Within the past two years, I’ve lost two important women in my life through sudden death and terminal illness respectively. Both of my losses are very much a loss of sisterhood. The kind of bond that will stay on my skin till the day I die, a love that redefines. As they say, love is the end of a previous self, and I am not sure what I would have been had I not experienced this transformative love and loss.
The force of bereavement can sometimes be so intoxicating, one wonders if one will be permanently damaged from its effects. And then the sun filters in the room, disinfects the cobwebs of melancholia and a process of acceptance takes over. Both phases occurs intermittently, it is hardly ever a linear progress of the latter succeeding the former. Recently, in order to make use of such loss productively, I’ve been trying to clarify to myself on what were their strengths, as human beings, and how do I keep striving to emulate their goodness while I’m still given a chance at life.
Altruism. This is not a common goodness. It is easier to be kind and generous than to be truly altruistic. It seemed effortless, there was never a morale fight within when making daily decisions. Whatever was for the betterment of others, would be the obvious choice. Walking around in the middle of a winter’s night in a strange city to an unknown address, just so she could deliver home made soup to a classmate (me) who was having a cold. Driving long distances to send guests home, late at night. Finding solutions for the difficulties of personal friends and suffering populations during their own debilitating ill health. Refraining from speaking ill of others in order to protect the reputation of friends and foes, even if that meant they would themselves be perceived negatively.
Brave. Their bravery was closely connected to their altruism. If bravery was required so that others could benefit, then brave they needed to become. If that meant one had to risk the wrath of a police state, in order to find the displaced and undocumented, then this would be the obvious path to choose. If that meant confronting the establishment, in order for the truly destitute to be protected, then confrontation was inevitable. There was also the bravery of facing one’s ill health, on a day to day basis. Both were diagnosed with grim medical conditions in their youth, yet both kept pushing forward with hope, sturdy in their belief that whatever was destined, would be celebrated with dignity.
Patience. Their capacity for patience was best revealed during their illness. Their intelligence, and instinct for perseverance kept them reading, acquiring knowledge and creating possibilities for recovery. Yes, they went through moments of terrible exhaustion, questioning the meaning of their life’s many challenges. But it was always a temporary dip, before they would be back on the horse, galloping towards self-healing. When I reminisce through past conversations and messages we shared, it always astounds me that they were speaking such loving, joyful and hopeful sentiments during very dark periods of their survival. In our spiritual narrative, this is called pure submission.
The reiterating lesson that grief and loss has kept revealing to me is that we are meant to walk with certain individuals in our lives in order to get to a higher version of ourselves. When the bereavement feels pointless, I take solace in a mutual friend’s message – ‘Please take courage, and get restored from this sorrow through the same sense of strength, love, compassion and confidence that (our dearly departed) was incarnating and inspiring in all of us….’. Indeed, each of these most beloved women lived their lives with so much integrity, and wanted their passing to leave us with one main message – use this experience to be a better human being.