“We meet but briefly in life, if we touch each other with stardust, that is everything.” ~Unknown
We had baked chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy that evening. It was the kind of hearty meal that warms you up on a damp March night.
As I said goodnight, I couldn’t have imagined that in just a few hours I would return to my parents’ house and everything would be changed forever.
But so it goes. Nothing in life is permanent.
I’ll never forget that phone call. I felt everything drain out of me and then it seemed as though everything stopped. My mind couldn’t seem to absorb that my father had died.
I kept saying, “But we just had dinner.” “He was getting better.” And, “Everything was okay”
When I arrived back at my parents’ house, it was surreal.
The quiet conversation and enjoyable meal we’d enjoyed only a few hours ago had been replaced by a chaotic, confusing scene.
I remember flashing lights, lots of people running around, the sad scared faces of those I loved, and tears, lots of tears.
I was a wreck at the funeral and not sure if I could speak, but as I stood at the podium, a strange peaceful feeling come over me. A sort of clarity and profound realization. A deep connection to life that I’d never felt before.
Nothing helps you understand the fleeting beauty of life more than death. Nothing helps you understand what is important in life more than death.
And most important are the people in our lives. The connection, the bond, the love, the nurturing, the stories, and the memories that we share.
These are the great gifts of life, and death teaches us to grab hold of them, because we know they won’t last forever.
I thought I knew life but I didn’t, until that day.
Enlightening lessons death can teach you about life:
1. The power of love
A few months after my father died, I found myself stuck. I was angry that he died and angry that I couldn’t do more to help him. With the loving support of the people in my life, I was able to move past the anger and start to focus on the time we had together.
The power of love saw me through those dark days.
If you’re struggling after the death of a loved one, reach out for support and pay homage to your loss by letting your love shine. Although they are no longer with us, our loved ones live on in our hearts, our minds, and our dreams.
Love is universal and transcendent; it knows no boundaries and reaches far beyond the physicality of this world.
2. The power of impermanence
Have you ever experienced a loss and felt like you were losing control? You desperately try to pull in the reigns, but you can’t.
We all like to have a sense of control, and a certain degree is important in terms of our survival. If we don’t organize our lives, follow rules, and work within the structure of society, we’ll find ourselves in a state of chaos.
When someone dies, you realize that life is not permanent and that nothing will last forever no matter how much control you try to exert. This is actually what makes it so profound.
Life is like a rainbow. The light and rain form its beauty, and then it fades. The gold is the shared journey and the profound expression of our lives.
3. The power of acceptance
The grieving process is difficult.
I remember being in denial and saying things like, “I can’t believe it’s true.” I spent a lot of time being mad at the world and myself.
I bargained by thinking, “If only I’d done this” and “I should have done that.” The void of depression took the form of, “I am so sad; I’ll never get past this.”
And finally, I accepted that he was gone and I needed to move forward.
During this process I resisted the reality of my loss. The stages of grief gave me time to come to grips and handle what had happened.
Ultimately, the resistance melted and I was able to lean into life again. You can’t move forward without acceptance.
4. The power of transformation
Loss and struggle hold the seeds of transformation. I don’t think anybody wants to experience pain. I know I sure don’t.
But as I have experienced loss and struggle in my life, I have noticed a pattern: I get stronger, and the seeds of that struggle result in growth.
Life is a continual process of struggle, transformation, and growth. Although it may not always seem obvious, if you look at growth you can always trace it back to the struggle that preceded it.
You may be hurting now but something good is on the horizon.
5. The power of awareness
It is possible to go through long periods of life without ever expanding our consciousness.
Prior to my father’s death, my conscious awareness was limited. I was in a safe, secure bubble, casually going about my life.
I didn’t question life and I didn’t question the choices I made. I was not fully aware; I was not on purpose. I did not have a sense that my time was limited, nor did I get that life was a gift.
Death can initiate the process of expanding your awareness, because it challenges you to question your view of life itself and what you do with yours.
6. The power of presence
So much of life is consumed by the struggle to survive and compete.
I spend most of my time trying to cover my family’s basic needs, striving to succeed, and wading through the bombardment of materialism.
When I find myself getting distracted by the “stuff” in my life, I try to take a step back and focus on the warmer, more soulful parts of me that make me feel alive and present. I take time to get away from the noise and distractions, and focus on spending time with the people in my life.
The paradox of death is that it points to what it means to be alive. Aliveness has to do with experience, connection, and full expression. What makes your feel alive and present?
7. The power of connection
Have you ever stepped outside your ego and connected to something bigger than you?
When you’re on purpose or following your calling, you are guided internally, and yet you are also connecting to something beyond you.
This is the experience I think most of us would like to have, but we get stuck in our ego-based thinking.
Life events like death humble us and open us up to the possibility of waking up and stepping outside our ego. This gives us a chance to connect to something bigger than ourselves and do what is truly important.
Death is powerfully enlightening, but you don’t have to wait for someone to die to change the way you live.
Each day you have an opportunity to create a life with purpose and meaning. Commit to being fully alive and expressing your highest self.
Life is brief. Use it to spread a little stardust.