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Archive for the ‘Coping with Death’ Category

The Teeter Totter

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Today is an oddity. It’s still technically summer here in southern California and the past week has seen temperatures in the 90’s, but today is dreary and ashen. The sun was out for less than an hour before being banished behind a thick layer of muted grey clouds, and my open door ushers in a chill wind rather than a warm breeze. And I’m sitting in silence. The chirps and carols of neighborhood birds have been shut out by an invisible blanket of silence, and the splash of color usually seen among my garden from curious butterflies has all but disappeared. Even the spiders have vanished. It’s like the world is falling asleep, but I’m still fighting to stay awake and finish my obscenely long list of things-to-do.

But the pull of the bleak outdoors is sucking me in, and I swear nature is telling me to stop, look around, and pounder the strange ways of the world. Or maybe it’s the inherent oppositeness of the day – me being productive in the fast-paced world of my business, while the weather slows down to a quiet stillness – that draws me toward the idea of balance…

After all, isn’t the world comprised of checks and balances? Doesn’t everything have an opposite; a balance to its extremeness? I can remember sitting in science class as a young boy being told everything has an equal and opposite reaction. Can’t that be applied to everything in life?

Fundamentally, in the ways of the world, we know this reaction to be true. Dark has light, life has death, fire has water…etc. But can’t we also use this law in our personal worlds? If the world is comprised of opposites, shouldn’t the concept also be fundamental in our emotional lives?

For example, in the most basic sense, there are certain times when we’re overbooked in work and things are hectic and crazy; and then there are moments of pure serenity and relaxation. Such things don’t happen in conjunction, but eventually the chaotic world of work is balanced by a vacation. Sure, this is a cause of our actions and choices, but it works in opposites. There are days of laziness, followed by days of productiveness; moments of pain, replaced by the power of healing, etc. Even our emotions are held in check. Selfishness is balanced by kindness, truthfulness fights lying, love combats hate… etc. The list is endless. Like Newton said, everything has an equal and opposite reaction.

So how does this work in our reaction to terrible events that completely alter our worlds? What is the opposite of the emptiness and darkness you feel after you lose someone you hold dear? You can’t simply fill the void with someone else. The people you love hold a part of your heart and that part dies with their death. Is there any way to fix the blackness that remains?

In all honesty, I don’t know what the equal reaction would be. I know death is balanced by new life, but new life can’t eliminate what was taken from you. If anything, it patches a small portion of the hole ripped from your heart. But the void remains. Sure, over the years the pain subsides and the gut wrenching agony simmers to a dull throb, but nothing makes it go away forever. The best you can hope for is for the mend of the time, and to balance the tears of loss with the smiles of good memories.

I guess in the sense of hopeless loss there is no equalizer, no opposite fix. And in a way we remain broken, with patches of new life, time and memories holding us together…

Lessons to Relive Part 3– Lessons of Sundays

Monday, August 20th, 2012

One of the greatest features of life and time is that both always move forward, forcing us to continue even when times are rough. It’s a phenomenon that allows us to conquer our greatest lows, and leave nasty experiences in the past to rot and eventually disappear. So overall, the continuum of life and time is a good thing that ushers in newer and more delightful moments, and teaches us the lessons needed to mature and evolve. But despite all these grandiose results, a dark shadow lurks on the horizon; one that can consume times of gold and turn them into ash, scattering them into the winds of time to be lost forever…

I’m speaking of the sad events that happen to all of us betwixt the folds of life and time; the moment when we allow someone we love and cherish to fade from our memory. It’s a dark event that even we don’t pick up on until something earthshattering occurs like death, or the sharp realization all adults endure when remembering their childhood. But sadly, we can’t go back in time and remedy the neglect we inflicted, or change what we did or didn’t do for that matter. So we’re left with only our memories and regrets…

But sometimes, if we’re lucky enough to sort through the dark haze of guilt and regret, we recognize parts of ourselves that were shaped by those left behind… So those we loved are never truly forgotten.

Sunday Afternoons and Seven-Up

Such a lesson of regret and understanding is poignantly portrayed in Troy Honeycutt’s account of his great uncle. When compiling Lessons From Beyond I was struck by the straightforwardness and no-holds attitude of Honeycutt’s story (as most accounts regarding guilt and loved ones are sugar-coated and whiney). He let his great uncle fade into the past, but found a way to preserve him eternally. And such honesty brings about the greatest lessons in life…

When Troy was child, his Uncle Gene was one of the most influential and important people in his life; not just because of his wealth and prestigious position in the world, but because of his work ethic and values. You see, Uncle Gene was a respected Los Angeles County Judge who had a big house with a pool, took golfing and sailing trips, hosted lavish parties, and had the most impressive set of sunglasses and hats. Troy, on the other hand, was middle-class on a good day, but Uncle Gene didn’t discriminate or acknowledge such superfluous differences, and he loved Troy even though the young boy wasn’t a blood relative, and instilled his values in life whenever the opportunity arose.

