Something Bigger

Free will and fate. I believe in both. I also believe in karma. Some of this is contradictory, but I’m willing to hold that contradiction because there’s a mystery to life that I cannot know. It’s like I’m standing in front of a gorgeous painting five miles high and ten miles wide but all I can see is the little part in front of me. Out of context, it might not make sense. It doesn’t fully convey what the painter meant. But just because I can’t see the whole of it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, doesn’t mean there isn’t meaning that I can’t grasp.

We all make choices. But there are only a limited amount of choices we can make. It is not true that you can “be” anything you want to be. When I was a kid I desperately wanted to be a singer. I can’t sing. I cursed God for yet another thing He withheld from me. It’s not an option for me to be a rock star or to be president. It’s not an option for me to own a mansion or manage a baseball team. But within life, I have my own choices and those choices create the circumstances where I experience life.

Every moment is where I experience life.

I believe in fate. Philip died because he snorted heroin but that isn’t the whole of it. Looking back at the way death touched both our lives, from the two-year-old who told me his dead grandpa was “in the light” to the way I kept seeing him dead in the months leading up to his death…and looking at what his death has done to me, it’s hard not to see a sort of “supposed to” as part of this. It does not feel entirely wrong that he’s dead, no matter how much I don’t want to accept it.

But there’s something bigger, more pressing, more to the point, because my circumstances are not the point. The way I think about them is. Whatever it is, the question is, What purpose does this serve? Take my job. I’m an administrative assistant, I’m the office manager. But that’s not who I am. It’s not what I do that matters, it’s how I am. Every day’s interactions are a chance to be present or to go to sleep. And I work for someone who is challenges me in this. The difficulty I have in responding to him shows me my real work which is way more important than what I get paid to do.

Last week my boss, Jack, was out of the office and called because needed something from me quickly. His abruptness unnerved me, and here’s where the present dissolved into the past, which means I went to sleep. I became the kid with the forbidding parents who couldn’t do anything right. I panicked because I didn’t think I could find what he needed, and after I did, I told him, “I’m afraid of you.” A few minutes later he called me back. “Look,” he said. “I don’t want you to be afraid of me, I want you to help me.”

Is this someone to be afraid of? I think not. But it’s not about him. It’s about the way my being is affected by him and how I’m going to work through it. It is the working through the difficulties in life, the being-ness that’s there when I do, that matters. A lot of that requires letting go of what I’m resisting to move more fully into life. And it is that letting go that I need practice because one day there will be a final letting go, and if I can’t let go of my boss’ impatience what makes me think I’ll be able to let go for the big one?

Death has lessons to teach us, and not morbid ones. Every time we stop resisting the circumstances of our lives, it prepares us that much more for death. And why not practice for that inevitable moment? Anything you want to do well takes practice. So why not practice what matters? A life lived without contemplating death is a shallow life. It’s made of up desire and accumulation of not only objects, but of people. None of which are real or sustaining, but a way of avoiding. I don’t want to avoid the fact of death, but neither do I want to continually feel like I don’t know how to live. Whatever I’ve come to understand since Philip died, the tangible ways he lets me know he’s around, doesn’t change the fact that I feel I like I lost a limb. Like I’m searching for something but I don’t know what it is. That there are times this still feels like a horror – did he really die, this child of mine? Will I really grow old without him?

Have I not yet learned that life is not predictable and any breath can be my last?

© 2015 Denise Smyth


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. godtisx
    Oct 15, 2015 @ 20:39:06

    I haven’t learned the lesson either, and feel like I have lost a limb too. I completely understand this. This was my mother:

    And I’m not sure I care to practice for my death right now, instead I still want to hear from my mother.

    But I hear the merit here. Lovely meditation.


  2. Denise
    Oct 16, 2015 @ 02:51:25

    Your mom looks happy and peaceful in that lovely photo. I think it’s those memories that comfort. There’s that saying, “We say ‘God is’ and we cease to speak.” I think that’s the same as saying “Life is” – which means I think it always is, even though bodies are temporary. Still, it’s so hard without these people we love so deeply.

