Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
This month death gut-punched our family—the kind of blow that leaves you bent over and gasping with shock and pain. Our son-in-law was only 44 years old, the father of three children under 14 years old. His was what is called a line-of-duty death, a law enforcement car crash complicated by the fact that inappropriate, excruciating stress contributed. Death frequently feels unjust.
When I wrote the novel DEATH LOST DOMINION recently, I almost surprised myself when I looked at my manuscript and realized I had written about the way in which unconditional love makes the tragedies of life bearable. Perhaps the novel was a kind of premonition, because the unconditional love of many family members, friends, and strangers buoyed the bereaved family through this week.
I could tell you about what it’s like to be a part of a giant ceremony, one that was bigger than any individual, one that honored all those who give their lives for strangers. Participation was a huge honor, almost overwhelming. But the dignity and honor weren’t the only important aspects.
How does anyone survive having a loved one cease to be in the middle of what should have been an ordinary day? How does anyone survive watching beloved children sobbing with grief? Only unconditional love helps. Gifts of food, flowers, donations, and letters of sympathy and empathy arrived from all over the country. Lost friends, family, and co-workers found ways to send condolences. Not only the deceased, but also the members of the surviving family were embraced with love and prayers. As our long funeral entourage traveled through the town, one woman stepped out of her house to cross herself in prayer for us. A man dropped the hose he was using to water his lawn to hold his hat over his heart. We met very few strangers in the sea of faces—almost no obligation in place of sincerity. Grief binds us into a global family of vulnerable human beings.
Death reminds us that we rent spaces in this life, spaces from which we will one day be evicted—hopefully to a grander dimension. We are reminded that the world around us holds millions of wonderful people who should outshine those filled with hate and selfishness. Death strips away pretense. What we see underneath the veneer of people may be ugly, but it’s often glorious, bright, and hopeful.
Believe in unconditional love, because I’ve seen it. I know it exists. Each kind thought matters. Each person who takes a moment to care about someone else is important. You don’t have to be beautiful, rich, or accomplished. You’re here to spread the best of you around in any great or small way you can. And the people with whom you share that gift are blessed.
We who are bereaved thank you who were there for us in thought or presence for the love, for the balm. May we have the strength to pay it forward.