Life contains tragedy and sorrow

everything comes and goes, the tragedy, the joy

Yesterday was my father’s birthday.

Only not really. It was the anniversary of the day he was born as a human in that particular lifetime he walked through.


He died many years ago. He never made it to 85 which he would be today. He did not age into elderhood. He was still teaching at the university. No grandchildren had been born (although I know they were a twinkle in his eye).

He got leukemia, or his body did, and he died two years later.

I was by his side, holding his left hand. All my sisters, and spouses or boyfriends, my dad’s dear friend, and my mother, were surrounding his bed.

Candles were burning, the sky was pitch dark. Rain was pattering on the old 1920s glass window panes of our family house.

We were all singing. The same lullabies he sang to his four daughters who he cared for so deeply, we now sang to him as he left.

As he took his very last breath and died, I felt his hand grow cold so quickly.

I was astonished to recognize this…and then realized….“of course this would happen.” 

The heat, the life, the blood, the activity within this body simmering down, down, down.

It was the first time I was with a dead body.

Several years later, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

During the 12 hours of birthing, and the hours and days that followed, I sometimes thought about when my father died, and the great allowing of life to unfold and do what it does….

….at its own pace, without any control of the process.

Every human present at these events had to simply be there, witnessing, stepping in when support was needed, always allowing the thing (death, birth) to happen.

I also noticed, I gave birth before I had ever even seen a birth.

My father died before I had ever seen a person die.

Strange for such profound events to be so closed, or quiet, or somehow hidden.

Don’t these things happen by the hundreds and thousands every single day?

But there are perhaps some beliefs and concepts that hang over the experience of birth and death that make them fade into the background of daily life, so that in my 20s I would have never seen them before until I was participating in them directly.

What could they be?

  • death is horrible, private, personal, an end, loss, evil, wrong
  • birth is private, personal, exposing, naked, hopeful, good
What do death and birth mean to you, that you would feel uncomfortable, sad, anxious, terrified, worried, or angry?


People write to me often to ask about death, or major transitions of all kinds (which include birth).


Yesterday I watched a movie called Griefwalker about Stephen Jenkinson, a man who has worked with hundreds who are dying….and then I got to see Stephen Jenkinson in person speak and read from his book Die Wise.


(Remember my Grace Note that I was buying a ticket to see myself on Thursday? Well….I got a ticket for me, and my two kids, to see Stephen on Thursday, so that’s the way it rolled. You never know how something will turn out, do you? That’s another Grace Note).


One of my first inquiries in 2005 was “my father died.”


It seemed true….


….and I discovered how he lived within my heart, so closely I could call on him anytime. More quickly than when he was in form, to be honest.


I had done The Work on my own moment of cancer diagnosis, even though it was not terminal….the fear had raced through me.


I have thought deeply about death, and wondered about my fear of it. I have questioned that death is frightening….or that dying is frightening….and found deeply that I can’t prove that it’s ultimately true.


But I learned something new from Stephen, at just the right moment in my life.


Not only is this passage called death coming, but it’s a wonder, and inevitable, and happening For Sure at some unknown point.


And I do not have to fear it.


Today, I have the brilliance of this one day, apparently “alive” on someplace called earth.


Castles fall down (I saw some of those last August).


A new house is built.


I gave birth to two children and they were born to eventually die, who knows when.

But what I can do, is question my painful thinking about my stories about birth and death, rather than dread them.

Who would you be without your beliefs about birth, about death, good, bad, evil, wonderful, wanted, unwanted?

What if both life and death are equally true and mysterious?

  • death is shared by everyone, its what we do
  • birth is shared by everyone, its what we do

At the very heart and core of our being, there exists anoverwhelming yes to existence. This yes is discovered by those who have the courage to open their hearts to the totality of life. This yes is not a return to the innocence of youth, for there is no going back, only forward. This yes is found only by embracing the reality of sorrow and going beyond it. It is the courage to love in spite of all the reasons to not love. By embracing the tragic quality of life we come upon a depth of love that can love “in spite of” this tragic quality. Even though your heart may be broken a thousand times, this unlimited love reaches across the multitude of sorrows of life and always triumphs. It triumphs by directly facingtragedy, by relenting to its fierce grace, and embracing it in spite of the reflex to protect ourselves.” ~ Adyashanti

I bolded these words. Because they aren’t the nicey-happy-sweet-kind-lovey-comforting words I sometimes have preferred when it comes to thoughts about this birth/life/death path.

But they are the truer words: overwhelming, tragedy, sorrow, broken, no going back…..

…..even though, unlimited love, always triumphs, fierce grace, embracing.

That’s why when I think of my dad, I can still feel the heart-break and overwhelming love, and wishing I could be with him again, and also unlimited love that has never died.
I remember and know that I am connected to him, and I honor him, and those who gave birth to him and all my ancestors.
I embrace them all in my heart, knowing also that I will be an ancestor, too, and so will my children.
Much Love, Grace

7 Replies to “Life contains tragedy and sorrow”

  1. You are so welcome. I agree, as I age it comes into view more and more vividly and it is sweet to think I can look at it with appreciation and peace, not terror and disappointment.

  2. Thank you, Grace. It helps to read comforting thoughts about death, especially as we get older.

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