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Changing Perspectives


Jake
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Hello Everyone,

 

It has been a few months since I was active on this forum. I have checked in now and then to read a bit, but i have not been in the frame of mind to participate. It has been a very trying several months since my last posts, and i have been exhausted, stressed, and in self-imposed isolation to avoid discussion with anyone on anything but the most superficial topics.

My father died on Sept. 2 from cancer. Esophagus cancer metastasized to his bone marrow. He went from "cancer-free" to the grave in several weeks. He was 63 years old, in his third year of retirement, and not at all okay with his body dying.

I am not the first son to sit at his father's side while he transcended this world, but since any son can only sit by his own father's death bed once, I feel as qualified as any to speak as an authority on the subject. The experience of his passing, the reaction and behavior of other members of the family, the church community, and the challenges to my own faith and serenity have changed my perspective on everything. It's strange how some experiences work. One has an established view of the world, a comfortable, compartmentalized and cataloged understanding of the place one lives, the way one goes about the days, the way one worships, etc. Then in one occurrence, everything changes. The whole world shifts 30 degrees to one side, and nothing looks like it did before. This is the miracle of life in action, the transformative power of love and loss, in full effect.

There were so many lessons to be learned in my father's passing. Some of the lessons are deeply personal to me, and other lessons came simply in the opportunity to witness others deal with their grief, and use their own faith as a tool to deal with the loss of a loved one.

My own faith is young and fragile, full of questions, and not many questions loom larger than those that come at the end of a life. There have been many scriptures quoted, many authors read, many opinions voiced, but it is all as unknowable as the face of God. On death, no one speaks from personal experience.

So how does this all relate to practicing the presence of God?

This is not meant to deify my father in any way, but his absence has given me a different perspective of the presence of God in my life. My father's impact and presence has not been diminished by his death, but it has been magnified by his absence. I have come into a constant awareness of him that I did not have during his life. It is the same with God. Because God is not here, the presence of God is felt in the transformative effect of faith in my life. Thinking in terms of conversation. Because my father is no longer here, I cannot pick up the phone and call him to share an experience. Because of my father's presence in my life, even in his absence, all of my experiences are shared by him. In this logic, it is not necessary to go to God in prayer, but to live as if life is my prayer. Life as a shared experience with God.

This isn't the same as the old "be good because God is watching" admonishment from childhood. It is not a form of obedience from fear of retribution. It is a recognition that God is not only watching, but fully present and involved in every aspect of life, death, existence, period. It is a reminder to approach God in the sense that I approach my father's memory. To live in a way that honors him in more than just words and reward. There is so much else, but I'll leave it at that for now.

-Jake

Edited by Jake
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I am very sorry for you and your family's loss, Jake.

It is very startling that life reminds us in very painful ways that we, the life that we live, is not the idealized image of it that we carry in our minds, but that it is fragile and intrinsically subject to change. To be myself means at the same time not to be myself.

For your loss there are no words to justify or erase the reality of what has happened. I pray however that you continue to look deeper into that reality and somehow draw strength and truth from it, even in the midst of anguish.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, insights, and experience with us; they speak a lot to who you are.

Peace to you,

Mike

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