Life is Change

Nothhing ever remains the same.

Nothing Remains the Same

Buddha says, “All conditioned things are impermanent’ — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” The Buddha.

“Nothing is permanent except change.” The Buddha.

Judaism and Buddhism:

“The origin of man is dust, his end is dust. He earns his bread by exertion and is like a broken shard, like dry grass, a withered flower, like a passing shadow and a vanishing cloud, like a breeze that blows away and dust that scatters, like a dream that flies away.”

“The impermanence and the changing nature of everything in this world are one of the few constants in life, and it’s a truth you repeatedly internalize through meditation. “

Earlier this week, I had a conversation today with a group of people close to my age. My age is now 80 years old. What we talked about is the fact that everything has transformed. The United States is unrecognizable from when we were children. We played with other children in groups, and it was safe for us to be outside. Today, children play electronic and computer games in their houses. They are electronically connected to other youngsters without seeing each other or being in a group.

 Our neighborhoods have changed. There needs to be a sense of community in our neighborhoods, but it does not exist. So many families live in isolation from other families because people move, and they come and go. Families also live in different parts of the country. At one time, the extended family lived close to one another. Now family members live far from each other, and the nuclear family composed of mom, dad, and children has been dissolved by single-parent families or by multiple divorces and remarriages. 

The world is nothing like it used to be. The United States was the most powerful nation in the world. Now we are challenged by Russia and China, who have very different political systems and no regard for individual rights. We came from urban neighborhoods with low to middle-income families. They are now populated by families that are poverty-stricken or low-income. These Socioeconomic changes have made the old neighborhoods seem unrecognizable. 

Yes, change happens. We grow up, marry, and have children. We raise them and take them through adolescence until they go to work or college. Either way, they move out of the home.

A sense of isolation develops for many as we grow older and as our children grow older. My daughters remind me they are now 50 years old. Their birthdays are in June, and they’ll turn 50 in June. They are twins. So they still like to think of themselves as 49 until their birthdays in June. Their dad is now 80 years old. 

One of my daughters was shocked when a notice from school reminded her to prepare for my grandson entering High School in September. She was astonished even though she was well aware of High School. And I reminded her that life comprises constant change. My daughter could not get over that. As she said, it’s weird. 

It’s a different world in which I feel a lot less comfortable. I was raised in New York City. My wife and I moved to Colorado after our daughters went to school and stayed here in Colorado. While I have friends in New York, 

I live in Colorado. Sadly, my wife passed away, and has been gone for seven years. I, too, will pass on, which is part of life. Everything changes, and there is nothing we can do about it. It reminds me of the excellent book written by Ernest Becker called the denial of death. We try to deny the existence of death, but it is the ultimate change brought about by the progression of time. The aging process itself is an example of how things change.

 

Don’t Watch the News

The news provokes anxiety, stress and depression.

Watching the news is too stressful and depressing.

Every day, there are more reports about mass shootings. Every day there is news about the war between Ukraine and Russia. There are also the problems of inflation, coronavirus, Chinese aggression, angry debates in Congress, and mass shootings throughout the United States. The list of problems is endless. 

The accumulation of these problems is both stressful and anxiety provoking. However, there are ways we can either minimize the emotional impact these events have on everyone. One way to reduce the impact of the news on each of us is to limit the time we spend watching or reading about these news items.

There is evidence that watching the news from the far right or far left news is very upsetting for many individuals. For example, watching MSNBC, which leans towards the left wing, or Fox news which leans towards the right wing, is stressful whether you are liberal, conservative, or moderate. 

However, it could be more helpful and realistic to avoid the news altogether. Limit the time watching the news, focusing on moderate news, and listening only to brief descriptions. We know that there is news that causes stress every day. The evidence is that this stress And the depressing impact of the news. Does that happen every four years during a presidential election? It is difficult to avoid it altogether. But it’s essential to focus on giving attention to our husbands and wives, parents, friends, and children. 

