A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about strength, kindness, and the long journey towards healing after several years of big losses in my life. In the past 3 years, I have lost my father, my boyfriend who was the love of my life (the one before rebound Joe), and a dear friend. Some of those losses were catalyzed by cells growing in his brain and others by bullets to their brains, but all of those losses were enough to bring you to your knees pleading for more merciful years to come. I have to believe that I am a gentler person for these losses. I would rather not know such pain, but since I do, I might as well use it to make the world a kinder place.
It was in this discussion that my friend shared with me words that have brought him comfort over the years. It’s from a poem that starts out, “Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things.” Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things. That struck me so profoundly. It’s not only talking about the vacuum that exists after loss that others try to fill with kindness. It’s very true that kindness towards you is most profoundly felt when you’re alone in the chasms. But it is also talking about the familiarity with that vacuum that makes you more capable of empathizing with other’s loss and navigating with them through the chasms. You walk more softly because you are more sensitive to the world around you, the weight of your feet pressing down, and the support of your hand when you hold it out. Without the familiarity with loss, there would be no need for giving or receiving kindness.
It’s been a few years of extreme loss, but I am fortunate to say that it’s also been a few years of extreme kindness. I now can open my eyes and see my suffering was not alone because those that shared kindness with me had also known loss and pain at some point in their lives too. The revelation that we are all in this together was so comforting to me. And the knowledge that my loved ones live on by walking beside me as I offer love and compassion to others brings me hope.