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.

Missing John: A Post by Jim

It is only right that an early post in a blog entitled “Grief Helps” should be about my own grief.

John Schneider

John Schneider

My extremely good friend and soulmate, John Schneider, died fifteen months ago. We shared a huge amount, personally and professionally—our separate kinds of knowledge, our complementary interests, our commitment to human caring, our belief in how the Divine can stir in human lives. We shared countless joys, abundant laughter, and not a few rotten jokes. Increasingly, we shared a dream.

We planned to do even more professional and personal collaboration as we approached the later stages of our lives. We would pool our common goals and our individual gifts to create resources for grieving people unlike anything that had yet been created.

This blog would have been one such collaboration. It is now coming into being without our working on it side by side. John would have added ever so much to this endeavor. Only I, perhaps, know how much better this resource would have been were he still alive. Writing this post, I grieve our lost dream. I grieve anew that irreplaceable relationship. I grieve the untimeliness of John’s death.

I spoke at John’s funeral that chilly April day. John’s wife and my good friend Sharon gave me a DVD of that service shortly afterward. Over a year later I still had not watched it. It seemed too painful to view that day’s events, to hear John’s favorite songs all over again, to listen to my own words composed for his hundreds of friends who filled that Traverse City sanctuary.

A few days ago I played that recording for the first time. I was right— it was hard to watch and to listen, as I stood alone in my office, tears streaming down my face. Yet now I also realize, once again, firsthand, how healing such tears can be, how positive even dashed hopes can turn out, and how a person’s spirit can transcend both space and time.

John could not be here in the flesh today as I make this entry in a blog he would have loved. But I have no doubt that John is still here. And I have no doubt that his voice and his influence and his teaching will lie behind all the words and ideas and images and sounds that will appear here in the coming months and years, should I be granted such time on earth.

This is for you, John.