Thursday, September 21, 2006

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~ Buddha

ECR passed me the memetic torch of literacy the other day in her blog entry of 9/19/2006. For those not familiar with a "meme", it refers to a unit of cultural information that can be transmitted from one mind to another. When it comes to a blog, it's "an idea, project, statement or even a question that is posted on one blog and responded to by other blogs."

The theme of this particular meme is:
What is written on the 5th through 8th sentences on page 123 of the book nearest you?

Not wanting to be known as someone who cannot reliably handle the torch that has been handed to her, I have grabbed the book closest to me, opened it to page 123, and here we go:
5. When we think about heroism, the mind quickly leaps to men and women who take physical risks to help others.
6. But heroism is as much about inner strength as it is about acts of physical courage.
7. The greatest heroes are often the quiet men and women who are simply and bravely facing up to the many unexpected losses and difficulties that life has to dish up.
8. Don't we all know men and women who are being heroic on a daily basis?
The name of the book is Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation written by the Lama Surya Das. Page 123 is actually the first page of Chapter Seven which is titled Being Heroic in the Face of Loss.

I bought this book in the Spring of 2003 during a particularly trying time of my life despite the fact that I am not now nor have I ever been a Buddhist. I had just gone through the very painful ending of a relationship with someone that I cared for very much when, much worse than that, my father unexpectedly died during a CAT scan. Granted, my father had non-Hodgkins lymphoma (for which there is treatment but no cure) and he had been stoically battling it for several years but his death wasn't from the cancer. Rather it was from his lungs filling up with fluid so that he couldn't breathe while he was lying flat on his back. At the time of his death, he had been in the hospital for several days because of the shortness of breath and the CAT scan was part of the testing process to determine where the problem lie.

My father knew that he wasn't coming out of that hospital alive as he said several times while there that the only way he was leaving was "feet first". I could see in his face that he had given up the fight, that he was tired, and he was ready for his "dirt nap" as he so eloquently referred to his death. I'm sure that fighting cancer for years will take its toll on the spirit even more than the body and Dad was just flat-out tired. Still - those of us who loved him weren't ready for him to go and his death was still a shock despite knowing that eventually the cancer would take its toll and he'd be gone.

That was at the end of February and by May I had pretty much had it with myself. It wasn't even halfway through the year and I had already chalked up 2003 as being one of the worst years of my life. I desperately wanted some change, wanted to feel more like a person of worth, wanted to figure out how to handle all of the loss in my life without going completely crazy, and in my heart I knew that it was going to have to start with me as no one else was going to be able to do it for me. When I saw this book by the Lama Das, I thought it might help get me out of the pit of despair that I had fallen into; might give me some sort of direction to channel my energies towards; might actually help me to like myself again.
"We cry because of our losses; we despair and become depressed because of our losses; we lose hope because of our losses. We are haunted by our losses and we often define ourselves by our losses. But, and this is an important but, we are also strengthened by our losses. We can change and mature spiritually because of our losses. Almost by definition, loss is transformative." Chapter One, Making Sense of the Madness
It took awhile. It certainly wasn't an overnight transformation but eventually I came to terms with my losses and my life was more fulfilled for what I went through. It took more than one book by more than one author, it took more than one phone call by more than one friend, and it took strength and courage on my own part. My life is by no means perfect and I still miss those that I have lost but I've learned to "let go of the holding on" - though it's always a work in progress!

Thank you, ECR, for reminding me of these things by passing on that torch to me and having me pick up the closest book!


  1. Anonymous2:38 PM EDT

    ECR rocks-as I've already told you verbally, I checked out her blog based on a previous response to one of your entries. I recommend her at a Platinum Pick for good reads.

    I'm not surprised that the book you had at hand was one that helped you along the solo path that defines humanity. Your dad's influence and impact on your life left you well prepared to take the whole thing on, though. It is marvelous that he held on to who he truly was right up to the time the train arrived.

    What is it about we daughters of larger-than-life fathers?

    I know. We Be LUCKY

  2. Wow, what a way to make that Meme mean so much! Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like your father was a great man.

  3. This is a dynamite post. I can see why you submitted it to The Carnival.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Came from THE COUCH for the Carnival...

    You took a simple Meme and turned it into one incredible post. Thanks for sharing

  5. Anonymous5:53 PM EST

    I came from the Carnival, too, and I'm glad I did. That book sounds intriguing. I got tagged for that meme and I had a dictionary at my elbow. My answer wasn't nearly as profound as me.

  6. Beautifully written! Thanks for sharing - I'm here via the blog carnival :)

  7. What a lovely post. My sympathies to you about your father's suffering. I can relate: my own dad's battle with cancer wasn't pretty, but out of those moments of hardship emerged some priceless memories of beauty and strength.

    But, and this is an important but, we are also strengthened by our losses.

    That passage just brought me goosebumps. It applies to everything, not just death.


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