And when a youthful Troy mentioned his desire for a TV in his bedroom one fateful Sunday afternoon, Uncle Gene saw an opening to teach the wily boy a lesson in work ethic and pride. Rather than hand over the den television set, Uncle Gene set a price – painting the exterior of house. Now, up until this point in his life, Troy had never completed any chore – the dishes were always put away wet and the lawn was always shabby after being mowed. After all, a child’s own desires are far more important than pleasing the laundry list of chores handed down by parents. But Troy would never admit this level of laziness to his uncle, and set about painting the house every Sunday, and for the first time experienced the pride that comes from a job well done and the satisfaction of good craftsmanship.

It took Troy two years’ worth of Sundays to finish the painting, and knowing that he did a fine job was the ultimate payoff. And then Sundays returned to normal with seven-up, football and popcorn, until Uncle Gene was diagnosed with cancer. Though his uncle fought admirably, the cancer eventually gained the upper hand, and Troy became scared, skipping visits in order to skip the pain on his Uncle’s face. And soon girls, surfing and skateboarding won the upper-hand and Sunday visits stopped altogether…

Uncle Gene passed away when Troy was 17 years old. To this day Troy doesn’t know what day he died as he wasn’t there… Hopefully it wasn’t a Sunday.

Although Troy wishes he could yell at the teenage boy he was and explain how nothing is more important than family, he knows his teenage self wouldn’t listen anyway. Life happens and mistakes can’t be undone, but truth can be found in every dark corner…

Today, Troy builds custom motorcycles and is known for his attention to detail and work ethic. The lessons learned from painting the once formidable house guides him forward, and no challenge is impossible because Uncle Gene believed in him once and he accomplished a feat that seemed unattainable. And so, in a way Troy carries his Uncle with him, for Uncle Gene gave him the confidence to complete any task.

The fact still remains that Troy can’t change the past, but he’s learned to carry the best parts with him – Sunday afternoons with Uncle Gene…

And like Troy, we might stumble and forget those we love in the dust we unsettle, but once the haze clears the parts of true gold remain and are carried forward into the future with the realization that though the past is unchanging, it shapes who we are and thus, can never be forgotten.

Lessons to Relive Part 1

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Remember Your Journey

Lessons From Beyond has been such an amazing gift… there are no words to fully describe the satisfaction, wonder, and state of elation I feel. I have been inspired by the pain and strength of strangers, humbled by the tough choices forced upon friends and family, and amazed by my own personal growth and enlightenment. Each story of the book has been etched into my being where they lie in wait for the perfect opportunity to show face and reiterate the true meanings of life. After all, we all need a pick-me-up from time to time; a small push to keep us motivated through the trials of living…

By remembering the stories of others we keep the lessons learned alive, and they swirl among the chaos of the modern world, becoming bits of truth that ground us in our ever fluctuating lives. Remembrance keeps the stories in circulation, and in time we make them unforgettable.

However, certain tales glow brighter than rest for they touch a cord within our souls and radiate throughout our entire being. And for these special accounts retelling is a necessity…

When Bad Things Happen To Amazing People

Adam, the functioning alcoholic, met Morgan, the alcoholic and drug addict, in rehab. Both carried demons that ripped at their flesh and mind, coercing them into a life of unease and darkness. Rehab was supposed to be their saviors, but instead they found salvation in each other. Their friendship blossomed within the confines of the treatment center, and they became each other’s pillars of support; a post to lean on during the ensuing storm. In all honesty, who better to understand an addict than a fellow addict? And with their combined strength, Adam and Morgan successfully completed treatment and reentered society with the tools and mindset needed to find success.

