Saturday, March 1, 2014

While You're Away...

"I make the most of all that comes
and the least of all that goes."
Sara Teasdale

Driving about, during the times when deciduous trees have lost their leaves, I am always attracted to empty birds' nests in trees. I certainly would take notice of - and great interest in - them any time of the year, but they usually are not so easily seen. This is quite intentional on the birds' part, but once they're done with them, what does it matter?

For me, as in many things, it leads to interesting thoughts: Where are those particular birds now? Did they successfully raise their young and how many survived? Will they return to the same nest next spring or build a new one? Will I notice that they've returned or recognize them and will I even care by then? After my thinking has run its course on the birds, it turns inward. The birds may not wonder at all about me, but just what will I have done in the time they've been away? It is a thought worth pursuing...
We all suffer some degree of loss in our lifetimes. Relationships change, friends leave, spouses wander, parents and siblings die. The older we get, the more loss we have experienced, and that can become a burdensome thing. For those who believe in some sort of afterlife, there is at least the hint of a promise of reconnection. If the loss was caused by some kind of unresolved differences, there may be a chance of reconciliation - if not in this life, then in the next. If the loss was a person we cared deeply for, perhaps we will be together again someday. No more tears, pain, loneliness, or suffering - all will be well in the hereafter. The trouble is, no one can tell us when that will be and the waiting can be interminable.
While there are a number of different belief systems, those that offer no hereafter surely have ways of dealing with loss, but reuniting after this life would not be one of them. For those who have no belief in an afterlife, what's done is done. In some ways this might seem better, for putting one's life on hold in the hope for a better future "someday" could certainly lead to stagnation and dead ends - no pun intended. A great many poets and others who have ways with words have stated that the past is over and done with and the future is not guaranteed. All we really have is today - here and now. But if we are dealing with loss, how does this help?
I return to my thoughts of the empty birds' nests. To those birds I would say this: "While you've been away, I have remained the same in some ways and changed in others. I have grown, learned, and reached out beyond myself. I have made mistakes, stumbled, fallen, and picked myself up. I have remembered the past, but not remained mired there. I have anticipated the future and moved forward, knowing I may never reach it. I have endeavored to help others, share what I have, see life through their eyes. I have not wasted my life, but have lived it - loved, laughed, sung, danced, and enjoyed those around me. I think of you and remember all that you taught me; my life is richer because you were here."
If I would say that to birds, how much more could I say to those I've lost? The telling does not need to be in words, only in the living of our lives. Whether you believe we'll meet again or not, imagine it is so. LIVE your life - in honor of, or in spite of, those you've lost.  For in the end, this is what truly matters.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while
and then vanishes.
James 4:14