unwritten and the past is lost in darkness – It is here in this moment that I can make a difference.
Today I went to a double funeral. And I felt those familiar pangs of sorrow. But they were pangs of sorrow as empathy for a family who lost someone precious to them and to their life. This woman who lived a full and long life full of tragedy and triumph, was born more then half a century before I was born and even in that distant time was surrounded by those who loved her on a distant shore. And I was privileged to have been with those who loved her at the close of her life. It was an honor.
I was at a funeral, and I was confident and resolute. And I knew today in that moment that I was healed. And now I can move forward towards a brighter future then I ever believed possible.