Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.--Anne DeLenclos
One of the most famous elegies ever written was "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" by the English poet Thomas Gray. As the poet wandered through a graveyard at twilight in 1750, he ruminated on the meaning of life, the toil of those who achieve and those who don't, the mockery of ambition, the struggle of both the poor and the rich to be happy, and, eventually, what difference it all makes for those whose heads rest "upon the lap of Earth." Not much, Gray decided: simple joys are forever gone, destiny is obscured. "For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn/ Or busy houewife ply her evening care... the paths of glory lead but to the grave."
We should write an elegy for every day that has slipped through our lives unnoticed and unappreciated. Better still, we should write a song of thanksgiving for all the days that remain.
Sometimes we are aware of the poet who dwells within us and registers every precious moment of our lives. More often, however, we move through our days in a fog or a frenzy - until we're startled into consciousness by an unforseen threat to something that we hold dear and have been taking for granted. I call these luminous moments "everyday epiphanies," because they jar us into a profound awareness of how much we have, and how much we have escaped, and how much there is to be grateful for. Through the mystical alchemy of Grace and thanksgiving, what might have become an elegy is transformed into exultation: our own recovery or that of a loved one who has been seriously ill; the overwhelming relief after a child who has wandered off, even for a few minutes, is found, safe and unharmed; a reconciliation after a painful breach; the realization of how lucky we are if we are doing work that we love; the rejoicing that surrounds a long-awaited rite of passage; the enormous satisfaction that comes after completing an overwhelming task; the serenity that awaits us after struggle is abandoned.
Everyday epiphanies encourage us to cherish everything. Today a new sun has risen. Everything lives. Everything can speak to your soul passionately if you will be still enough to listen. "You have to count on living every single day in a way you believe will make you feel good about your life," actress Jane Seymour suggests, "so that if it were over tomorrow, you'd be content."
-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy©1995
The loss of my great-aunt Catherine Agnes this last week was something that, while not unexpected - she had lived 98 years - was met with sadness. No more the sweet smile and twinkling eye. Such a small woman, she lived a large life. Each day to her was joyful, and in her passing through this vale of tears, she touched the lives of many. Rarely did she complain of her lot in life, but rather made the best of all situations in which she was found. And when others in her family had passed on while she remained, she went forth each day with a prayer and a thanksgiving. She went about the job of living in a way that made her feel good about her life, and was, at the end of each day, content. In this manner, she was wealthy beyond measure, and shared her wealth generously. We will miss her.
Grief is draining, sometimes exhausting. Some people need to cocoon for transformation while getting through grief. We may feel more tired than usual. Our ability to function well in other areas of our life may be reduced, temporarily. We may want to hide out in the safety of our bedroom. Grief is heavy. It can wear us down.
To grieve our losses means to surrender to our feelings. So many of us have lost so much, have said so may good-byes, have been through so many changes. We may want to hold back the tides of change, not because the changes are not good, but because there have been so many changes and so much loss.
Sometimes, in the midst of pain and grief, we become shortsighted. Many of us have so much grief to get through that we sometimes believe grief, or pain, is a permanent condition. The pain will stop. Once felt and released, our feelings will bring us to a better place than where we started. Feeling what we feel, instead of denying or minimizing the feelings, is how we heal from our past and move forward into a better future.
Before long, we will take wings and fly.
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