Relaxation techniques are essential. Studies show that activities like meditation, yoga, and exercise are important ways of reducing stress and feeling better. There also needs time for entertainment and enjoyment outside of the news altogether. We should take care of ourselves and our loved ones and avoid news and information that we can do little or nothing. And even if we engage in political activities to influence what is essential to have time to do other things. Going to baseball or basketball, or football games is a great distraction. Playing tennis, going to the movies, and going to dinner, lunch, brunch, or breakfast is terrific. Instead of the news, watch comedies and laugh. We need distraction and not allow ourselves to be seduced by the sensationalizing of news.

Psychiatric Service Dogs are Very Special

What are service dogs?

*The ADA defines a service dog as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” This can include a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or any other mental disability.” 

“Service dogs are specially trained to perform one or many specific tasks for their assigned individual. Tasks performed by a service dog include but are not limited to:

  • Guiding people who are blind
  • Alerting people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Pulling a wheelchair and/or assisting the individual in a wheelchair
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having, or are about to have, a seizure
  • Assisting those with balance and stability issues
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • Interrupting impulsive or destructive behavior of those with neurological disabilities or other psychiatric issues
  • Helping veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome by turning on lights, creating a buffer in public, and interrupting anxiety attacks or nightmares.”
  • *This definition is from the Jack Kagan Foundation.

A Psychiatric Service Dog is specially trained to assist individuals with psychiatric disabilities. These dogs are not pets but are working dogs with public access rights. The dogs are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA), as well as individual state statutes. Public access, as it applies to service dogs, allows the dog to be taken anywhere the general public can go, including all forms of public transportation such as airplanes, places of worship, restaurants, stores, malls, hospitals, and doctor and dentist offices.

Psychiatric service dogs are specifically trained to help individuals deal with the symptoms of their disabilities. Psychiatric conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Severe Depression, Panic Attacks, Phobias, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders respond well to the work of these extraordinary dogs.

How can these dogs possibly help? What do they do? There are many answers to these questions. Dogs trained to deal with PTSD are taught to prevent strangers from coming too close. By positioning themselves in front of their partners, they prevent people from entering their personal space. In the case of war veterans, the dogs are often trained to walk behind, reducing the fear of being outside.

These dogs also provide reality checks for visual and auditory hallucinations. A veteran recently reported that while spending a quiet evening at home, he suddenly felt a strange person standing close to him. He looked down at his Service Dog, asleep at his feet, and realized that no one could be there without the dog reacting.

Psychiatric Service Dogs are often alert to obsessive-compulsive behaviors by “pawing” individuals who may not realize what they are doing. The dog is distracting the client from the compulsive behavior.

The dogs carry prescriptions and medical information in their vests, remind their partners to take medications, give them a reason to get out of bed and leave the house and provide a constant non-judgmental, loving presence. Service Dogs and their partners are always together.

Psychiatric Service Dogs also help with anxiety and panic attacks through tactile stimulation. When a client is highly nervous and upset, they are encouraged to run their hands through the dog’s fur and massage the dog’s entire body. Through these tactile experiences, clients learn to relieve their symptoms. This technique works particularly well in times of stress.

The presence of these dogs also relieves isolation and encourages social interaction. People are fascinated by the work of these dogs and constantly ask questions. The interaction between the dog owner and people who ask questions encourages the client to become more comfortable dealing with strangers.

One of the best things about PTSD clients partnering with Psychiatric Service Dogs is that the dog often distracts them from their fears and worries. Instead, they must focus on the dog, its behavior, safety, and care.

Each dog is taught specific tasks depending on the needs of their partners. These can often include, but are by no means limited to, getting the phone in an emergency, calling 911 on a K-9 Rescue Phone, barking for help, providing balance support, retrieving needed or dropped articles, opening the refrigerator to bring food or drink, alerting others in medical emergencies, finding the car in a crowded parking lot and leading the client to safety.

 As the bond between Service Dogs and their partners deepens, they become more in tune with one another, and their ability to provide for one another’s needs increases. One of the best things I have heard from a Service Dog partner is, “This dog makes me laugh. He fills my life with a sense of joy and love that I haven’t been able to feel for a very long time.”

 

Racial, Religious and Ethnic Hatred Must End

Hatred of Others Must End

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

What Leads to Hate Crimes?

