It’s 20 years ago now. The memory is still vivid. Shock can do that.
I’d come home from a meeting. My beloved husband and I were standing, arms around each other, making jokes and laughing. Three minutes later, he had passed from this earth. There had been no warning.
The pain and gifts of grief have been well studied. I’ve not seen any mention, though, of the greatest gift the experience of my beloved’s death brought to me. It was this: the bone-deep awareness that anything can happen at any moment, without warning, and without our control. In seconds, life can be turned inside out.
The awareness came because I could not argue with it. It was real. Done. Beyond me. So I had to make peace with the reality that my days are neither predictable nor controllable, even moment to moment. Neither are yours.
Most of us, most of the time, would rather not think of life that way. We make plans, get upset if they are changed; we “know” what we’ll be doing tomorrow; and some of us try hard to “make sure” that what we want to happen, does.
Of course, we have to live as though we can plan and the plans will materialize. But we need to know better. In acceptance of that knowing, vast peacefulness can be ours. It is, after all, the truth.
In coming to this peacefulness, I recognized that “anything can happen” does not refer only to challenging things. There are also delightful surprises, events and people we couldn’t have imagined, but that we welcome with joy.
So we want to stay open to all that is unexpected, what we like and what we don’t like. We want to become fluid. If I brace for the uncertain, if I close against change, if I am disturbed when life shifts, then I’m living in constant tension. It’s really a form of fear. And peace seems far away.
Today, I know that when a person chooses to make profound peace with the reality that anything can happen at any moment, then all changes become easier, all uncertainties can be accepted. Everything can expand us, help us grow. Love of life gets easier. Therein lies our power and our serenity. Our soul rests in that tranquility, no matter what is going on. May it be so for all of us!