The Tapestry of Life and Death

As I scroll through the postings made by friends on Facebook, I see familiar kinds of postings — status updates, as they are called.  One may comment about a parent’s death, another on the passing of a cousin, another on the anniversary of a loved one’s home-going.  While people often joke about the preponderance of cat videos on social media, it’s rarely acknowledged that social media is also a place to memorialize the loss of loved ones.

While some people go for decades without experiencing the loss of loved ones, many of us have experienced the passing of family members and friends far too often.  In time, there may come a point in life when it seems as though we’ve lost more intimate companions than we have left.  No matter how many years it may be since a loved one has died, we carry tender places within us for those who have passed from our lives.

The process of bereavement is more than just accepting that someone has died.  After several months, we generally grasp the reality that once someone was here and now they are not.  What’s more complicated is the loss of the companionship shared with those who were part of the fabric of our lives.  These relationships are never replaced.  Instead, they leave a hole that’s never quite filled.

When the companion who passed from this life is very significant to us, we carry vivid memories of the loved one twenty, thirty, or forty years after their passing.  Perhaps in a dream we can hear the person’s laugh or in an old song hear the person’s voice.  We find ourselves telling stories about the time we did this thing or the other with our loved one.  It’s truly a perplexing experience when remembering a companion brings happiness for what we shared with them and deep sadness that they have passed from this life.

Counselors, therapists, and social workers often talk about grief recovery.  Let’s be honest: there is no real recovery.  Instead, we reorganize our lives without our companion.  We carry on with our own lives. Simultaneously, we hold within us the feelings of loss which become something of a memorial of those so important to us.  The importance of companions who have passed from our lives remains with us and memories of our connections to them remain very much alive.

As the spring season unfolds, I find myself reflecting on my yard and garden while remembering people who helped to make my life what it is.  Remnants of dead leaves and brown grass remain from autumn. At the same time, shoots of new grass sprout and flowers bud.  The new growth pushes away the foliage which has died.  How similar this is to the loss of people I have loved.  While I am aware that they have died, something life-giving about what was shared with them springs up within me as I remember them.  They remain very much a part of me.  I experience their presence and at some deep level feel them with me.  From beyond the grave, I am aware of their love and care for me.

Life and death are surely mysteries.  While we act as though they are separate things that unfold in linear time, in fact life and death are both present with us as one interwoven experience.  As Einstein noted, our sequential experience of time is an illusion. All things are present in the now.  That’s indeed how I experience my loved ones who have died:  yes, they are gone, but they remain with me and remain part of my life.  I am thankful that my beloved companions remain with me. Perhaps you experience this mystery as well.

As I read status up-dates on Facebook about the passing of loved ones, I extend condolences and offer prayers of support.  I also recognize that people are creating virtual memorials of their companions by making the postings.  In time, they are likely to discover living memorials for loved ones as memories and emotions continue to weave the presence of their loved ones through the fabric of their lives.  In time, experiences of life and death weave a rich tapestry within us.


Photo credit: Wonderlane via / CC BY

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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