    Wishing you whatever peace you can find…


  3. Jane
    Oct 16, 2015 @ 03:17:59

    Oh boy,I can relate to this one. Rhys was 21 when he died suddenly due to complications of his Type 1 Diabetes. My elder son also has type 1 Diabetes as well as having Downs Syndrome. When we have meetings around his needs, I end up in pieces,because my mind goes back to the times I got it wrong with Rhys. ( he had been in and out of hospital nine times as an emergency, in the four years before his death,although he had been fine throughout his childhood). I had begged and begged for support for him,support which should have been there and wasn’t. We had an apology five years after his death,because finally it was acknowledged that the support should have been in place.i now have to fight ever corner for Ben’s needs and it is a losing battle. All I see in my mind is Rhys. I am terrified of losing another child the same way. I can look at my 58 year old husband, who has had Type 1 for over forty years and I don’t see that he is still here. My mind cannot reason properly any more. I panic in case I am not getting the support in place that Ben should have,and that makes me panic even more.


    • songbird101
      Oct 16, 2015 @ 10:44:47

      Jane–I lost my 35 year old beautiful daughter last year because of Type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed at age 16. She did good all through high school and even away at college. After college she had one hospitalization after another. She had several eye surgeries and was almost blind. Her kidneys failed and she went on dialysis. We begged her kidney physician to get her help/counseling. We set up counseling for her–she went once or twice and refused to go back. Shortly after her 35th birthday she was hospitalized with a severe infection in her foot. After nearly six weeks in the hospital she went into cardiac arrest and was on life support. We had to make the decision to take her off because of severe brain damage. Everything you wrote about your sons has been part of my life for the past 20 years. I am broken. I have two older daughters who are healthy, although, my oldest daughter had gestational diabetes. She is now pregnant again, and I fight every day to not panic and think the worst may happen. I am so sorry for your loss and I know, as parents, how we question ourselves daily wondering if we did enough, In a way, I relate to Denise so much in that I feel my daughter committed suicide by refusing to accept her diagnosis. Mary


      • Jane
        Oct 17, 2015 @ 06:00:23

        Mary, it is heartbreaking,isn’t it? My daughter has been through three pregnancies now,all since Rhys’s death. Thankfully she has not developed Gestational Diabetes but I was afraid each time that she would. To be honest with the family history, Dad and two brothers both with Type 1,I am surprised that she did not.
        There is a Facebook group for parents who have lost a child of whatever age, to Type 1. The youngest child I have come across to lose her life to Type 1,was just four years old.
        I am thankful for the Internet. It has helped me. I have one friend the other side of the world to me, whose son died three days before Rhys, same cause and similar in age.
        I am so sad to read about your daughter.. Diabetes is such a difficult disorder to cope with. Xx

  4. Denise
    Oct 17, 2015 @ 07:22:32

    It’s all so heartbreaking, trying to live without these children of ours…sometimes I feel there’s so much to say, sometimes I’m just wordless. I’m also grateful for the internet. I can’t keep talking and talking to people about this, but I can keep writing and there’s always someone to listen. I just wish these weren’t the circumstances that connected us all.

    Wishing love and peace to you both xoxoxo


  5. songbird101
    Oct 17, 2015 @ 09:07:28

    Thank you, Jane. i will check out the face book page. Thank you, Denise for your blog. It has helped me tremendously. Mary


  6. Jane
    Oct 17, 2015 @ 09:52:02

    Denise,i thank you for too for your blog. X


  7. tersiaburger
    Oct 17, 2015 @ 16:08:07

    I wish I could hug you and make everything better. Lots of love Denise


  8. lensgirl53
    Oct 21, 2015 @ 23:35:35

    Death is the teacher we wish we never had. There are many days that I just yell out “I hate life without my boy!” I am only being honest and yet, I have grown closer to God through it all. My faith is still intact while so many questions remain. Death is inevitable for certain BUT….Jesus defeated death on the cross and our souls live forever. Hope is also a teacher. I send you hugs and lots of love, dear Denise….. Dale


  9. Denise
    Oct 22, 2015 @ 08:08:42

    This morning – ’cause I’m always talking out loud to myself when I walk around – I said, “Philip, I don’t want to be without you” to which I heard, “You’re not without me.” There’s too many ways he lets me know he’s around for me to really believe I’m “without” him – but damn it, Dale, I want to see him – I miss him. You are certainly right – death is a teacher, for sure. I have faith now that I never had, much as my heart is still broken.

    Sending hugs and love right back to you, sweet Dale.


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