Why I Feel Clearer

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.

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About Alan Howard

Alan Howard is a 40 year old IT Operations Manager working in the greater Atlanta area.
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