A veil of silence closes around the stories of my day. They are stories of love, and of loss, and of the heartache that we each experience at some point in our lives. Of the tragedies played out behind staid lace curtains or ultra-modern blinds, in the quiet precincts of home or the corridors of aseptic impersonality. They are all our human stories that mark the rites of life and the seeds of growth, defining the learning curve of emotion. And they touch us all, as soon as we open ourselves to love in any of its myriad guises.
What is the alternative? A bland life lacking in the emotional peaks and troughs…? While we think that we could happily live without the heartaches perhaps… without them would we be able to look up to the heights and appreciate their beauty? You only see the true glory of a mountain when you have climbed it from its roots.
Yet that is no comfort to those stuck in the shadowy, tangled foothills. And in almost every street, in every city, there are private hells we do not see. There are those who retreat behind closed doors, those who reach out and many who wish they knew how, lifting wordless eyes to a sky that seems too far, where only the rain answers their tears.
There is the other side too, those who close their eyes to the pain around them, refusing to look in case they are touched, clutching the silk skirts of their own illusive contentment for fear of it being mired by the grief of others. But for most of us there is that helpless yearning to help, knowing that, quite often, there is nothing we can do. Except, perhaps, to witness in shared humanity and with love.
I remember watching my sons four years ago. The elder barely conscious, paralysed, holding his brother with eyes he could barely control, the younger holding his hand, as he had every day, smiling down with absolute love. There was something around that hospital bed that drew all eyes. The tall, smiling figure, holding the pale hand in his brown one. In every ward, in every hospital, the nurses commented on the light of love that seemed to shine about the two of them. It will, I know, remain my most enduring memory of that time. Being there with love was all he could do.
Watching them, as a parent, knowing the searing grief behind that smile, I wanted to be able to ‘make it better’ as I had when they were small. The powerlessness to change anything was gut wrenching, appalling. All I could do was to be there with love. As they were for me.
Maybe that is what matters most… even when there are practical things we can do, perhaps it matters more that we mean it… acting from the heart and not from some inflated sense of who we are and what we can do… or from our own need to be seen as helpful, our need to be appreciated. Maybe these are the times we can and should step away from ourselves and the needs of our own ego… for if we look honestly into the mirrors of our souls we find we all share many frailties… and simply be the living flame of love.