The Mystery of Sorrow

Our dear friend, Jef, lost his mother to cancer today.  Even though he has helped others with grief and loss, Jef personally had not lost a close family member.  I cannot imagine what he must be feeling right now.  I sent him a message this morning and his gentle words returned, “Oh Millie, deepest thank you for your love.  Please write something today about how the mystery of sorrow is mixed together with the secrets of surrounding joy.  I will need to read it from your pondering sweet heart.  Love in big ways.  Your Jef”

After I composed my tears I felt a sense of gratitude for his mother finally letting go.  She hung tightly to this world.  Her body deteriorating, her pain evident, and I believe she just wanted permission to finally be set free.  The agony of what’s to come for the dying is one I will never comprehend.  It is a personal one.  I have spoken to people who work for Hospice and have been told that the dying usually wait for when they are alone to pass on.  Their souls need this privacy.

I have no wisdom when it comes to loss.  No matter what I write or say the loss of those we love is inexplicable.  We can be prepared for it but when the moment arrives it is as if the logical mind and the heart go separate ways.  I felt it with my mother five years ago.  I saw her tiny body embraced in a bed, peacefully lying as if she was asleep.  I was comforted with the knowing that she was finally free of the pain and discomfort and mostly of the fears.  She feared death.  Days before she died she asked me what I thought would happen to her.  I held her hand and told her that she would finally be at peace.  I assured her that she would feel so much love.  I expressed my beliefs about the afterlife.  The entire time of our conversation she looked at me with her glossy eyes and smiled.  My dear mother wanted permission to die.  In those moments of my assurance she received the message that we would be okay without her here.  It is always hard to comprehend what the dying think of their legacy.  They fear so much in so many levels.  It isn’t just the worrying of what can happen after the spirit leaves the body but for some the closure of the loved ones left behind.   “How will they make it without me?”

Grief does not change you.  It reveals the innermost part of your spirit.  To watch a loved one diminish and suffer is hell here on earth.  There is no relief in that.  The comfort is finally breathing and understanding that we are not immortal.  We came here momentarily to love, learn and experience life.   In the sadness of loss comes the joy of celebrating a life fully lived.  So often we mourn the death instead of rejoicing the life and what that soul offered us in our journey.

I have never stopped having a mother, a father, grandparents and so many who have passed.  They are still with me in memories, stories, and choices I make.  We don’t stop having these loved ones because their bodies aren’t here.  They evolve into another plane of existence which lives in our hearts.  But, no matter what way we prepare for loss it is still a lonely heart ache.  No two people will feel the same.  My sisters miss their mother in different ways.  I miss her for her strength and tenacity.  I miss friends who have passed for their love and laughter.  The hardest part of grieving is the finality.  I still miss my mother’s phone calls on my birthday, holidays and special events.  She was always the first to call me.  And so on days like that I light a candle in front of her picture that’s sits on my desk.  I say a prayer of gratitude and allow the light of divinity to guide me during those sad moments.

I have no words for Jef that can mend this moment.  I have little wisdom when it comes to the grieving heart.  What I do have is the “knowing” that those who pass leave a little part of themselves behind.  They begin to show us that they are at peace through a favorite song, a lovely poem, a sign from the universe, and in the comforting realm of dreams.  Celebrate the life lived.  Explore the mystery of sorrow and allow those moments to pass.  Honor the legacy with grace, compassion and faith.  Rejoice in the stories of the past.  And, in the moments of solitude and despair reach into your heart and know you are never alone.


You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott


23 thoughts on “The Mystery of Sorrow

  1. This is so very beautiful. I love these lines “I have never stopped having a mother, a father, grandparents and so many who have passed. They are still with me in memories, stories, and choices I make.”

    My sympathies to your friend.

  2. Beautiful, well-said sentiments! My condolences to your friend, Jef. I believe he will find comfort, if not peace yet, in your words.

    The holidays and my birthdays are always hard for me, too. And, my parents’ birthdays. Dad passed eight years ago, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and it still doesn’t “feel” like Christmas without him for either Sam or me. He was the perennial child during the holidays; and without him here to help me put up the tree, or hum Christmas carols. Well, you get the idea. Yet, I have only to look at Mom & Dad’s wedding picture, or hear a certain song, and I know their spirits are in the room with me, as they are now. And it makes me smile.

  3. How amazing to reflect on grief and dying in the season where many are celebrating the arrival of a newborn. Both are real and both are a mystery. Jef has been gifted by your honest and heart-felt words. We are brave to dive into these deep waters and blessed to be among friends.

  4. I couldn’t read this without getting teary eyed. It’s beautiful. We have a dear friend ourselves with pancreatic cancer and I just can’t imagine the pain. Our thoughts and prayers go out.

  5. You are right, there are no words. Having my own mother pass away recently and feeling the relief when the suffering was over. How can you adequately explain the awful beauty of seeing someone wracked with pain and confusion finally leave this world.
    I loved, and still love my mother, dearly but I would not have her back in anything like the state she left us.

    I hope you friend Jef finds some peace. As always powerful words.


  6. mary ann hylton-hartley

    Beautiful!! What I found especially moving was what Jef said to you in his note. “Please write something today about how the mystery of sorrow is mixed together with the secrets of surrounding joy.” So many times I have tried to put into words those feelings and until today I didn’t know how to but Jef said it beautifully. I cannot begin to tell you what those words meant to me. Thank you Mrs. Powers for raising sons who shine out into the world to help others as you did.

  7. Very moving words, Millie, and I know your friend will find much solace in them. So much of ourselves gets lost in grief. I look back at watching both my parents & two younger sisters give up the fight in Hospice care and each time it gets harder because you know the heartache and void they’ll leave behind. I have gotten “messages” from my loved ones but it only made me miss them more. I guess I’m selfish to want them here with me but so much of my life centered around them. My sisters were my best friends and we had relied on each other so much on a daily basis for confirmation and friendship. Though I’m happy that their pain is gone and they are free, I still miss them each day. Just one woman’s remaining pain that I’m still dealing with. Take care.

    1. Oh Kathy, I am so very sorry for your loss. They are still your sisters and of course you must miss them. I miss my family members. My heart goes out to you. This must’ve opened up some deep wounds. I am sorry for that. I wish I could take you in my arms this morning and hug you. Sending loving prayers.

  8. Its never easy to find words to console someone at moments like these. At least i know im never good at finding the right sentences to make the pain go away or make the tears dry out quicker.
    Just sending best wishes and strength…

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