But despite his personal leaps and bounds (and no doubt resurrection from a place of evil to a position of good), Adam was more amazed as his friend’s turn-around. Morgan had hit a devilishly low rock bottom, where all hope seemed gone and he was on a sure path to self-destruction, but rehab focused his mind, and his drive toward success was flawless. He was working hard to support his loving girlfriend and their soon-to-be baby boy. All were high on life and not prepared for the devastating crash of a silent killer…

It all happened so fast. A pain in his left side manifested into pneumonia, which was soon discovered to be leukemia. The downward spiral careened out of control, and in a few short weeks, a couple days after the birth his son, Morgan succumbed to the cancer…

Death Is Only The Beginning

The tragic, roller-coaster life of an addict ended as many would suspect, quickly, abruptly, and without any remorse. But Morgan’s life was taken by a murderer rather than his own hand. Cancer has no bounds, no rules to govern it by, and it strikes without warning…

Death however, is never the end. We can still find strength in those who are gone and lean on them when times get rough. Their passing brush of reassurance dances unsuspectingly through the wind and touches us with the soft stroke of a guardian angel’s comforting hand.

How they lived is of no consequence, only what they did to brighten our lives and lift our souls…

So whether a politician, musician, garbage man or addict; the test of an individual’s true character is measured by the good they cultivated within others. After all, whether in life or death, we all need a good friend to lean on when the road gets bumpy…

You Are Not Alone – Part 2 of 2

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

The loss of someone truly special, whether unexpected or expected, threatens our livelihood as we find ourselves stumbling to find our balance, searching desperately to cope with the hole ripped out of our hearts and souls. We feel abandoned and hopelessly lost, unable to sort through the jumbled mess of emotions as we spiral deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole…

What do you do when your confidant, friend, lover, father, son, or companion is suddenly gone? No one can possibly fill that black void of despair and longing. After all, it was their unique qualities that pinned you together like a key and lock, matched perfectly to your commonalities and life’s journey. And with their departure, your journey comes to a stand-still and each step forward is agonizing for the weight of the loss pulls you toward the darkness as well…

But what I’ve come to learn, is there are ways to alleviate the burden of loss and once again feel close to your loved ones.

When I lost my father my spirit was broken, and I succumbed to all the tempting perils of an emotional driven, writhing sea.  My thoughts whirled with an abundance of guilt and fear, and I felt myself drowning in the what-if’s and could-of-been’s, unable to shake the feeling that I did something wrong or could of done something more. Rather than accepting the natural progression of life, I took the weight of death upon my shoulders, and I was crumbling fast for death is not something you can fight… It’s the way of the world, and by choosing to live we must accept the fact that we all will die.

There is no shame in dying.

The moment I stopped fighting and let the inevitable sink in, I was finally able to move forward without the shackles of death holding me back. My spirit was suddenly lighter, and I felt almost luminescent for I was finally healed…

And this realization of the beauty of healing led me on this fulfilling path of inspiration and enlightenment. Death may be all around us, but the joys and beauty from those we love are more powerful and dazzling. Fond memories can warm our hearts, and flowers laid by a grave site are magnificent hints of color in an otherwise dreary place. In truth, the simple act of visiting the final resting place of someone we love can bring immediate comfort, for we feel both physical and spiritual closeness.

Each and every time I drive by the memorial park close to my home, the bustling people and bright lights of the city dim, and a wave of serenity washes over me… To witness hundreds of people paying their respects, asking for advice, recounting day’s events, and simply being present is a truly monumental, awe-inspiring sight. Each person has a story to tell, a lesson to impart, or words of wisdom to help lessen the severity of death. It’s a remarkable trait of life that everything comes full circle… the people who suffered from the loss of someone special search for knowledge and understanding to overcome their grief, which they receive from others who once grieved from a similar loss.

Life may be fleeting and delicate, but the conscious network that binds us all together is unwavering and impregnable. When someone departs this world and we are left feeling lonely and hopeless, we must remember that help is readily available from our fellow sufferers. They become the stars blinking in the black, expansive blanket of death, with twinkling rays of hope to guide us through the tough times…

So, as you can see… whether spiritually or physically… We are never alone, and that is something to rejoice in.

You Are Not Alone – Part 1 of 2

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

As each year flashes by in a blink of an eye, it’s hard to discern personal growth, and yet the moments of complete misery and solitude stand apart like lightning bugs in the midnight sky. True, our greatest achievements and triumphs stand at the forefront of our minds’ eye, but the instances when we are stripped down to our most intimate fears and anxieties never leave us. These are the times when we feel completely vulnerable and utterly alone… And why is that? Why do we always assume we are alone in our struggles? It’s a tragedy that everyone suffers, and only in moments of complete clarity do we remember that we are never truly alone.

I too experience bouts of helplessness and self-pitying emotions of loneliness. True, it’s in the comfort and solidarity of my office or home (as it is with all of us), but nonetheless I’m brought down by my anxieties and fears. Stress from work, pressure from family and friends, and obligations to co-workers and partners all culminate in one giant ball of tension, setting my nerves on end.

