The darkest times of our lives don’t seem that bad when they’re spread out over time. The closer they are together, the easier it is to grow pessimistic. When it comes to death, you would think it couldn’t get any darker since that’s supposed to be ‘the end.’
On a Saturday in early October, I got a message that my Jeet Kune Do teacher had died in his sleep. I had trained for two years under him. I was a guest in his home, ate with him, and when money was tight he allowed me to pay for the class with a diet coke. His class was a form of therapy, an escape during my darkest times in 2013-14. At his funeral, many told of how he had touched their lives as well. I even saw my history teacher from high school there.
It was starting to feel like, pardon the bluntness, I’m carrying a closet full of bodies. I debated returning to GriefShare for a couple of Saturdays. One of my friends said I should. I am still stubborn on not doing that, though.
The reason is I’m reminded that in the last three years ten people I’ve known have died. They were either close to me, shared a history, or close to a loved one so I mourned with them. I didn’t want to be seen as…”competitive” or “my baggage is bigger than yours.” Dumb reasoning I know. It still feels like “I see your lost loved one and raise you by nine.”
So I decided to change my perspective on it. Rather than looking at the loss, I looked at the gain. All but two I know for sure I will see again, when I leave this life for eternal life. I see how they enriched my life and others’ lives. I see how others are enriching my life, or how I can help others, like the desperate neighbor looking for work.
Alternatively, simply appreciate the interactions with others, like moments of silliness, for example. Like when you are talking to one friend and another steals your phone. Then returning it after taking a zillion selfies before you realized they had it. Or friends teasing you about being helpless because your wife is out of town. My friends in the homeless ministry and deaf church kept that up for days.
In closing, I was watching Ravi Zacharias on YouTube when he said something I wrote down immediately.
“In terms of service it’s the wounded soldier who serves best, someone who’s been in the darkness.”
I am not sure if it was ‘darkest’ or ‘darkness’ but it was profound. Those ten losses hurt. I will not deny that. All of them, either directly or by proxy, had a hand in shaping me today. Their work is done; it made a difference in many lives. Mine continues, ours continues, we press on with a limp.