Living with Loss
It was my fourth funeral in four months, this one celebrating the life of Ellen Daniels-Howell. As I sat in the pew listening to familiar hymns and similar prayers, I was reminded once again that life is filled with loss. There is no avoiding it. No one gets out of here alive.
“We love created things. And because we love what is not permanent, we are guaranteed to lose,” Author Dan Moseley said. Whether it be a job, a loved one, beloved pet, or our health, the inanimate and living things we love in this world will not last forever. It is assured – we will lose them and someday our loved ones will lose us.
Debbie Downer, I’m sure you’re thinking. The reminder of this reality that we all know to be true can be downright depressing. I would rather avoid it — thank you very much! For many years, I did successfully dodge dealing with my own losses until one day the floodgates opened through the pages of Moseley’s book Living with Loss. It now sits on my bedside table, and I flip through its pages often. Facing, instead of avoiding, the losses in my life has enabled me to grow through them and also helped me walk alongside others who are struggling. Even so, this subject of loss may be one you choose to avoid — I may have even lost you by now (which would be ironic).
But if you are still reading, there is actually some good news. The losses in each of our lives can usher in an awakened clarity to what’s really important – to empower us to embrace each moment and live each day more fully alive. This became abundantly clear at this particular funeral through its theme, “Choose Life!” At the reception, booklets were placed on the tables containing Ellen’s own journal entries, which shared reflections on her health struggles through the years. One entry stood out:
“To my mind, this is a great opportunity of this stage of my life when I live daily with the reality of not one but three life-threatening diseases. For this reason, while I would never say I am glad I have cancer and heart failure, the irony is that it has been a tremendous gift. So can I say I wish I had never been given this tremendous opportunity to live more deeply? I wouldn’t want to go back to an earlier way of being, so in that regard I have to be grateful for even these unwanted circumstances.” Ellen Daniels-Howell, April 2016
To learn to live more deeply and focus on what’s most important even through life-threatening challenges is a gift, one that my friend Ellen discovered as she learned to live with the loss of her own life.
May we find encouragement and peace not only through her example but also in knowing that there is more to our existence than just this life. Just as we are assured that someday our earthly lives will end, the Bible assures us that one day our heavenly lives will begin.
In the meantime, I will continue to pray for Ellen’s family and friends and the many others who are also learning to live with the loss of their loved ones.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20