This I Believe

Elizabeth - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Entered on November 10, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death

This I believe: That everything happens for a reason and that we are all here for a purpose. Whether we find that purpose is completely up to us, yet it is in the finding that we are made richer.

Growing up, I was never afraid of dying or of going to events like funerals. It was this that adults found peculiar in me, yet I attribute it to my mother’s permeating strength of faith. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss people when they were gone—on the contrary, I missed them (and still do) tremendously—but I somehow understood, and still understand, that they were gone for a reason. They had, after all, served their purposes while here on Earth.

Most of those who were closest to me and who had died lived their lives so fully that it was understandable that they were to move on, so to speak. Even those whose lives seemed to have stopped short and who were taken too soon had served such poignant purposes when they were alive. My own brother-in-law, only 45 years old when he took his life two years ago, lived as if there were no tomorrow, doing deeds that most people would never think of doing: putting aside an entire year’s salary to give to those who needed it more than he; visiting down-trodden countries with suitcases full of new clothes, shoes, and money, simply to serve those who would never expect such random gifts; and lending an ear or a hand to those who needed it whenever they needed it. He didn’t expect anything in return, and it was when he did for others that he felt truly alive. Unfortunately for those of us who loved him so dearly, his struggle with his inner demons overtook his gift of giving unconditionally. But the point is that he lived—truly and with a purpose.

Another person who lived with a purpose was my mother. She, like my brother-in-law—seemingly kindred spirits—would never deny anyone anything. When she had no money, she still somehow found a way to lend people less fortunate than she whatever they needed. She gave, almost literally, until it hurt. When she died, an enormous void was left in the lives of those to whom she was closest, yet there was a sense that she was, somehow, still here, and that sense, I’m certain, is because of how she lived her life. She did so with a purpose incomprehensible to most because most people don’t usually live life as they’re supposed to; instead, they live it…and that’s it.

My father, who himself recently died, couldn’t wait to be with my mom, and so he presumably got his wish just a couple of months ago. The odd thing is that he had said repeatedly for the past three years since her death that he didn’t understand his purpose—he didn’t understand why he was still here. The rest of us knew, of course: We couldn’t bear being without both our mother and our father, and he served us and praised us as if we, his children and grandchildren, were more precious than gold. We knew that his purpose was to help us understand others and ourselves better. He didn’t always do this while he lived his own life, but he came to understand it when he needed to, and we all understood it even more deeply while he was dying and now after his death.

I hope to communicate this belief not as something that demonstrates mourning for those who have gone before, but as a hope that we all look within ourselves to find that purpose: Why are we here? What can we do? Do we do what we do to help others? Do we at least try to do so? These are tough questions to face, especially when we ask them of ourselves, but to ask them is to know that we care about the idea that everything truly does happen for a reason. It is up to each of us to live out our purpose in life: Every life we touch depends on us to do so.