THIS I BELIEVE ESSAY: LIFE IS MEANINGFUL
Christmastime is, for me, both beautiful and poignant. In the midst of the celebration, there is a tugging in my heart: the tug of the past, the tug of deep love.
At the age of eight, on Christmas Eve, my father died, quite suddenly. Twenty-four years later in another Christmas season, I answered a knock on my door one cold night and was met by a police officer and a chaplain (never a good sign) who informed me that my husband of seven months had been killed in a plane crash. That night ushered me into a long, dark night of the soul, and into the deeper questions of what life is all about.
The journey has not been an easy one for me. Yet I am uncomfortable when people comment on my strength or express their sympathy. I appreciate their kind intentions, but I don’t feel particularly strong or very sorry for myself. Many people suffer losses far greater and more traumatic than mine. I hear such stories every day. My sole reason for sharing my story is not to garner sympathy, or cling to the past, but to highlight my deep belief in life’s larger context.
I now find myself in another Christmas season, and another challenge to my heart as I bear witness to my brother’s dance with death as he struggles with cancer and his body’s resistance to both treatment and recovery. I listen to his fear, his depression and anger, and once again I am called to make meaning of it all, not cursing his fate, but opening to my own pain, my own sadness, my own deep love for him.
I believe that the true meaning, the deeper meaning to my life’s circumstances is to be found in how I’ve grown from them. My journey to meaning was not, and is not, an easy one: it requires willingness, desire and perseverance. The reward is that my heart has been scraped clean and shaped in new and necessary ways. It has led me to writing, to greater compassion and insight and, sweetest of all, to new love in the form of my wonderful husband and our two beautiful, inspiring children.
All experience, be it tragic or remarkable, sublime or mundane, serves only to the extent that it sparks inner growth. To the degree that I become more compassionate, more peaceful, more loving, life becomes meaningful. This, I believe.