Today I am having to deal with the grief that comes with a health challenge facing a loved one. In loving this person, I go to the compassionate place in my heart. But as Miller Williams talks about in his poem “Compassion”–we cannot know what goes on down where the blood meets the bone. This is a place we cannot go, no matter how we empathize with someone. We can’t be “in” the person, experiencing their focus, their reservoir of fear or sadness. We see the friend or loved one from our own perspective–not theirs. In this place, we can’t possibly know what choices they “should” make in their medical care, their communications with family, or any of a dozen other decisions they are making. And yet in this world of brain dominance, we are encouraged to prioritize, put things in perspective, stick with the left brain and don’t let the emotions rule.
From my perspective, this is turned on its head. If the doctor says I must (fill in the blank) immediately and my body, especially the gut and heart-brain, clutches–I must question that decision. If the doctor says we’ll “wait a few days and check this out more carefully” and my gut and heart feel great relief, there is a message there. If, in the analysis, I’m only relieved to put something off because of fear, I can meditate on the fear and ask again. Our great gathering of life’s grief informs all of our feelings. Suddenly we are questioning how we lived, noting that “I did everything right and still this thing got in.” That starts the self-blame or anger at God that what we thought was our reward system has turned out to be a false idea. Having someone in our life struggle with financial issues, health issues, faith issues or any other major life events turns us inward towards our beliefs and, frequently, we are faced with questions we can’t answer immediately. That’s fine, because the questions will remain with us until we address them to our satisfaction. Our old griefs have gathered this one in like filing to a magnet, and they will wait for our resolution.
Meanwhile, our friend only needs to know we love him, and that is enough. The growth in us triggered by his issue and our grief is for another time. Our attention must be focused with our friend.