“Hate crimes are an extreme form of prejudice, made more likely by social and political change. Public and political discourse may devalue members of unfamiliar groups, and offenders may feel that demographic changes threaten their livelihood or way of life. Hate may not motivate offenders, but fear, ignorance, or anger. These can lead to the dehumanization of unfamiliar groups and targeted aggression.” (American Psychological Association)

Racial hatred motivated the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I grew up in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, during the 1940s and 1950s. The population of the borough was primarily Jewish, Irish, and Italian. Gradually, as America grew more affluent, families moved to the suburbs, where they owned their homes and left behind the urban environment. Black and Hispanic families replaced those who moved away. Because minority people moved into these neighborhoods, the remaining white population moved away. Unfortunately, fear and ignorance drove the remaining white people away.

During my High School years, I attended DeWitt Clinton High School. What always amazed me was that, during lunch, black kids sat together in one part of the cafeteria while white kids sat separately. There was an area between the two groups of black and white kids sitting together.

Psychological research shows a strong relationship between self-hatred and anxiety, resulting in racial and ethnic hatred against anyone perceived as different. People project their self-hated feelings onto those who seem different. A depressed individual might think they hate themselves and then see their self-hated characteristics in others. Mental health professionals trained in the psychoanalytic tradition say that we unconsciously split off the aspects of ourselves that we hate and project them onto others.

People in other countries also express racial, ethnic, and religious hatred. We know that there are warring groups throughout the world.

In a world where we instantly get news from around the world, it is essential to learn how to accept one another and not fall prey to the cycle of hatred.

We celebrate Dr. King because he represents tolerance, acceptance, and understanding among all the diverse groups worldwide.

What are your opinions and comments about this issue?

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

dransphd@aol.com

 

Understanding Resentment

Understanding Resentment

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Buddha

Case:

“He is 40 years old. In every way, the indicators were that he would have a personally and professionally successful life. However, his Bipolar Disorder left untreated from adolescence until the present time, left him feeling unfulfilled in every aspect of life. What he felt because of his failure was a deep-seated resentment of his parents, particularly his father. Every time he speaks to them and sees them, something that has become increasingly infrequent in recent years, he harangues them with all the injustices they committed against him. Still, he refuses medication for his Bipolar Disorder, although he admits he has. He also refuses any type of psychotherapy. It seems there is no limit to the blame he puts on his parents and the world for not treating allowing him to be the success he should be.”

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, resentment is the indignation about being mistreated. It’s a complicated emotion because it involves feeling humiliated, shamed, and, ultimately, wanting revenge. The mistreated person cannot forgive. In intimate family relationships, it broke connections among family members. Feeling such a negative emotion often stems from feeling unseen and misunderstood by others. To the one who feels being mistreated, it’s all the same, whether something slight or significant. It does not matter how trivial or severe the injustice might be.

Resentment is corrosive

Because the nature of life is such that there is plenty of injustice for all of us, there is no end to the amount of resentment we can perpetrate against ourselves. However, resentment is corrosive because it involves thinking obsessively about the insults and injustices committed against the self. In the end, the resentment becomes turned against the self because maintaining such a high negative emotion takes a toll on physical and mental health. 

They are the feelings of anger and the fantasies of revenge, which are as focused and draining as the memories of the injustice. The resentful person cannot let go of this negative emotion and move on with life.

Under the worst circumstances, resentment can turn into full-blown hatred and fanaticism for groups of people resenting other groups. Fanatic hatred gave rise to the Nazi party in World War II. It’s simmering resentment that gives rise to religious and racial hatred.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Mindfulness: Embrace the Present Moment

Dalai Lama

“He said, “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”

Dalai Lama: Live Now

This is from the Dali’s Lama. Also, Thich Nhat Hanh taught the same concept. We spend so much time regretting the past and feeling apprehension and doubt about the future. As a result, we overlook the present. Yet we live in the present. Now, we can love, grasp spiritual beliefs, and live as fully. Regretting the past doesn’t help any of us. The past is gone. The regrets we have for our choices, how we behaved toward loved ones, and how we felt about ourselves cannot be changed. What can be changed is how we live now.

Being in the present moment, or the “here and now,” means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment. We are not distracted by ruminations on the past or worries about the future but centered on the here and now. All our attention is focused on the present moment. 

