Our need for countdowns is something we most likely don’t think about 24/7, but while we’re in the midst of one we are front and center and ready to move forward.
Take the Holidays, for example. As soon as I turn over the calendar page to November, I’ve hit the ground running and once the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday has arrived, it’s just a matter of days before Christmas is upon us and then, voila! The end of the year and the start of a new one!
Whether counting down the days until the start of a planned vacation or our much anticipated retirement from work, we love crossing out the days that bring us closer to our goal. It’s sobering to realize, however, that the passage of time not only brings us to notable calendar events but it also ushers us into the inevitable aging that many of us have the privilege of experiencing.
And it is a privilege, isn’t it? We are all intimately acquainted with the fact that not everyone has spent as much time aging as we have: adult siblings and other loved ones die far too young, friends are victim of a disease or an accident that robs them of their lives, and most cruelly, children fall victim to similar diseases and accidents that rip them from the face of the earth, robbing them of the opportunity to grow up and move forward into productive and event-filled lives.
Most of us will not know in advance how long our lives will be, but as we age, we tend to feel the passage of time.
But it’s not all equal-knowing, is it? There are glorious days when I am shocked by the realization that I am sixty-eight years of age, followed by days when I can hardly believe I’m not far older than my years. But all in all, I celebrate that I am still here – even with the aches and pains and frustrations oftentimes inherent with aging. I am not counting down the days until I am no longer here – that’s a fruitless and unrealistic practice in which to be engaged – but I am celebrating that thus far I can most certainly count 25,016 days as my portion.
This fabulous article really captures the essence of what those grieving need from those with whom they’re acquainted. It also helps those uncomfortable with the topic of death to understand that there are many ways to lighten the emotional load for the person who is grieving.
The 11th suggestion I would offer is this: If you’re with someone who has recently suffered a loss and you don’t know what to say; you feel any words you offer couldn’t possibly make a difference; offer a hug. Your sincere intentions will transfer to them and just might provide them with the assurance that you acknowledge their grief and want them to know that they are not alone. Thank you Howard Whitman for offering this article to us.
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Keys to Happiness, an anthology of articles published in 1954.
Most of us want to be helpful when grief strikes a friend, but often we don’t know how. We may end up doing nothing because we don’t know the right — and helpful — things to say and do. Because that was my own experience recently, I resolved to gather pointers which might be useful to others as well as myself.
Ministers, priests, and rabbis deal with such situations every day. I went to scores of them, of all faiths, in all parts of the country.
Here are some specific suggestions they made:
1. Don’t try to “buck them up.”
This surprised me when the Rev. Arthur E. Wilson of Providence, RI mentioned it. But the others concurred. It only makes your friend feel worse when you say, “Come now…
Several years ago I took a class with the ominous sounding title, Death and Dying. That was a topic with which I was very comfortable so I signed up for it and enjoyed it immensely. There were many things offered relating to wisdom gained as we age and how best to live before we die, but the following advice was the best of all:
Cherokee wisdom – Two Wolves
An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life… “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy, “it is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.”
“One is EVIL: he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“The other is GOOD: he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
“This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too,” he added.
The grandson thought about it for a while and then asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”