To be human is to know pain. During times of loss and personal crisis, we are thrown into chaos and can often tumble into despair, misery, bitterness, anger and angst. Whether it be physical or emotional pain, we all have dark hours. In those darkest hours, it feels like you are so completely alone and you lose hope. I know, I’ve been there. Yet to be human is also to be resilient. We do heal. Things get better. It just takes time. Albert Camus asserted that “there is no love of life without despair of life.”
Everyone has his or her own path for grieving, for mending…for coping. For those I know hurting now, try to slow down and find solace in quiet moments, simple things. Focus on the senses. The way a breeze feels on your skin. The taste of a treat. The texture of a fabric. A soft touch. Smell. Breathe. Taste. Just be. Staying present and intimate with the moment, requires mastering maitri, the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness toward oneself, that most difficult art of self-compassion.
When my brother Robbie passed away in 2001, it was a horrifically dark time. In my attempt at trying to find order, to cope, I chose to paint a portrait of him, painted from a small wallet-sized senior high school photo of his. I still have it today, it’s scratched and worn, but Robbie’s spirit shines through.
I painted through my tears. I painted and painted, reworking it over and over. My intention was to paint a portrait of my brother for my father as a gift, to help him heal. I spent many months with the painting. I realized much later that my colors were skewed. His vibrancy does not come through. I think my sadness shrouds the painting still.
Robbie’s birthday was July 29. He is always with me but these last few weeks even more so. I honor him with this post. This entire blog is a tribute to him. I miss him every day. His passion and zeal for life and adventure touched so many.
The day after he died in March 2001 his close friend wrote a poem for him. I close now by sharing it with you here.
To Robbie, March 23, 2001
I loved a man who danced with Life;
He’d twirl her in his arms
Until she dropped exhaustedly-
Too heavy with his charms.
I used to look on jealously,
And wonder if he knew
How quickly I’d replace her
If he’d only ask me to,
Because I feel I wouldn’t tire,
But last into the night.
I’d take his turns and twists and dips
With all my strength and might.
We’d cha-cha, tango, maquerena
Till the dawn broke in,
And once we thought we’d had enough,
We’d jitterbug again.
Unconstant Life, you drew him in
Until you recognized
How much he needed loving you,
How much of you he prized.
So whimsically you threw him off,
Refusing one more dance
To one with whom I’d dance forever
Given half a chance.
Love, Kathryn Dunnington
Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here.