A man in his 60s sits before me.
He has cancer like most others I meet throughout my day.
It was caught early, so there is a good chance that he has
many more years to live
– to see his children’s children play soccer
while he cheers them on, alone – as I find out.
His wife died four years ago.
One day he brought her to the hospital
because she felt physical discomfort and severe pain.
Four days later, she was gone.
They had been together since he was 17; she 15 years of age.
They married six years later.
They shared their lives together ever since.
Her name was Julie, he tells me. He loved her very dearly.
They had been retired for two years
and were just beginning to enjoy the freedom
of their hard-earned livelihood
when Julie suddenly fell ill.
“It’s the kind of thing that makes you really angry at God,
or whatever,” we agree.
But he is not bitter. He is grieving – empty space left behind,
where Julie’s presence once was. Mourning that loss.
Shedding tears for all those moments
that he was supposed to share beside his beloved:
soccer games, births, and birthdays.
He apologizes for it all. I thank him instead.
“How courageous it is to allow yourself
to love someone so deeply, knowing fully well
that it will one day tear you apart,”
I tell him.
“It doesn’t seem fair,” we agree.
But we must continue, anyhow, with hearts wide open;
humbled, broken, and softened
by the tragic beauty that blooms
where life and death collide.
Love and loss, there beside each other.
Joy and grief, like magnets.
If we want to know love, we must be willing to feel loss.
“You got to grieve,” he says.
“It’s part of the beauty.”
Grief-struck, we reach for each other’s hands,
laughing and crying at the same time.
I’ll take the loss if it means knowing love.
A TEAR AND A SMILEI would not exchange the sorrows of my heart
by Kahlil Gibran
For the joys of the multitude.
And I would not have the tears that sadness makes
To flow from my every part turn into laughter.
I would that my life remain a tear and a smile.
A tear to purify my heart and give me understanding
Of life’s secrets and hidden things.
A smile to draw me nigh to the sons of my kind and
To be a symbol of my glorification of the gods.
A tear to unite me with those of broken heart;
A smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.
I would rather that I died in yearning and longing than that I live Weary and despairing.
I want the hunger for love and beauty to be in the
Depths of my spirit,for I have seen those who are
Satisfied the most wretched of people.
I have heard the sigh of those in yearning and Longing, and it is sweeter than the sweetest melody.
With evening’s coming the flower folds her petals
And sleeps, embracing her longing.
At morning’s approach she opens her lips to meet
The sun’s kiss.
The life of a flower is longing and fulfilment.
A tear and a smile.
The waters of the sea become vapor and rise and come
Together and area cloud.
And the cloud floats above the hills and valleys
Until it meets the gentle breeze, then falls weeping
To the fields and joins with brooks and rivers to Return to the sea, its home.
The life of clouds is a parting and a meeting.
A tear and a smile.
And so does the spirit become separated from
The greater spirit to move in the world of matter
And pass as a cloud over the mountain of sorrow
And the plains of joy to meet the breeze of death
And return whence it came.
To the ocean of Love and Beauty—-to God.