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For whom the bell tolls

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

In 2011, the Academy Award for best picture was awarded to the “King’s Speech.” At the age of 73, David Seidler graciously accepted the award, and I will always remember how his speech began. “My parents always told me I’d be a late bloomer,” he said with a chuckle. His statement quickly drew my complete attention because at 52, I could relate.

I have always believed my life had a purpose but at that time, I wasn’t doing much to fulfill it. In some ways, his words provided hope. I had 21 more years before I reached his age. On the other hand, what on earth guaranteed me that somehow, I was owed those years?

Although I plan to live to a ripe old age, thinking that I deserve those years would be overly presumptive. It doesn’t matter how hard I try or diligently take care of myself, each day is a gift but perceived in any other way can be rather arrogant.

Many who have inhabited this planet were not as fortunate to even approach the number of years I have been blessed to live. For any number of reasons, children and young adults had their lives cut short and were taken far too early. As they breathe their final breath, death’s figurative bell rings signifying their life has ended.

This past week, that bell rang for a friend of mine. At 37, she was in the prime of her life. Fortunately, she was not a late bloomer and touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands. Unfortunately, this world also will be less privileged and suffer a huge loss for her passing.

Processing this has not been an easy task. Thankfully, I have not had to deal with too many untimely ends. This one came as a shock and I was determined to give it the full diligence she deserves.

I could easily write about her incredible kindness, unique character, and giving soul. While I will always cherish those memories, I wanted to share how this precious life cut short could impact mine in my remaining years.

As with most tragedies that happen so close to us, I did not want to believe it at first. It was soon reconfirmed when I called a mutual friend and together we spoke of our admiration for her.

Grief is perhaps the most common emotion and typically the one that overwhelms us the most because it is experienced on so many levels. We grieve for never being able to interact with that person again and perhaps for the times we should have treasured those moments more.

The pain can be unbearable but take heart. The more pain we endure merely signifies how deeply we loved that person. It is the risk we take every time we love someone or something. It is the flipside of love and one we’d rather not consider. It is not what we believe the fruits of love should bear, but it is a true measure of how much we loved. If we never want the risk of hurting then we’ll have to choose never to love anyone.

Sometimes a kind of guilt is associated with our grief for not being more thoughtful or considerate of the person we have lost. Likewise, there is the possibility of feeling ashamed because we think our grief is selfish for never being able to see them again. These, and much more confusing and contradictory emotions, are all common in the grieving process.

There is no book spelling out the way you need to experience your grieving. Your feelings are uniquely yours. Although they may be guidelines or studies of what typically occur, the information should not add to your grief because you are suffering in different ways.

Although it can be incredibly helpful to share them with others, do not allow their words to confuse or defeat you. No one should dictate the order, length, or intensity of your emotions during your grieving journey. Although denial is one of the steps we all undergo, we should never deny how we are feeling. Negating or suppressing those emotions will only multiply, concentrate, and fester them to a point where they may hinder us or send us into a depressive tailspin.

Chances are we will never know why these incidents happen. Instead, we can cherish the memories and use them as inspiration to live life to its fullest. That is precisely how she lived her life and I have no doubt she would demand the same from me. If I want to make a difference, then I had better start by taking action and realizing excuses are essentially delaying any progress. Waiting until I am 73 is a choice and not one which I am guaranteed to be granted.

Grief has many faces. The next heartbreak will be different from this one; just as I wouldn’t suggest your grieving process should be conducted in the same manner I have navigated mine. Perhaps the only similarity will be the greater you loved that person, the greater your grief will be felt.

The one constant reminder is that life is precious. If we are vigilant of this, it transforms our perspective. We can view things from many angles, viewpoints, and outlooks. It allows us to evaluate and assess from top to bottom, and side to side.

Interestingly, my friend was working towards a pilot’s license. She frequently posted pictures taken from the airplane sporting spectacular views from the clouds. I’m not sure how close she got to earning her wings, but it was sure enjoyable witnessing her progress.

In the movie, “It’s a wonderful life,” Zuzu Bailey says to her father, “Look daddy, teacher says, ‘every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.’” No doubt, my friend, the bell has tolled for you. You have most definitely earned your wings. No matter if I live beyond the age of 73, I will never forget you and the way you lived life to its fullest.

My thanks to Dimitris Vetsikas of Pixabay® for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

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