Not long ago, a close friend of mine died. We had been friends since 1956. Our friendship spanned six decades, endured challenges of separation and divergences of experience and interests. Bob Rondeau was my good friend. He is survived by a wonderful, bright, creative woman who had been his wife and soul-mate, also for many decades.
His death brings me pain. His death has brought her infinitely more pain. Where is the light in this scenario? Where does joy come from after such a wrenching and permanent separation as this? It is hard to see. It is hard to imagine. But it will come. I know it will come.
Just as darkness helps us to appreciate light, just as colour stands out when surrounded by black, white and grey, so joy will emerge as a suddenly appearing bright spot in our experience. Should there be guilt attached to experiencing such joy? Bob was not with me to share it. But would Bob have wanted anyone not to have that joy? Silly question, eh? Then too, if one gets the underlying principles of the book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson, even if one holds no religious belief what-so-ever, one cannot be certain that Bob wasn’t there to share the joy. We just didn’t hear his laugh, see his smile, feel that connection with him. Bob’s atomic structure is no longer concentrated and organized in living form. Future connection with him can only be uncertain. Perhaps our memories of him will be our most direct connection with him and even those memories will be increasingly suspect.
Change of this nature is difficult. It is jarring, sad and troublesome. We would never wish it on anyone.
There is a movie called, “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” that shows very clearly that change, itself, is neutral. Even what we regard as very bad news has opportunity hidden within it. Even what seems to be very good news is fraught with danger. Change is inherently neither good nor bad, much as it may seem one way or another when it happens. What we wrestle from change is what we get. People who are open to joy will experience joy.
I can recall standing waiting to catch a bus to work one very cold winter morning in 1981. My car had broken down, and I did not have the money to fix it right away. I was feeling sad about being poor. I was feeling sad about standing in the bitter cold waiting for a bus that was taking its sweet old time. I was feeling sad about the on-going necessity to work my whole life long. Then, instead of looking north, straining to see if the bus might be coming, I looked east and saw a beautiful sunrise through the bare branches in a nearby woodland. My first response was sadness that I didn’t have a long time to dwell on that remarkable beauty.
I didn’t literally give my head a shake, but I might as well have. I was there! I did see that beauty! How long does it take to form a memory? I had it, right then and there! All I had to do was to acknowledge to myself that yes indeed I had seen and appreciated the transient, ethereal beauty of that sunrise. I was open to seeing that which was before me.
I am not trying to equate the loss of a friend with the experience of waiting in the cold for a bus. I am trying to say that when we open ourselves to positive experiences and open ourselves to joy, the more likely it is that we will find what is in our hearts.
Sometimes it takes courage to be here now, to live fully in the present moment. To live in the moment means being open to both joy and sadness. But how we choose to interpret our experience makes all the difference. I strongly recommend, and I hope that I will be able to heed my own advice here, when you are facing hardships, be open to letting joy present itself to you and treasure it while you may. Plant it in your heart and soul and let it grow until it fills your being. Then just get along that path of life, whistling a happy tune as you go!