BY JACKIE HOOK
For many, today is a day that involves gifts. As members of the Learning to Live: What’s Your Story? Initiative, we want to share some of the gifts we’ve received through our journeys from loss. Even though we’ve experienced loss, we’ve found gifts along the way and hope that you can, too.
My experiences with loss have taught me that everything is a gift — this helps me appreciate what is before me each day. These experiences have also shown me that, as Meister Eckhart said, “Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow then this light is nearest to all of us.” It is a gift to me to companion people during their time of darkness.
Below, members share thoughts from their journeys from loss.
Jacki Hunt: I miss my mother so much, especially in the late fall and early winter months. The journey has been tougher than I ever thought because Alzheimer’s took her away 10 years before she died. But as the years have passed, the awful memories of her last decade have gradually receded. I chuckle as I remember something she said, or find myself doing something exactly like she did. The gifts I’ve received — acceptance, gratitude and peace.
Diana Malcom: After many years living with the debilitating effects of Parkinsons Disease, my mother spent the final weeks of her life in Valley View Haven where some of the most gifted caregivers gently helped her prepare for the next stage in her life’s journey. Our family was gifted by the ways they honored her needs, and as they equipped us to surround her lovingly as she began to leave us. These liminal days were strangely beautiful and precious.
Ben Wideman: Whatever gifts I acquired through grief are only valuable when I claim them for my own. Early in my grief journey people told me I was capable of more empathy, love and compassion, but I was unwilling to listen. After all, I would have traded those characteristics to have not struggled. It is only through time that I have been able to embrace the person I have become, empowered by those who walked beside me.
Evelyn Wald: The greatest gift is my vocation/calling to be a grief counselor. It has been/is a privilege to be a companion on the grief journey. I am a better listener because of grief.
Pam Lehrman: Loss is never a gift. No one wants to lose someone they love, whether through death or broken relationship.
This season I pause: what has working through loss given me?
Growth. In spite of a previous desire to wither.
Gratitude. Oft-used buzzword now signifying the little things aren’t so little.
Grounding. Buffeted for a time, I’m now resolute.
The gift is learning that life doesn’t always give us what we ask for or expect. Life is what we make it.
Kim McGinnis: Alzheimer’s robs us of our living loved one. It steals their mind of what once was and what never will be again. It has taught me to not take time for granted, to live in the moment and to appreciate the times I have with my mother — the good and the not so good. It has also shown me that I have a support system and must be able to ask for help. Being able to empathize and be in the moment with others is truly a gift.
Alicia Anderson: My experiences of loss and grief have taught me compassion and insight into the pain and struggles of others. I can more easily see the mix of emotions people face while grieving, and sometimes I am able to invite them into conversations about sorrow since I have been there, too. Though every loss is different, and everyone goes through each loss in their own way, there is a comfort to finding companions in our grief.
Jackie Hook is a spiritual director and celebrant who coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program with Koch Funeral Home and a member of the Learning to Live: What’s Your Story? initiative. This column is coordinated by www.ltlwys.org whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.