Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

A Gift from an Unusual Source

What if you could strengthen the qualities you need by feeling your connections with friends who have died?

I know this may sound a little weird, but hang with me. You don’t need to believe in the afterlife, or really anything, to follow what I’ve been discovering.

That’s often the case with folks we have loved and lost. We experience them, if only through memories.

In the weeks after Madie passed, I continued to feel her every time I thought about her kindness and generosity—two qualities that she had in spades. As I remembered her, it was as if I felt new kindness and generosity growing within me, as if she was inviting me to qualities that were so much a part of her.

With that, a story came to mind.

An imaginary possibility

I imagined a scene of people transitioning from this life (aka dying) and standing at the proverbial “pearly gates.” In that scene, before they passed through, they were offered the opportunity to leave a gift to those they had left behind—especially those who had loved them.

They could pick a quality or two that they thought the world, or at least their friends, needed more of—and offer it to them. Their friends could accept the gift—or not—and the departed could then continue on their journeys to work on whatever they needed.

Although it’s an imagination, I believe Madie was offering me a gift. 

After all, when we think about our friends with love, don’t we feel them—along with their special strengths, gifts, and qualities?

And when I think of generosity, I feel that quality becoming more alive in me.

A list of gifts

I think people intuitively feel this connection with their departed friends. You hear them say, “Papa Joe, he was the friendliest guy.” or “Marianne always had a smile for a stranger.” You can feel folks acknowledging what was good about another—seeing in them the kind of virtues that make the world a better place.

Building on the possibility in my imaginary scene, I made a list of some of the many friends (at last count, ten plus) I lost last year and what qualities I would hope to receive from them.

My sister Nancy had beautiful taste and a deep love of family. She left me some of her clothes, and I feel that taste when I wear them. And her loss has reinforced the importance I give to family.

My sister-in-law Jane had a sense of peace about her life and gratitude—qualities that I need more and want to keep growing. I think of how Jane used to express her appreciation for life, and as I do, I feel it rubbing off on me.

My friend Joyce, as a research scientist, could bring science, spirituality, and energy medicine together—with investigative rigor and joy. The world needs that kind of insight—and I seek it myself.

My friend Scott brought an abundant enthusiasm for community, reminding me how precious it is to build a circle of friends and feel anchored in community.

My friend Ann mentored and supported dozens of people throughout her long life. I want to cultivate her curiosity and gift for encouraging the spark in others.

My artist friend Joachim understood how healing can come through making art. I call upon him to remind me of art’s transformative powers.

Of course, there’s Madie, whose deep love of friends, natural gregariousness, kindness, and generosity shine in my heart.

You don’t have to believe

I faced a lot of loss over the past year—and I’d like to believe that life goes on on another plane—but that’s just a hypothesis I’ll have to wait to affirm.

Yet this I know for sure: the dead live on—in a good way—when we call upon the lessons they learned and beneficial qualities they exhibited. As we face a turbulent world, perhaps thinking about them can anchor us—or renew our hopefulness.

Then, when we use their good qualities to strengthen our own—they do live on in the best possible way.

2 Responses

  1. People I know, as they age, often wonder what they’ve accomplished in their lives. Often, people I know measure this by their achievements, such as job accomplishments or success. Your blog is a reminder that what we accomplish in the world, our legacy, is really what our effect has been on the people around us.

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