As I chanced upon my neighbour in the supermarket this morning, her usual cheerful happy countenance had been replaced by a sombre, sad face, and I asked, as I always do, ‘How are you?’
In her soft, quiet tone of voice, barely above an audible whisper, she replied, ‘Not so good’.
Living in this busy, fast-paced modern world, it is so rare that someone admits, with openness to what they are really feeling. I know that I too am guilty of guessing and second guessing my emotions, before I typically brush all negativity aside and respond with ‘I’m great!’
And so I paused, took an hopefully imperceptible deep breath and asked, ‘What’s happened?’
Her story comes tumbling out, barely is there time for a breath before her tears start falling too. Her sister, several thousands of miles away, has passed away, shockingly, suddenly.
Her sister’s story
She had travelled to Cape Town, from St Helena, for laser surgery to her eyes, when the doctors determined that they needed to check her heart. It turns out she required a heart by-pass surgery, that they performed. Unfortunately she never fully recovered from the surgery and after two days, she passed away.
And so it leaves my dear friend, thousands of miles away, heart-broken and grief stricken, believing that she could have made a difference. ‘If only I were there,’ she said, more than once.
And although she thinks her grief is for her sister, it was in that really inspired teaching moment, that I came to realise, her grief was never only for her sister.
Her grief was also for herself
– the moments she believed things could have been different, if only she was there.
– the words that could have been said, if only she was there
– the love she could have held on to, if only she was there
and now that her sister was gone, all these possibilities were seemingly extinguished without any hope of ever being rekindled.
And so as I asked her, ‘In life, is this what your sister would have wanted you to feel?’
With a barely visible slow shake of her head, she said, ‘But I just wish, I could have seen her.’
And so here, with a close, heartfelt hug, I shared all that I knew, all that I was certain of.
1. Open the door to tears and pain and grief but know, know that the person or people you mourn for are perfectly fine, happy, healthy and free
There’s nothing wrong with crying, with feeling despair, sadness or grief.
Embrace each emotion, embrace each experience, but know that the pain you feel is but within yourself.
In time, all will be well again.
2. You choose everything that you believe
I said to her, ‘Your sister is free, she is happy and she is well now. Cry for her, mourn for her, if you must, but know that she does not need it.’
She asked, ‘I don’t know. I cannot yet believe that she is in joy and happiness, how do you do it?’
‘You see,’ I explained, ‘we have a choice. We can choose to believe that she is well and happy and experiencing the most joy she has ever felt. Or, we can choose to believe that she is in pain and in suffering and that she is being punished. When faced with these choices, which one would you choose?’
And through her tears, she nodded and whispered, ‘I would choose that she is happy.’
3. Let death be not a parting, but a celebration of the joy of a life well-lived
I have come to believe that there is nothing lost in death, for we are merely on our own journeys and life adventures. Death is but the beginning of yet another exciting adventure.
And so, I left my friend, I hope a little more calm, a little more soothed but also realising that I had learnt so many more lessons for myself in that brief encounter.
Take care, be well, and remember, live, live in celebration of your own life every day.
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