How do you measure a life (Love, loss, hope, and faith) “It is more necessary for the soul to be cured than the body; for it is better to die than to live badly.” ― Epictetus I went with my brother to the VA this week. He has some health issues and we are trying to find out how serious it really is. So, we were back at the VA, and I was sitting again, in the waiting room for outpatient surgery. It is not a big space, enough room for about 20 seats. There are two TV’s but on the day that I went only one was on. It was the news, and for some reason, I felt the toxic sludge flowing into the room. Perhaps it was because of my anxiety over my brother, but I found it very hard to listen to. So I focused on my reading and was able after a while to keep it out. Next to me sat a family from four generations. One was the matriarch and very dignified looking, in her 90’s, sitting upright in her wheelchair. Then there were her children, grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. It was an interesting group that is for sure. All very close, laughing and poking fun at each other. Their loved one was in for a very serious operation but they were supporting each other in a loving manner. I had the impression that they lived well. I do believe that to grow in love is one of the best ways to live out one’s life. All others avenues lead I believe to nothing but isolation and frustration over the fact that everything outside of love does not bring lasting happiness. The soul of man is often forgotten, put aside, or even denied. Yet if the soul is not taken care of all else tends to scatter into the wind and end up dust. How fast things disappear, in a second, everything can change. I love my brother very much. He has been through a lot but does not talk about it very much. We all have our scars, our pain, and our own inner struggles trying to make sense of our lives. Perhaps we never will, but I do believe that ‘love’ is what holds us together. He is patient with what he is dealing with and I do believe that he keeps his worries to himself, which is what most men do and I see nothing wrong with that. In any case, I am glad that he is here. His children love him, and his ex-does to. I would think that says something very good about my brother, that even if he does not believe so, love has indeed played an important role in his life. Our family lost the third sibling, dying over a period of three years. Jane, or Janie, was the twin of Judy….identical twins. They looked very much alike of course, but for me, I could easily tell them apart. Their personalities are each unique. One more serious than the other, but both filled with fun. Janie lived well. She spent a good part of her life helping others. She helped many women and men who were doing the twelve steps. She also ran a small in-home care company and loved taking care of the elderly. Over the years she had to back away from it because of health problems. How do you measure a life? By how much money they made? Or how powerful they were? History remembers the rich and powerful, but only their memory, death takes away all that is false from us leaving only the love that we carry with us. I do believe that Janie had a lot of love in her and that is what went with her as she became face to face with God. I was looking at an angel statue I have in my room. It is made of glass and very well made. Sissy, who died in 2014, gave it to me in 2005. As I was holding that stature, I felt like I just received it a few days ago. That is how I experience time. So I guess the separation that we all much go through when our loved ones die, is not really that long as long as we don’t focus on days, weeks, months and years, but just on today. All days are experienced as ‘now’ when we live them. So all other experiences can seem like only seconds away from events from the far as well as the recent past. Loss, is experienced uniquely by each of us, yet there is also a bridge that connects us, for sorrow, no matter how it is expressed, is a deep pain that stays with us for years, and well worth it. For love, with all that goes with it, keeps us human and more than that, we become more human as we learn to love more and not to fear the pain that comes with it. It is the fire of love the cures the soul. The deeper in we go, the more our hearts expand and we learn to embrace it even more. To grow in love is a process, and I believe that it is grace at the bottom of it, when love pushes past what is expected and into something enduring and eventually embraces everyone. Such is grace, working in secret, beyond our control, all we need do is to desire to take that next step. I will miss Janie, just as I still miss Sissy and Skip, yet I pray for them, and I know that they pray for all of us as well. I do believe that our connectedness with others is something that we do not fully understand nor experience, but one day, we will, if our hearts are open, or desiring of more love. For the heart to grow more human it must be broken, a hard fact of life. For only in our battle with bitterness and despair can we finally find healing and trust.