As you may know, my father died last month. In a haze of disbelief I packed- badly- a suitcase and me and my explosion of raw emotions boarded a flight back to London.
Being home in Dorset with mum and my sisters was a relief. Here, gathered, were his other most cherished ones who’s lives and hearts had temporarily stopped too. We poured over family photo albums, I wrote and re-wrote my eulogy for dad, we organized every last detail of the funeral, dad-style, with the help of the most empathetic funeral director. We cried, comforted one another, inhaled the residue of his smell on shirt collars, we huddled to sleep in the same room- same bed even- we were sleepless together in the black of the early morn. We wept over an overwhelming avalanche of sympathy cards, many sharing memories of dad we were unfamiliar with. All said how kind, charismatic and mischievous dad was through illustrative stories re-lived.
Dad was not a sit-down-lets-talk-about-our-emotions-kinda-guy: Not many are. My father was particularly emotionally reserved, which is typical for those raised like he in a strict military style 1950’s British boarding school. So many of the Great Lessons dad taught me ebbed and flowed into my consciousness bank through default. A default lesson, mind, is no less potent.
So dad’s final lesson crystallized as I spent a month fellowshipping with all those who’s lives he’d touched. Dad did the same job his entire forty year plus working life. He was an Insurance Broker in the city of London and had a penchant for wining and dining clients so, really, that’s what he did; entertained. Yet even though he had this same beloved job for so many years, still, it wasn’t his career that defined him. Nor was it even mentioned that much in the conversations that tripped off tongues in the pub Wake afterwards.
Instead what we mourners reviled in was who dad really was, his beingness, or aka, the contents of his heart. His life boiled down to his girls. Every action belied his adoration of his three daughters and wife of forty eight years. It was also full of love for his lifelong friends and little sister.
In witnessing up close and personally the death of a dear one, I saw life from a new perspective. I realized I was too concerned with things that ultimately didn’t matter, and perhaps leaving the scraps of my energy for the things that mattered more than anything. He showed me, through his death, that life is about keeping our souls happy. I believe we do this fundamentally through relationships; relationships with others and also with ourselves.
So often we’re concerned with broadening our reach, especially with the dawn of the internet information age. We want to build our tribe, get more ‘likes’ on social media and touch people in corners of the world we’ve historically not had access to. Although an oftentimes noble aspiration, sometimes we try and run before we can walk; myself very much included. My friend, Maria, said this at the close of our yoga class last week and it hit my heart like a freight train:-
“Its nice to be important but its more important to be nice.”
What’s the point in making strangers happy, and leaving our family or most cherished ones neglected? Like my husband Eric says, start with taking care of your inner circle (family/dear friends), then build up in layers, like a good sturdy house. The foundation is your nearest and dearest and if that’s not tight then, well, how can you really expect to serve a wider audience? You’ll be working on shaky, uneven ground and one day that unbalanced structure will collapse.
I can’t buy back this precious time while my children are young. Once its gone its irretrievably gone. A career, on the other hand, will always be there, as long as I have the ability to trace words into the keyboard and a heart that still pumps for written expression. Some women are wonders, and have this enviable ability to balance it all. Unfortunately I don’t fall into this category, at least not without sacrificing too much of what I deem dear right now.
I’ve said in many a past article that we all have unique gifts to offer the world, and we suffer from an almost spiritual restlessness until we deliver these treasures. I believe this is true. However first and foremost our job is to love. That’s what any life boils down to.
I for one will be letting go of projects that the perspective of dad’s death has allowed me to gain some clarity on. Right now I am in the clutches of grief and although this is the bright side, we need to honor our feelings and allow grief to course through our hearts.
But even though I feel so sensitive, as if a feather could knock me down, I will turn into the arms of those I love the most. Being with my beloved tribe is life and love expressed for me, as I’m sure yours is for you.
As I read in ‘How to Love Yourself (and Sometimes Other People): Spiritual Advice for Modern Relationships’ last night:-
“Your heart bounces back because we all want to love. Love abounds. It is always available to us. We are innately loving, and innately loveable…We have an unlimited ability to love.” (Lodro Rinzler, page 165)
What can we let go of that steals unnecessary time and energy away from whats really important? We get so knotted up in the thicket of our everyday lives that we lose perspective and context of what really matters.
Christmas is the ideal time to absorb this message. We can get so tangled in this busy season with shopping, social events and entertaining that we forget what Christmas is really all about, including: Family. Love. Fellowship. Giving.
Namaste. I’m so grateful for you, thank you for reading. As always if you have any reflections on grief or re-prioritizing life so you can accommodate what matters most, I’d love to hear from you below.