“I loved you while you lived, I love you still”: Some reflections on the experience of loss

‘Where there is love there is life’. 
Mahatma Gandhi 

Love is a strange and wondrous thing; we say we love so many things, people, music, art, animals, flowers, food, the list is endless and no doubt each one of you could add something new to the list. It is the diversity of human thought expressed through the beauty of being; we literally swim in a sea of love.

Dusk in April, and all the sounds and smells that come with that time of year in England had always been a relatively difficult time for me, for they were reminders of the time of year and time of day that we discovered we had lost our mother to suicide, I was only eight years old.

Jump many years later at the same time of year, and I was going through a different type of grieving. I had broken up from a difficult relationship but this time the pain was more intense as I had fallen in love with a child this time as well, and I had never known pain like it. Living near a primary school made things much worse as Jasmine was only five and I was heartbroken at the sound of all that joy outside at home time.

One of the things I had discovered about myself was that if I wrote a poem about how I felt, it would invariably help to shift something in me and give me some kind of emotional relief. I wrote two poems about my darling Jasmine and in the second I dedicated my life to share with the world the amazing gift she had given to me; that of unconditional love in all its innocence and purity. I had no idea how I was going to undertake this colossal task, yet I knew that this is what I must make my life’s endeavour. 

Two weeks later I found myself at a training with Dr Roger Mills and he gave me the answer I was looking for. On the second day of the training I could hardly contain my enthusiasm, I caught Roger at the break and said: “Roger, this is the solution the world has been waiting for!” He replied: “This is the only solution”. Now I was certain how to share the universal gift of unconditional love.

After those first two days of training with Roger I noticed how the world began to look and feel enchanting. I noticed the beauty in everything and everyone, people shone, babies would stare over their parents shoulder, lock eyes and we would just smile at each other, it was truly magical. Then one day while travelling on the underground in London an elderly Sikh couple got on and sat opposite me. We said good morning to each other, the woman in her beautiful sari kept her gaze low but smiled. The man looked directly at me and we just sat there and stared into each other’s eyes for I don’t know how long. There was such a beautiful feeling of love between us, yet no words were spoken. After sometime, the man in his brightly coloured turban put his hands together as if in prayer and did that beautiful head wobble that is so uniquely special to the people of the Indian Subcontinent. I put my hands together in response and respect. We were still staring at each other as I got off the train, I stood on the platform and once again put my hands together as one final goodbye, I knew I would probably never see them again, yet understood in that moment that our connection would be there for eternity.

When I told Roger of what I was experiencing he replied: “So, it’s happening to you too!” He revealed how he was always falling in love with people everyday, and for the first time in my life, I could see how that was possible.

If we jump back in time just a few years to 1997, I was travelling in America with my partner at the time, visiting an academic contact she had in the small town of Lamoine, Maine. She was one of only two or three people in the world (including my partner) that had researched a rare literary figure: Claire Claremont, half sister to Mary Shelly (author of Frankenstein). There was a thick snow on the ground as we drove up from Boston and all seemed enchanting.

We arrived early afternoon with dim sunlight still casting long spring shadows across the blueberry fields that ran down to the estuary, where sea birds and ducks flocked in the mist. We were given a beautifully warm welcome, like well treasured kinsfolk; I fell in love with our host within five minutes of meeting her, she was then in her late seventies and she later became a spiritual mother to me.

We remained the best of friends for many years, I would visit whenever I could, we would write to each other, I would call (never enough though it would seem now) and whenever I did I would always get the same question; “Who is it?” “Oh my, Dean you sound like you are just down the road”. She was always so excited by the call and threw such enthusiasm into it that one could hardly be but enraptured.

The years passed and then one day in early 2009 a letter arrived which brought me to tears before I could even read beyond the first paragraph. She was ill, not unexpected she said, given her age and I knew in a flash that we must soon say our goodbye’s. Immediately I sat down and wrote of my love for her and the grand adventures we had enjoyed together. She replied and we corresponded three times in total before curtains closed one final time.

Standing in the lounge one day, daydreaming, my glance happened to fall upon a certain wooden carved Loon*; a memento from that magical house of dreams that I had brought back with me from the memorial service. A bird we had loved in common and one we heard out on the water, the last time we had been together.  That carving had always sat overlooking the meandering estuary by the back door, and now here it was by a new window overlooking a meadow in rural England. Looking upon it filled me with such a beautiful feeling and the words that danced around that feeling were: “I loved you while you lived, I love you still”. Even writing these words now, tears well in my eyes.

I realised in a flash that I felt no less love, despite the fact that one of my dearest friends was gone. I knew then that ‘Love’ surpasses literally everything; the person is gone but never the love. For it is the very essence of who we are as beings, it comes from deep within our essence, our soul, our spirit, and is the life of all things both in the form and the formless. Love is there in the beginning, and love is what remains when we are but a beautiful memory in those we leave behind.

‘I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all’.
Alfred Lord Tennyson In Memoriam: 27, 1850

Dedicated to the beautiful Clytee Mills on this day of remembrance 3rd of May 2014

*Loon: any of several large, short-tailed, web-footed, fish-eating diving birds of the genus Gavia, of the Northern Hemisphere. From Dictionary.com 

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