Loss Can Be the Place Where Beauty and Goodness Begin

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 4:38 am

Loss Can Be the Place Where Beauty and Goodness Begin

In the New York Times, there’s an interactive feature called “The Lives They Loved.” Every year the Times invites readers “to contribute a photograph and a story of someone close to them who died this year.” Click on any photograph and you can read a short story about the person pictured, written by someone who loved them.
For many of us, including me, 2015 involved times of deep loss and grief as well as joy and new life. Looking at these photos and reading some of the stories that come with them helps me realize that, despite our surface differences, we human beings are joined at the heart in the most profound experiences of life.
What if we spent 2016 focusing more on our shared human condition than on our differences? What if we cultivated the capacity to feel for each other’s losses and developed a deeper awareness of our mutual mortality? Surely we’d want to spend more time working with others to bring a better, more beautiful world into being.
Here’s a poem I love by Gregory Orr about the way loss can be the place where beauty and goodness begin. May those who grieve be comforted, and may loss make all of us more thoughtful.

Not to Make Loss Beautiful…
by Gregory Orr

Not to make loss beautiful,
But to make loss the place
Where beauty starts. Where
the heart understands
For the first time
The nature of its journey.

Love, yes. The body
of the beloved as the gift
Bestowed. But only
Temporarily. Given freely,
But now to be earned.

Given without thought,
And now loss
Has made us thoughtful.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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