Thich Nhat Hanh tells the story of living in a Buddhist Commune before the communists took over. The kitchen was hot, and they took turns washing the dishes. He remembers and writes about how horrible it was and how each person or a monk wanted to get the dishwashing over with as soon as possible. He writes about allowing himself to feel the soap in the water, fill the dishes against his hands, and enjoy what it felt like to have or finish washing each dish. And then he remembered that this moment was when he was alive, in the present, and why not grasp each moment and live it to the fullest?

All of us are better off or would be better off if we embraced this way of thinking and living. We still plan for the future. We do plan for the future. We also beat ourselves about the past. Blaming ourselves for regretting the past does not help. And we can make plans, and we should. But it’s important to remember that we’ll never have this moment again.

One way to be in the present moment is by noticing your surroundings. How often do you take time out of your day to look around and see what’s happening? When was the last time you sat down, closed your eyes, took a deep breath, and looked at everything around you?

How many of us appreciate the start of a new day? If it is dark when you arise in the morning and step outside, you will see a beautiful sky if you look up.

Be Grateful For What You Have Now

Part of living in the present moment is being grateful for what you have now, not in the past or future.2 If you are constantly focused on things you don’t have, you need to take the time to appreciate what you have right now.

One way to practice gratitude is to write a list of things you are grateful for and review that list daily. Try to write at least three things you are grateful for. Alternatively, you can do a gratitude rampage, writing out as many things as possible in a specific time.

Accept Things As They Are (Not How You Want Them to Be)

If you want to live in the present moment, you need to let go of how you think things should be and accept them for what they are. You cannot control everything around you; sometimes, life will be different than you want it to be. Practicing acceptance will help you let go of the things in your life that are out of your control.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

One way to live more in the present is by practicing mindfulness meditation.3 This type of meditation helps people become aware and increases their concentration on what they are doing. Starting a daily meditation practice can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, increasing your time in the present moment.

Spend Time With People Who Make You Feel Happy and Fulfilled

Spending time with people who make you feel happy and fulfilled can be a great way to help yourself live in the present moment. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people will increase your positivity and happiness levels. This will allow you to focus on what is going well right now instead of dwelling on past or future events.

Be Mindful of Everything You Do

How often are you eating your lunch while watching TV simultaneously? It would be best if you were mindful of whatever you are doing, from eating to scrolling your phone. This is one way you distance yourself from what you are doing and not live in the present because your attention is not on that task or activity.

Focusing on these details and being mindful of everything around you during a specific task or activity will help bring more present-moment awareness into your life.

Practice Deep Breathing Exercises

Sitting down and practicing a deep breathing exercise will help you focus on the task. Slow, regulated breaths help prevent feelings of panic or other negative thoughts from taking over while allowing for more control during the activity in which you are currently engaged. 

Take a Break From Social Media and Technology

Taking a break from social media and other technology can also help you stay more present-focused. While you might think that constantly checking your social media accounts is helping you stay connected to the world, it harms your ability to be present.

I will never forget when my wife and I were having dinner in a restaurant, and a family of four was at a nearby table. Mother, father, and two young teenage boys were silent, peering at their cell phones. My wife quietly commented that this looked like four strangers at the same table.

Those two boys will eventually leave home, and such moments may never exist again. Don’t be a stranger to yourself, your family, and your friends. Instead, embrace the now.

 

The Joy of Music and Reduction of Stress

The Joy of Music, Laughter and Reduction of Stress

“Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.” Ludwig van Beethoven

“Without music, life would be a mistake. Friedrich Nietzsche.”

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest of times, and to the latest.” Henry David Thoreau.

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. To soften rocks or bend the knotted oak.” William Congreve (1670-1629)

According to Dr. Michael Miller, Director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, music can make you feel good. Therefore, possibly preventing a heart attack.

Earlier studies show that music affects heart rate and blood pressure. 

Research with a selected group of healthy participants demonstrated the effects of music on the cardiovascular system. Subjects chose a joyful type of music that made them feel good and the second type of music that made them anxious. Using a blood pressure cuff, the researchers discovered that the people who listened to joyful music increased blood flow of the brachial artery, a very healthy response. However, the artery flow decreased when the subjects listened to anxiety-producing music.