And during these moments of extreme external pressure we all succumb to the negativity and sink into darkness…

Unknowingly our minds spiral us into the depths of despair and invoke memories of anguish, adding intense emotions from tragedies past into the jumbled mess of our current dilemmas. Some of us cry, others stare into the distance lost in the onslaught of pain, or some of us get angry… Like the brash and emotionally driven adolescents we once were, we get angry at the loss of self-control, livid that circumstances are not proceeding according to our will, and infuriated at the overwhelming sense of loneliness.

We are transported back to the worst of the worst, the root of our anguish, the lowest of the low… It is the moment when we lost everything; the moment when a loved one past from this world into the next. And then, our despair is no longer just a reaction to the mundane stressors of life, it becomes an embodiment of our past agony, and once again a sense of helplessness settles in.

But in places of such darkness, all one needs to do is search for that glimmer of hope; the light at the end of the tunnel…

The ultimate truth is we are never alone. Memories of family and friends are kept alive through the simple act of remembering. They are living aspects of us for they touched our souls and we will carry their imprints forever. To a certain degree, the age old cliché of “gone but never forgotten” holds value and an undying truth. As long as we take moments to remember, those we lost will continue to thrive within our minds’ eye.

So when negativity, stress, anxiety and gloom rein terror on the mood and atmosphere, just remember to look inward to find a saving grace. Take a second to just breathe and decompress, releasing the bad to find the good, and realize you are not alone in your struggles.

It’s a lesson that goes straight to the heart. When you’re at your wits ends and have no answers left and the pain of the past comes rushing in, take control and let the spirits of those lost lift your soul…

So as I sit here at my cluttered desk, annoyed that I can’t find my pen or the stapler in my mess, I pause and let the memories of those I love flit across my mind… and a smile spreads across my face because I am not alone, and people I lost really aren’t that far out of reach either…

 

 

Beautiful Words of Wisdom Part 2 of 3

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

The Tragic Loss of a Loved One

Throughout my life I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and create memories with a vivid array of inspirational people.  I’ve worked and collaborated with well-known actors, musicians and artists, as well as having provided advisement for numerous captains of industry.  Some of them possessed wonderful insights which they were ready to impart at a moment’s notice, while others played their cards a whole lot closer to the chest…

So one of the many things I’ve learned thus far, and what my interactions with people continue to teach me, is that no matter who, what or where you are in the world (or for that matter, what stage of life you’re at) every single one of us possesses an array of wisdom which needs to be shared.

Imagine for a moment what our society would look and be like if all of us did this… If we didn’t have to constantly repeat the mistakes of past generations… Or fail to see the lessons that are staring us right in the face…

Everything would be better.

Fairer, and more just…

We’d all be striving toward self-actualization, instead of speeding down the chaotic road that far too many of us are on these days.

Until we all collectively forge a brilliant effort to share and unite the dazzling lessons we’ve already picked up, there’ll always be an achingly painful amount of us who continue to stumble.

Some will merely lead an unlucky life where they go through it being their own worst enemy, while others will pay the highest cost and those who’re closest to them will be forced to suffer the tragic loss of a loved one.

A Powerful Bout of Grief   

The most devastating piece of news I received during my trip was that my cousin had passed away.  Only a handful of years older than I, he died suddenly of a heart attack… Upon hearing this I was so stricken with a powerful bout of grief that for awhile I felt physically ill.  But as the hours began to pass and I had time to process the news, unfortunately I had to accept the sad notion that this didn’t really surprise me.

Accepting and Facing the Reality of Death and Dying

My cousin was a good and genuine soul who was full of energy, but his lifestyle was just too hard on the body.  All the drinking and smoking eventually caught up with him, so the truth of his tragic demise is simply that it was brought on far too early by his own reckless behavior.

But even now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I just can’t believe that he’s gone.  The night that I heard the news I decided of course to stay in.  After having a quiet meal I returned to my hotel room and spent the better part of the evening on my balcony in downtown Kiev, gazing out into the deep Ukrainian night sky.

My thoughts bounced around from the times we spent together growing up to the moments we shared as adults… But I didn’t do this the way most people do.  I thought of all the good times as well as all of the bad, which I’ve always felt one must do in order to keep life in perspective.  All of the memories you accumulate with someone matter of great deal, and I didn’t want to lionize or tarnish his image by cherry-picking how I was going to remember him.

I wanted everything at the forefront of my thoughts because if you don’t accept and face the reality of death and dying, it’s going to be virtually impossible to truly live.