How was my summer? Good…bad…who knows.
Have you ever listened to a story or a parable that you thought was a really important lesson at the time you heard it, and then when you went to recall it, you had none of the details? That happens to me a lot. I love stories, parables, metaphors, fables, and any sort of life lesson learned from an actual life experience. But sometimes, these lessons are not always at the tip of my brain.
I have been in need of many stories and support these past couple of months as I am processing the death of my Dad at the beginning of the summer. As it happened, I was with him at the time of his unexpected passing. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to write about the details of the experience, but for now, I will share that I held the belief for a long time that I could have prevented his death.
There was a story I had heard not more than a year ago that I was trying to recall because I had a strong sense it was really important for what I was experiencing. But for the life of me, I just couldn’t bring it to my conscious awareness. I thought I had enough tidbits that I could Google it to find the details. But no luck so I just gave up the search and basically forgot about it.
In the meantime, over the course of the summer, many different perspectives were offered to me by others regarding my dad’s death and the circumstances of it. Some people I knew and some I didn’t.
- “Your dad was lucky he didn’t have to suffer a long, drawn out death.”
- “It’s too bad you didn’t have a chance to say good-bye.”
- “It must have been so traumatic for you to have been with him.”
- “What a blessing for you to have been with him.”
- “It was a crazy and careless decision.”
- “It was an adventurous and carefree decision.”
- “He was still young.” (statement from my 90 year old aunt about my 83 year old dad)
- “He had a long and full life.”
- “We were lucky to get an extra fifteen years with him.”
- “I should have died before him.” (said by my mom)
Were all these statement true? How could they be as many of them contradicted each other? I don’t know if they were true or not. They probably were for the person saying it, in that moment, from their own perspective. But really, all the statements were judgements.
Which brings me to the story I was trying to recall. I received it in an email just a few days ago and as I sensed, it has really been applicable to my current frame of mind. I realized my own belief, that I could have prevented his death, was just a judgement; it was not a statement of truth.
Here is the Zen parable:
A farmer had a horse but one day, the horse ran away and so the farmer and his son had to plow their fields themselves. Their neighbors said, “Oh, what bad luck that your horse ran away!” But the farmer replied, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows?”
The next week, the horse returned to the farm, bringing a herd of wild horses with him. “What wonderful luck!” cried the neighbors, but the farmer responded, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
Then, the farmer’s son was thrown as he tried to ride one of the wild horses, and he broke his leg. “Ah, such bad luck,” sympathized the neighbors. Once again, the farmer responded, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows?”
A short time later, the ruler of the country recruited all young men to join his army for battle. The son, with his broken leg, was left at home. “What good luck that your son was not forced into battle!” celebrated the neighbors. And the farmer remarked, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
Everything in life holds the elements of both a burden and a blessing. It is our tendency as humans to judge things as “good” or “bad” that influences our personal life perspective. I try to find a blessing in everything in my life, regardless of the challenge. This is what I can control, not the circumstance. I have found blessing in my dad’s death and do not want to carry the burden of his passing anymore.
What do you typically choose; blessing or burden?
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