Now, why would Christ have gone and said that, about the walking wounded? What might he have seen that we are missing completely? What exactly is so blessed about the agonizing journey of grief, that awful and all-consuming process of coming to terms with a damnable, incomprehensible fact: the always-present felt absence, forever, of one without whom life cannot be imagined?
“Blessed?” Thank you no, I’ll pass. That’s one club I sure don’t want to be part of. Yet I am, for I have loved, and loved well.
“…His mother loved him dearly, and used to rock him to sleep with her trunk, singing to him softly the while.” The Story of Babar
The greater the love, it seems, the more intense the sadness at its loss, the sharper and more various the shards of its ruins. There are no words for the whole experience, really. Those suddenly left bewildered in that desolate landscape wander within the shadows of a night that seems beyond the cycle of coming daylight, and thus unnatural and out-of-place. They are “mad with grief” in the words of the late great Paul Monette, and beyond real consolation. They are paying the price of their love.
Yet we have no clue how to help get them there. All we find at hand are cliches in clusters, misunderstandings, and judgmental pronouncements that may be easy to pass, with the best of intentions, yet serve no useful purpose. The Human heart must rate high among the most mysterious of things. It is strong and deep. It is amazingly resilient. And utterly fragile.
I have lived through it myself. In a very real sense, when Scott took his last breath that morning I died too. At least the “me” I had always known. A new journey had begun, birthed in pure mystery and thus one of great power, that is still very much always unfolding, taking shape. Along the way I have come to understand that some part of my purpose is to help others lost in grief, those inexplicably “left behind,” those now feeling as pain the love that should have died along with their beloved, but (most cruelly) did not.
“Oh, Paul,” she wrote me in one of her beautiful, nearly illegible letters from California, “You really can’t know what it’s like.” My first reaction was to bristle, ever so slightly. “How can she say that?” Then, I settled down and stopped to listen to the thought she’d expressed. I realized, “That’s true, I really cannot.” Each experience of grief must be unique, exactly as much so as the relationship that gave it birth. So I wrote to her and said, “That’s true, Carol. I thought about what you said, and you are absolutely right. If each love is unique, and they certainly are, then so must be a survivor’s experience of its loss.”
“But for that very reason and in that same sense, Carol,” I wrote,” with all due respect, you cannot ever really understand the nature of my loss.” And it seemed true; it seemed to address her unspoken cry.
This is the way it is. We are all in the experience, together and alone.
But as I see it, It is love that led us into this mess and it is Love that will see us through. I feel more than I see, and know more than I understand. But this I see, feel, and know.
“Blessed are they that mourn,” he said. Blessed how?? Maybe because this is the human plight: the highest and best that we can hope for is to be left utterly heartbroken. Because the greatest dream that guides and lifts us is that one day (and may it be soon, we pray) we will find the one that will complete and fulfill us. Yet we cannot, need not, really forget that all things are temporary, and that as a matter of certainty death will part us, sooner or later. Is it not insane to give ourselves over in love, fully and without reservation, knowi
ng the rules of the game? Part of us pales and gasps Yes!, while another deeper, more ancient voice says No, it is all right. It is in love alone that we are to seek our salvation. Relax: we have no choice. We are here to live, not engage in a decades-long preparation for our deaths.
If we are only here for a while, let’s not keep fear as our chosen companion. It offers no real safety, anyway. And it cannot keep us warm at night, or give us a reason for awakening with gladness unto a new day.
Blessed are they that mourn, indeed. For they have not only loved, as in past tense. They love still, though they may be enshrouded in pain unbearable with no hope visible on the horizon, and have no idea what to do with their love. My God! How they love. And their longing is not in vain. It may be heard in Heaven like the most sweet, soft kind of music. Received as a parched flower bed drinks in the falling rain. Received as a prayer.
But for those that mourn, especially, Heaven or anything remotely like it can seem impossibly far away. It is for these people, the lost and love-scarred, it is for myself and for you that I have told my story. I have written a book about my journey of life and death, about finding and losing my soul mate, and then (much to my astonishment) finding him again, forever. It is a story about healing, and the presence and everyday involvement of angels. Its essential message is Listen to your heart: it will tell you, sure and certain as your heartbeat: Love never dies. Follow love where it leads you, holding nothing back. This is what we are here for, and somehow, some way, all shall be well.
Maybe not exactly the way you might imagine it (but then again, what ever has been?), but all right. I have learned that Death ends a life, but not a relationship. And holding on to that assurance in your heart, still and small, can change everything.
My book is called Death is an Impostor: Life, Death, and the Path of the Heart.
I will start sharing it, here.