Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scrubbing stains and memories

The stain in the carpet came back this week, stubbornly marking the spot where a man last touched his home. He fell, bleeding and unable to rise, and died in the hospital a few hours later. One year ago today.

I hated that stain when it was fresh; it reminded me daily of what I had lost. So I scrubbed that spot over and over with every product I could find, until finally it faded. For a while.

My sharp memories of that awful night -- and the long illness that led to it -- faded as well, though more slowly. There's no cleaning solution for the brain, so instead I looked often at pictures of him as he used to be, with wavy hair and full beard, before chemo left him bare as a newborn. The mind-scrubbing worked well enough that when I recently saw a photo taken during his illness, it startled me.

Now and then I run across pictures from that time, but I don't seek them out. I don't hang them on the wall. It's not that I want to forget; I just don't want to be trapped in the raw emotions of that night, any more than I wanted to preserve that stain.

I'll bet we all know people who have become so attached to their pain that it becomes their identity. They live in the past, nursing resentments and regrets. They loudly proclaim their misery, while clinging to it as if to a lifeline.

One of the great gifts of the spiritual journey is learning that although misfortune is inescapable, misery is optional. That you are more than the circumstances of your life. That there is a Source of light and healing. That when you live fully in the present moment, there are no regrets for what was or fears for what will be.

Just a stain to be scrubbed.

I can deal with that.


Anonymous said...

I still struggle with grief from my parents dying 68 days apart a few years ago. Why is it that there are support groups to deal with the loss of a child, but none to deal with the loss of a parent? I keep hearing over and over again that there is no loss greater than the loss of a child. I beg to differ. I suffered more pain, heartbreak and grief than anyone can imagine when I lost my parents and still suffer to this day. I cannot even bear to look at the household items I have inherited from them; it is simply too painful even now.

Jane Pope said...

I'm sorry for your loss, anonymous. There's no point in comparing which losses are worse than others. Grief is grief.

I hope you can find the support you need to find new life and hope despite your pain.

Lazarus said...

Dear Anonymous and Jane. I'm sorry for both of your losses. The final separation from those we love is the greatest pain we can feel in this lifetime. I agree with Jane. "grief is grief".

I wanted to point you to something that has helped me deal with the death of a loved one. It is a song that was inspired by a lady who's son died of illness at 5 years old. She was asked how she dealt with the pain and she said that her life is Always Blessings and Never Losses. Her son was 5 years of love and joy. Is she going to lose that because he is no longer here? No. Always Blessings, Never Losses.

A songwriter was inspired by these words and wrote a song called Always Blessings, Never Losses, in honor of the Truth in her choice. And we are talking about making a choice here.

You can hear the song on this web page:

I've also included the words here for all three of us today. My brother was my best friend and the one who made it possible for me to survive childhood abuse and get a good start in life. He died at 25. For years the pain of his death overshadowed the beauty of his life and the inspiration he still gives me. Sometimes I felt that turning from the grief was dishonoring the importance of his life. But then I learned it is quite the opposite. The grief is there and will be there. But I can choose to honor the blessings he gave me as they are a lasting legacy and I am so much better for those 25 years.

Here are the lyrics:

is this just another day for you to complain?
or is this a day for you to be grateful for all you’ve gained?
is this the day you lose faith, giving into fear and pain?
or are you thankful for the strength to face another day?

you can change your life by the way you think and feel inside
look for the miracles...

always blessing, (see the best and not the worst)
never losses, (even when you really hurt)
lift your face up to the sky
though it may be in disguise
its always blessings

is this just another day being sad and locked away?
or is this a day for you to learn to laugh right through the rain?
count the moments not the cost
see what was found, not what was lost

faith and hope go hand in hand
i pray today you’ll understand
you can change your life, just open up your eyes
to the miracles, see the miracles!!!!

Always blessing, (see the best and not the worst)
never losses, (even when you really hurt)
lift your face up to the sky
though it may be in disguise
its always blessings