You're Invited - Dare to be Different
Every party is better with games. Right? In the Surprise Party of my life, the most popular game seems to be Truth or Dare. I used to be quick to leap at what I call Divine Dares. So it's surprising to me, how my response went from excitable acceptance, to hesitant resistance.
For more than a decade, as I was dared to share perspective pivots, I was eager to do so because of the profound difference they make. I felt honored to heed the call and challenge perceptions of the status quo, as well as the words we use in describing them. Over time, proven risk of debate began to interfere with my enthusiasm. I grew tired of my intentions being repetitively misunderstood, so I quit daring others to try the unexpected shift in perspective. I on the other hand, kept challenging myself to see from different angles. The discoveries always fascinating and profitable, but I kept them to myself. Today, I respond to the dare to be different and share some perspective pivots on 'death'.
It's rare to see a post of someone's passing and it not be ladened with loss and sorrow. If the initial announcement isn't heavy with mourning and grief, the responses predictably are. It's the way we've been conditioned to feel and speak when it comes to the subject of dying and death.
I'm not denying the importance of honoring sadness when a person's time on earth has ended. Grief can be a bridge to peace, but I'm here to tell you it's possible to take a different route. I'm extending a surprise invitation to you. When death occurs, you'll come to a fork in the road. One path points to grief. The other to gratitude. The grief path can be sprinkled with gratitude, but it won't be covered with it. As the gratitude path can have moments of grief, but they're not prominent. If you wait for encouragement from friends and family to avoid the grief path, it likely won't come.
Let me explain. On the day we were to bury my daughter, Jonnae's ashes, "I have to bury my baby." rose up when I was in the shower; expected grief and it's heaviness moving in. As I was getting dressed, again I heard myself saying, "I have to bury my baby." Those who know me, know I have a filter that catches every 'have to' spoken, written, and in this instance, thought. This example is why. This is where the power of a perspective pivot got my attention and forever changed my life. I prayed. "God, I know there's a GET TO but I can't find. Please help me find it."
Right away, I was given an answer to my prayer. "Only one woman in the world got to be Jonnae's mom. She's the one who GETS to release her back into Heaven's loving care." And just like that, the heaviness of grief vanished and a peace and gratitude beyond human understanding permanently took it's place. Family, friends, licensed psychologists, famous authors, pastors and priests continued to suggest I was denying myself healing if I didn't allow myself to go through the stages of grief. I used the words beyond human understanding, because I know of no better phrase to use. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Jonnae's "party hop" and it's still difficult for many to believe my experience of gratitude dissolving grief is true. If I waited for understanding and permission, I'd never be where I am, doing what I'm doing, being who I am. A woman in love with life, thankful for each experience I get to have as a piece of it, eager to assist those who want family celebrating their life, more than mourning their 'death'.
"Wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." ~ Revelation 21:4
What's prompted this blog post? This morning, a Facebook friend shared someone she'd been fond of had 'gone to Heaven.' She chose not to use words like death, gone, or lost in her post. She mentioned her gratitude for his life and said the stories of truth, inspiration, love, friendship, undying commitment and energy of this man could be told for days. Internally, I applauded her perspective and word choice while focusing on the gift this man was to all who knew him. Responders to her positive, peace-filled post could not follow her lead.
- "Sorry for your loss."
- "This is so SO SAD."
- "This breaks my heart.
- I had hoped for a better outcome."
I was open to the dare of disrupting the expected story of a mother's sorrow, with a surprising one of gratitude. As a result, my perspective about death is radical. I was gifted a miraculous experience. My intention in writing this post is to extend the invitation, so more experience the same. I dream of the day it's not shocking to see the words party hop in conjunction with a person's passing from this life surprise party to the next.
As I read the post and comments this morning, my thoughts went something like this:
"Why are we so inclined to fuel sadness? This person didn't speak of her loss, but all the comments are steering her there. What if rather than expressing how sorry we are for the loss, we kept our eyes and hearts fixed on what was gained? So many were blessed by this man's life. What if by choosing to shine a light of gratitude we lift others out of grief's darkness, rather than shroud them in it? Couldn't that have a better chance of helping them to feel better, when traditional responses don't?
What if rather than express how sad it is someone 'died', more of us rejoiced and redirected attention to what the 'party hop' meant for eternal life? What if we knew the person was always going to be a guest at our party, but as Wayne Dyer shared, "is hanging out in a different room?"
When I read, "had hoped for a better outcome." as a faith-filled believer in what the Creator of all life has in store for us, I thought, "How could the outcome be any better?"
I'm not saying sorrow can't be felt or shouldn't be expressed. That would be ludicrous and certainly not compassionate. I'm saying in my experience there's been a different way that led to increased peace, healing and unspeakable joy. We collectively have an opportunity to lift the sorrowful with words that shift perspective and disrupt the pattern of grief. It's not disrespectful or callous to do that with a gentle pivot of where we're looking, what we're reporting and how it changes the way we feel. Dr Seuss' quote, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." has been a well received nudge of perspective when I've accepted the dare to interrupt the 'sorry for your loss' pattern and offered it to someone saddened by the party hop of a loved one.
So the question is this. Do you accept the dare to be different when it comes to 'death' (aka - a party hop)? Sharing this post with someone struggling in a season of mourning is a good place to start.