“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them.” – James O’Barr
With the holidays in full swing, along with party planning, gift buying, meal preparation and such on top of regular responsibilities, it may seem that little time is left for personal reflection. But when all the noise and activity cease, those quiet moments may prompt intense feelings of loss for those who are no longer with us. Indeed, the holidays are often a time of great sadness because we so miss our loved ones.
They will, however, always live on with one simple, yet extraordinarily powerful act on our part. If we continue to love them, to keep them in our daily thoughts and prayers, to mention their names, relate stories and recall the good times we had as well as the bad, they will live on.
Granted, this isn’t always easy to do. Sometimes the pain is so fresh that it hurts too much, or so we think. The bitter sting of loss, of profound grief, is at first a wave, then a rush, then gradually tapering to a dull ache that never seems to leave. Reflecting on the life of the loved one who’s gone will help ameliorate that sorrow, help heal the pain and keep the memory alive.
I know this from experience, and believe it with all my heart. When I lost my father, I had just entered my teens. He was the light of my life, my mentor and guide, my inspiration and teacher. I always knew I could come to him with any problem, fear, hurt or confusion and he would help me through it. Similarly, when I experienced triumph and successfully overcame a difficulty, he was there to celebrate victory with me. No wonder I was so devastated when he died suddenly from a massive heart attack. I felt that pain for years, yet I woke each day with a vivid memory of his vibrant existence, felt his abiding love and knew instinctively that he was looking out for me.
Years later, I lost my brother and then my mother, one from a heart attack, the other after a protracted illness. The pain was intense at first, then subsided over time to a dull ache. It never gets any easier to go through the wrenching pain of loss of a loved one. The only solace — again, drawn from experience — is to keep their memories alive. It helps ease the sting, even if only temporarily, and is a step on the road to healing.
So, at the holiday table or quiet get-together party with one or more others, why not join hands in prayer, solidarity or recognition of all the blessings we have? Include in our thoughts and words those who aren’t physically at the table but remain firmly in our hearts. Acknowledge them, thank them for what they’ve given us, and pledge to love them forever. Being grateful for the time that we had with them is profoundly uplifting.
Keep in mind that love is never permanently extinguished. Unlike breath, or life itself, love endures across time and space. It may be bruised or buried under feigned indifference or cloaked by denial, but it is always there. You may think you will never be able to love again or feel that you must keep your true thoughts hidden, lest you show vulnerability and risk crushing sorrow. Though this may be your initial thought, know that you can and should get past this.
Furthermore, if you among those who believe in the hereafter, you also know that the love you hold in your heart for those who’ve gone before you will be reciprocated. Across time, beyond this dimension — nothing is impossible. Even if you think that life here on earth is all there is, holding love for your deceased loved ones and friends will fill you with solace and peace. There is no downside when you love them forever.
So, love them forever. Especially now.