My daughter recently said: “I know now that there will be two parts to my life, the part when my dad is alive and the part when he isn’t”.
In addition to touching me deeply in the moment, that notion has inhabited my mind and has established itself as a metaphor for so many things in life. As philosophers have long said, there is a beginning and an end to everything. We love people and things deeply because they can be lost, not because they are eternal. Perhaps this calls for us to, if not embrace endings, at least accept them as a signal that everything we love ends and something new naturally replaces it. We cannot choose the timing. There is a before and an after. I suspect my daughter’s comments were a result of family changes as Scot, my baby brother/her uncle, had recently died.
He wasn’t sick for long. He died on Independence Day in 2019, although that wasn’t the kind of independence any of us imagined for him. He enjoyed life and his work and the people he kept around him. It is unlikely that he wanted to be free from that.
I feel some guilt about his passing. He called me immediately after hearing the dire news of his diagnosis. As his oldest brother and the healthcare worker in the family it was the natural thing to call me first. Natural. But I could not save him. No amount of research, visiting, or participating in his treatment would produce a cure for his relentless disease.
Scot’s dying at 57 took everything else he was ever going to have. And it created “before” and “after” worlds for those of us who loved him—a before his death life and an after his death life.
The Sufi writer Rumi, in his poem, The Guest House, explains that being human is like a guest house, that there is a new arrival every day, that dark events and disappointments are often our lot. He exhorts us to:
“…treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.”
After the pandemic.
After what I used to do as work.
After what else?
Recently my colleagues and I realized that our heart work, InnerSections, is coming to an end, at least in its current manifestation. A personal leadership development program that focuses on creating high-trust leaders and workplaces, we have come to understand that InnerSections’ way of helping us look inward was really about helping us be better people—by growing in presence, courage, love, and capacity. We have poured our hearts into this work for several years and have ourselves grown in the process. InnerSections is about to become a before…
What else must end and what will come after—what will begin? It will be the new “before”. The inevitable cycle starts anew …
Can I, can we, look with wonder on what reveals itself now and learn to bless it and release it when it needs to go? Before, after, and beyond?