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August 2, 2010


life is eternal

by Andrea O'Connell

This is a post about reflecting back to a time when, for a short but brutal time, I’d lost the ability to reflect on eternity.

This post is prompted by the lovely piece that I have included at the bottom of this post called: A Parable of Immortality, written by Henry van Dyke.

I recently came across these words as I was unpacking knick knacks.  This parable is printed on a sympathy card that I’d received in 2001.

I was having a terrible time in 2001 – unable to come to grips with the death of a friend.  I memorized these words like a mantra, thinking that it would give me solace, and it did.

In short, receiving this card coincided with being able to breathe again after my dear friend died so suddenly, without any warning at all.  Gone.  Leaving behind three children, a husband, me, and everyone else who loved her.

I was distraught at her death and was unable to see clearly; unable to see the good in anything.  I was angry.  I hated God.  I hated that life was so cruel. I couldn’t accept that I would never see my friend again.  But worse, I couldn’t accept that I would see my friend again – that life really does go on – in another plane, perhaps, but that we do go on and we will meet again.

The reality of the grief of my friends death tested my spirituality, or rather, my lack of it.

I was drowning in grief and the spirituality I’d thought was strong in me, was lost in the stars and beyond the reach of my waking reality.

Oh, I was so full of anger.  I remember crying (sobbing) and using the couch as a punching bag.  I was lost in grief. I was out to sea – drowning and flailing – every waking and sleeping moment was painful.  So, I memorized this parable.  It became one of the rocks that brought me back from the hell of thinking that there was no God, that life was just miserable heartache.

Thankfully, when I did emerge from the living hell, I was stronger and more whole than when I went down the hole.

It’s remarkable how resilient we are.  We go on and life goes on as it will – and it goes by so fast, doesn’t it?!

Perhaps eternity is really just a blink of an eye?  Perhaps the alternate universe is really just another consciousness – a separate reality that crosses and connects with our reality – only we are not always aware of it?  (There is more to the beyond than is written in our religious texts.)

Regardless, this card was like a gentle caress that quieted my volcanic thoughts – thoughts that would not keep still.   It so softly reassured me that life is eternal.

Like the Mariner, our soul goes on to a new sea or landscape that is just over yonder, a whisper away, maybe.  Or, is the beyond NOT measured in time?  Could it be that our dusk is an eternal dawn on the other side?  If dusk and dawn meet, perhaps that’s when we meet our loved ones again?  If that is so, we are just barely beyond time’s reach….Perhaps time is our concept only.  Perhaps there is no time in the beyond.

We can’t begin to know.

Anyway, I came across this card again recently as I was unpacking my treasures and I wanted to share its simple though profound message with you.

A Parable of Immortality

I am standing upon the seashore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then some one at my side says: “There! She’s gone.”

Gone where? Gone from my sight- that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her; and just as the moment when some one at my side says, “There! She’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There she comes!”

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Weezie
    Aug 3 2010

    OMG. WOW. It is that simply said and understood. It’s more than beautiful, it’s realizable, comforting and visual.

    I know now that I will always remember what you just shared, because it is SO LARGE and yet so COMPACT of thought and feeling.

    I have had many hours of despair over loosing my loved ones. I say my because that’s how it feels, a belonging to someone and their heart. I lost my Mom at age 19, I lost my grandmother shortly after that. Then in 2000 my Dad, and in 2007 my step mom. Along the way I lost an Aunt and an Uncle, and now friends. It is only through sharing our capacity to comfort can we really go on. But the sense that there is more to life than what is now, makes it bearable to understand that one day too, we will be gone.
    Sailing through to another journey.

    Thanks for this lovely post.
    As always. Weezie

  2. Andrea
    Aug 3 2010

    Hey there Weezie, dear! Yes, I think it’s so simple and yet profound, too. It did help me to let go of the profound despair that had just grabbed me by the neck without letting go.

    I lost my Dad in 2000, too, and my friend who died in 2001 helped me get through that loss. She was a great rock for me, and then so soon after my Dad passed, she passed. It was too much, too soon.

    You have had your share of loss, haven’t you? There aren’t really words to express what we go through, so the parable helped me to keep my faith alive when it had faulted.

    It’s profound to think of ourselves as sailors on a journey to another horizon where we’re met with love and more goodness, or Godness…. I can’t pretend to know how the navigation will go, but I am sure it will be a sea-like transport that will take us to eternity and then back again.

    Big hugs my dear friend…. ❤

  3. Anonymous
    Dec 17 2010

    That’s excellent and very nicely written. Usually I tend not to make comments on the web, However , I have got to congratulate you on this one. Awesome site

    • Dec 18 2010

      Thank you for that, that’s very kind of you to say. 🙂


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