The week before last, we lost a dear friend to cancer. Deb was an incredibly sweet, caring and giving person. The memorial service last weekend was held at the elementary school where she taught first grade for the past 15 years. The room was decorated — to the hilt — with hearts, butterflies, and ribbons, all in her favorite color purple, and was covered in notes of love and appreciation from students, parents and colleagues.
During and after the service, I was overwhelmed by two feelings: first, the incredible compassion and caring that Deb exuded, in particular towards her family and students. It was palpable, and hung in the air long after the service was concluded. And second: the weight of the impact she had on all of the people she touched during her life. A friend of ours was remarking, after the ceremony, how lucky Deb was to be in a position to connect with, support, and serve so many people during her time here.
All of this has gotten me to thinking more about how much most of us get caught up in our own day-to-day anxieties and challenges, and how hard it can be, sometimes, to see over your own dashboard, so to speak. Myself included. It’s so easy to get hung up in our own personal challenges, desires, frustrations, anxieties and disappointments.
The great irony in this, is that one of the best ways to get out of your own shit, is to put yourself in the back seat and focus on serving others. I know Deb dealt with shyness and anxiety herself, and I suspect that this only added to her empathy when it came to supporting her family, friends and students.
Every time I have managed to do this in my life, the result has not only been to provide some sort of useful help (I hope), but also to quell the internal drama. In other words, perhaps the best way to escape from our own suffering is to help other people escape theirs. There are lots of ways to do this, many of which come naturally through the course of your day and are just a matter of reframing your own mindset, as opposed to finding something brand new (though that’s important too).
After Deb passed, we couldn’t help but notice her in the wind, and the sun, and the evening mist. Her energy may have left her body, but it certainly hasn’t left the world. And what I am trying to do is remember the power of her energy, and the importance of using whatever energy we all have, today and tomorrow, in the service of others.