Practicing Active Hope

I have been thinking a lot about where I have been since Brian died, where I am right now in my grief journey, and where I am headed moving forward. New Year’s Day marked 20 months since Brian unexpectedly died. It is hard to believe that in just four more months he will have been gone for two years. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, research, and learning, trying to discern the best way out of this black hole I got sucked into. And I really feel like I am making progress. The kind of progress that Brian would want me to make. The kind that will help me move forward and write the rest of my story . . . the part with him no longer physically in it. One of my favorite quotes is this one: “Your 2nd life begins when you realize you only have One. Raphaele Giordano.

With that as my jumping off point, I am going to share two things with you. The first is the letter I wrote, sitting at Brian’s bedside, on March 25th, the day I realized that my new reality was a life without him in it. The second speaks of Active Hope.

March 25, 2021

Dear Brian:
     How did it come to this? You, lying in the bed at the nursing home. Me sitting in the chair beside you. Holding your hand. Watching you sleep. Not a natural sleep, but a deep, profound sleep, brought on by pain killers that make you comfortable, but, in doing so rob you of your ability to communicate me with in any way. Drugs that mask your pain, but that only multiply mine. Do you know how much I love you? How I ache to see you this way? How empty I already feel, knowing that I have such a short time left to have you in my life? At home, my footsteps echo through the house, a cruel reminder of what will soon be your permanent absence. The silence that surrounds me is deafening. No one calls my name. There are no dishes from a meal, because there is no one to cook for, and I don't feel like eating. At night, alone in our house, I read and reread the letters you wrote to me so faithfully for the 2 years we dated, all of those 29 years ago. The love and joy that are in the words you wrote to me warm my heart and tear it apart at the same time. I wish we had more time. But, since that gift will not be ours, I hope you know that I could not have asked for anything better than our time together. I love you, Brian Gentz, and I miss you already.

All my love, 

Fast forward to tonight, and I know that, while I have a long way yet to go, and I will never “be over” losing Brian, still, I have come a long way. My hope for this new year is that I am perhaps, starting to realize that I can either waste the rest of my one precious life, wishing I could change things I can’t, or I can make the most of what is mine yet to live. The choice is mine to make. The following piece pretty much sums up where I see my life right now. It uses the term “Active Hope.” Isn’t that a wonderful word?! Here’s the piece. My New Year’s wish for you, dear readers and fellow travelers on the journey of grief, is that you, too, are able to find Active Hope, embrace it, and live the rest of your one life to the fullest. Peace and Hope on your own grief journey.

“Trusting the Spiral

Active Hope is not wishful thinking. Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued by the Lone Ranger or some savior. Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act. We belong to this world. The web of life is calling us forth at this time. We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part. With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store, strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with. Active Hope is a readiness to engage. Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths in ourselves and in others. A readiness to discover the reasons for hope and the occasions for love. A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts, our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose, our own authority, our love for life, the liveliness of our curiosity, the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence, the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead. None of these can be discovered in an armchair or with out risk.”

–Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone, “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy” p. 35

“Grief is a practice, not a problem to be fixed. A practice of holding on and letting go, of letting in and letting out, of falling and rising, of speaking and listening, of honoring and living, of trembling and soothing, of carving out a space for love and loss to co-exist in our heads and in our hearts. . . A practice of being human.”

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