Double Living: A Post by Jim

2 daffs
On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.
Henry David Thoreau

Using language that sounds unusual to our ears today, Thoreau expressed a thought that all grieving people will do well to keep in mind. And while he was writing about the death of a friend, his words apply to the death of anyone close—a spouse or partner, a child or grandchild, a parent or grandparent, a colleague or mentor.

Is it not true that there is a sense in which, following this death that has touched your life in so many ways, that you now have the task—and the opportunity—of performing a double living? Are you not being given the chance to redouble your efforts to make the most of your allotted days on earth, as you live now for them as well as for you?

Whatever promise your loved one’s life held, how might you help fulfill that promise from here? Whatever legacy they left behind, how might you make sure that legacy gets shared as fully as possible? Whatever of significance they stood for, how might you continue to make that stand? Whatever you admired in them, is there not some way in which you can embody that trait in your own way or pass along their wisdom with your own voice?

When you—when any of us—can act in this way, then this double living isn’t a task or a duty at all. It is an act of love. It is an act of continuing love.

And not only will you be the better for it, but so will be the world. And is that not a noble endeavor as you proceed to heal your way through your grief?

Shall Never Lose: A PhotoThought

Photograph of bleeding heart flowers with a quote by Henry Ward Beecher: "What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose."
Select this link for a larger printable version of this PhotoThought.

I believe there is a difference, after a loved one dies, between letting go of that relationship and losing that relationship. We must let go, as time proceeds, of certain aspects of that relationship—its very physicality, its evolving nature growing out of experiencing life’s daily events, its back and forth reciprocity. Life between the two of us can never again be exactly as it once was. We must let go of that kind of a relationship.

But that does not mean that it is impossible for a relationship to exist any longer at all. Our heart operates by a different sort of laws than the purely physical ones. So does our soul. So does the memory part of our mind. We can still sense an undying connection when we gaze at a photograph of them, or a photograph of the two of us together. We can be aware that what we learned through one another lives on, that any love they shared with us is free to be passed on, that any belief they had in us can still be lived out, that some essential part of their spirit is nestled deep inside us, never to leave.

Yes, what the heart once owned and had, and the way it has been led to expand and grow, and the manner in which it so naturally maintains a quiet tie, unbroken by time—all of that the human heart shall never lose. And all of that, and even much more, we shall never lose.

Love Is Eternal: A PhotoThought

Love is something eternal. The aspect may change, but not the essence. Vincent Van Gogh

Select this link for a larger printable version of this PhotoThought.

I composed this PhotoThought several weeks ago when I was feeling in a creative mood. I started with the quotation from Van Gogh, then I selected an image to support his thought. I can still remember the day that image fell into my camera, but otherwise I made no particular association with this PhotoThought.

When I decided to post this today, one association came immediately, surprisingly to my mind. Two people very close to me have died since my father died; my grief for them is much fresher. Yet it was my father who leapt into my consciousness.

I continue to learn about love’s eternity. As I hold the image of my father in my mind right now, I realize that I love him no less now than I did the day he died five years ago. When I compare our life together with other fathers and sons I know, I do not believe the two of us were unusually close. We were different in so many ways; my other two brothers had much more in common with him than I. Yet Dad and I had an abiding appreciation and a deep respect and, yes, a very sure love for one another.

One aspect of our relationship has unavoidably changed: we cannot meet physically. We cannot share ideas and memories and stories as we once did. We cannot kid one another. Yet the changed physicality of our relationship has in no way touched our love. I love him in the same manner, and for the same reasons, and to the same depth that I experienced as we grew older together. And I believe, though I cannot see him these days, that he still loves me too.

Every fiber within my being, many of which came from him, resonate with Van Gogh’s wisdom: the aspect of a significant love may change, but its very essence lives on, undiminished, unvarying. I am grateful that life has shared this lesson with me.