Friday, August 13, 2010

Forks in the Road

I feel like I've been in a super-intensive course on life in the last couple of weeks since my brother died. I've learned so very much- about what's really important, what's not, about the human condition, and what paths lead to the most peace. Here are some musings:

I've learned from my brother that moments and relationships are not to be neglected. You'll never regret loving investment in the lives of others. You may regret busyness, time wasted, self-indulgent isolation (ahem, guilty)but never the smiles, hugs and meaningful contact.

I've learned that success at the end of this life really is measured on how determined you are to keep trying, and giving what you have to give. You don't need to be someone flashy, super financially successful, or with really prestigious responsibilities at church to be greeted as a heroic finisher of this test.
I'll never forget the look on my brother's face when I first saw his body. He hadn't been 'doctored' up yet, and it was a very emotionally and physically raw experience. I looked into that precious, familiar face. I saw the most beautiful hint of a smile. There was such peace, such pride and satisfaction. There was a powerful witness that this good man had finished his mission successfully.
Knowing my brother so well, and we were confidants, knowing his struggles, frustrations and weaknesses, has really helped me to see my life in a different way. I've learned that feeling discouraged at your progress in life, feeling weak or ineffectual, feeling like you are nowhere near where you should be in any given area, is just part of the human condition. It is part of this mortal state that we all will leave behind when we leave this life. It's not a sign of failure or spiritual retardation- it's just life. If I'm waiting to feel totally on top of things- to feel like I'm finally picking up speed and cruising along this highway of life- as a sign that I've "made it", I'll be waiting in dread my whole life. That's just not what this life is about.

I'm learning so much about grief. Right now, my favorite scripture is Isaiah 61:3. It talks about mourning in Zion, which I take to mean placing your grief at the feet of the Lord, and letting Him do what he can with it. If we're willing to do this, and forgo regrets, blame, and anger, He promises us "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." I have really, truly felt these promises come true for me. Not all the time, but enough to get through the day. The best promise is in the next sentence: "that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord." To me, this means that my family's spiritual roots will grow so deep, that this experience will give us strength and faith that will last generations.

I've also realized that every time something hurts us, disappoints us, or messes with the way we think life should be, it's like a fork in the road. We're presented with a choice, whether we're conscious of it or not. I was most aware of this during our journey to the funeral. Something had gone wrong, and it hurt. I let a few tears out, then there was almost a voice in my head. "You can choose to be hurt, or you can choose peace." I was perfectly justified either way. As soon as I was conscious of that fork in the road, it was easy to choose peace. I immediately felt better. I could let it go. I was aware today of another fork in the road. Today was a hard day, and I was feeling the loss very keenly. I spent hours on Michael's facebook page throughout the day. I pored over pictures, watched videos over and over. A friend stopped by, and our conversation turned to the heavy burdens she was carrying. My weight of grief lifted as I showed love and concern. There came that voice again, whispering that I could choose. I could turn inward and make a meal of my pain and loss, or I could open my heart and turn outward and find relief in caring for others. Again, I could be justified either way. That was a pretty powerful lesson for me.
This hasn't been easy. It really hurts. I'm so grateful though, really flooded with gratitude for the help, the peace, the little messages that all is well. Michael has proven to still be the caring brother he was in life. I've learned so much about him, about what is important to him, in the help and little 'jobs' we've been given. I've never been more sure of life after death. I've never been less afraid of death. I really, truly look forward to the day when we're together again.