Thriving Women: Senseless Loss...

Posted on April 16, 2006 at 10:50 a.m.

By: Randi Waldman

Dearest Thriving Women,
Senseless Loss……..
The death of Dana Reeves has people shaking their heads, often with a hand over their heart, overwhelmed with the magnitude of the reality that such tragedy could possibly strike the same family in such a brief span of time.  Our hearts go out to a thirteen year old boy who has been orphaned in such a public way.  We watch video tapes of Dana Reeves and see an inspiring woman, full of grace and dignity, dealing with the death of her husband Christopher in such an honoring and positive way, only to be announcing a few short months afterwards that she would be fighting a battle with cancer that would ultimately end her own life seven months later. 
In the past eight months, my own daughters have lost three friends all under the age of twenty five……one to a car accident, one overdose, and one who died within a week of falling ill to a bacterial infection.  Illness, broken hearts, hurricanes, war……senseless loss.  How can we find our center in the midst of such tragedy?  How can we move forward with hope and not with fear, with resolve and not with immobilization, with an unwavering spirit and not with anger or bleak despair?
Author Isabel Allende lost her twenty eight year old daughter after a year long illness.  In an excerpt from an article she wrote for the April, 2006  Thirty Thousand Days magazine, she states, “During that year of agony and the following year of my grieving, everything stopped for me.  There was nothing to do – just cry and remember.  However, that year also gave an opportunity to reflect upon my journey and the principles that hold me together. I discovered that there is consistency in my beliefs, my writing and the way I lead my life.  I have not changed, I am still the same girl I was fifty years ago, and the same young woman I was in the seventies.  I still lust for life, I am still ferociously independent, I still crave justice and I fall madly in love easily.”  Isabel goes on to say, “ During her illness I had to let go of everything…and when she died I thought that I had lost everything, but then I realized I still had the love I had given her.  I don’t even know if she was able to receive that love as she could not respond in any way, but I was full of love and that love keeps growing and multiplying and giving fruit.  The pain of losing my child was a cleansing experience.  I had to throw overboard all excess baggage and keep only what is essential.  Because of Paula, I don’t cling to anything any more.  Now I like to give much more than to receive.   It is in giving that I feel the spirit of my daughter inside me, like a soft presence.”
There is a Torah verse in the Jewish religion that is entitled “Choose Life”.  In an article by Julie Pelc in the April, 2006 edition of Spirituality and Health magazine, she tells us that choosing life means trying to live life with a special kind of passion and commitment to all that is vibrant and absurd and painful and passionate, even when it makes us cry. Julie suffered from a brain aneurysm that required extensive brain surgery while being a part-time rabbi for a small Texas congregation as part of her process to become an ordained rabbi.  She did recover from her ordeal and spent the next three years healing and resuming her duties and studies.  In this article she tells the readers, “I am hardly saying that my journey with God, my struggle with faith or my understanding of why bad things happen to good people are resolved. I am not saying that I don’t still hurt, I am not still angry, that I don’t still question.  I am saying that today I can see a bigger picture, today I see that God has set before us life and prosperity, death and adversity.  And, in the face of all of it, in the very midst of a crisis, in fact, we are commanded, we are asked, we are begged, “CHOOSE LIFE”. 
It seems that choice is a main theme in so many of our newsletters. Several weeks ago we talked about the choice in attitude when faced with a multitude of daily life challenges.  We talk about the choice of which voices we attend to in forming and reforming our self concepts and in the building of a healthy relationship with ourselves.  We talk about our body image and our choice to view our bodies with admiration and gratitude.  In every single moment of our lives we choose.  To choose life presupposes that this choice is ours to make, that we do have some control over the quality and reality of our own lives. Julie Pelc goes on to say, “Choosing life is about seeing life as it is in its fullness: seeing that the blessing and the curse are constant presences.  It is about an unwavering spirit even when we are angry and hurt and betrayed, so that this faith might bring us back from the ends of the earth, in love. And, we are reminded that this is not too hard for us.  This difficult, long winding road of healing is within our reach.” 
Choosing life helps me to be with these mothers who have lost their precious daughters by giving me an internal strength to sit with them in their unspeakable grief and have a belief in the possibility of healing.  It gives me a core structure to keep me from sinking when the tragedy of the world at large bombards me, and when tragedy close to home rocks my daily experience of safety and continuity.  It helps me to read the words of others who have experienced such senseless loss, and, in the the face of it all, still choose life.                                                         

With love in life and health,
Randi and Daniela


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