What is very significant is that the increased artery flow is equal to what people experience after aerobic exercise.

So, what this means is that you the heart to remain healthy, it is essential to do such things as: 

a) be careful about what you eat, 

b) maintain a healthy weight, 

c) exercise regularly 

d) listen to music that you find joyful and is not anxiety-producing. 

Stress is a killer. Stress pumps lots of adrenaline into our system, releasing much bad stuff that clogs our arteries. However, the activities discussed above reduce and even reverse the impact of stress. Music and exercise help release endorphins that create a wonderful, and relaxed, feeling.

 

Hope and Optimism for the New Year

What are Hope and Optimism?

We’ve established that hope and optimism differ, but where do they lie? Hope is setting goals and following through on them, while optimism is a positive thought pattern. 

Hope

Hope helps people cope with difficult or stressful times and adapt to severe illnesses. People with hope don’t just wish for something good to happen. They have a concrete plan to make it happen. Hope has three components:

The ability to set goals

Finding ways to meet those goals

Being flexible and seeing the goals through

Optimism

Optimism does not mean being naïve about life and expecting a perfect outcome in every situation. Optimism is simply a way of thinking about life, which includes the following beliefs:

Things will work out reasonably well

Even during troubles, life is still good

There is almost always a way to get the job done

Believe that we can improve life through effort

Maintain a combination of hope and optimism to support a healthy mind and body. Although hope and optimism are separate things, one is only somewhat as beneficial as the other. Someone who is optimistic but without hope could think everything is going to turn out great but has no plans to make it happen, or a pessimist could have a plan but no belief in their ability to see it through.

Famous Quotes:

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Henry David Thoreau.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela.

I love these quotes, but I particularly love and believe this quote from Samuel Beckett:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett.”

“Hopeless and helplessness are partners. I do not feel hopeless unless I also feel helpless,” says Kim West, a clinical pastoral counselor from Payson, Arizona.

 Finally, a piece of Buddhist Wisdom says, “We are shaped by our thoughts.” 

The Buddhist quotation is closely akin to psychotherapy. People who are depressed think in ways that make them believe they are both hopeless and helpless. Psychotherapy helps people reshape their thinking to meet the inevitable challenges presented by life. 

As we begin the new year, remember these quotes and remind yourself that you are neither hopeless nor helpless. Please remember that many psychotherapists are ready to help you learn how to overcome the obstacles causing you to feel hopeless, helpless, and anxious.

                                                     

Couples and Conflict, How to Fight Fair

Quarrels occur from time to time in anyone who is married or in a committed, intimate relationship. For some couples, these times are few, while for others, they are frequent. For many couples, the arguments are frustrating, anxiety-provoking, and, if really serious, can lead to the end of the relationship. Having worked with couples for years and being aware of my thirty-eight-year marriage, I have made some observations about arguments and what should and should not occur.

Observation 1:

I have observed thousands of times in working among married and intimate couples that where an argument rarely begins is where it ends. For example, recently, a married couple began arguing with one another during their session. Despite my best efforts at getting them to see what was happening, they drifted from the actual problem they disagreed with to problems and debates they had earlier and earlier in their relationship. As the heat in the room ramped up, each expressed hurt and despair about the slings and arrows being hurled by the other. The trouble was that those slings and arrows had no relevance to the issues in the present moment.

During the next session, when things had calmed quite a lot, I pointed out that what they argued and felt hurt about had little to do with the problem they entered the room with.

This is a frequent occurrence in most marriages and therefore reveals nothing about the identity of this couple. Why do couples, when arguing, drift further from the central issue?

Many arguments that begin with a legitimate complaint spiral downward because no one will admit to making a mistake. Why can’t anyone admit to an error? Making such an admission feels like a humiliation or surrender to one or both spouses. So, they continue to argue with increased vigor, because each is now competing to win a debate or a court trial with each opposing attorney. To score more points, each goes further into the past, digging up ancient and irrelevant complaints, obscure occurrences, and petty differences. As frustration mounts, so does the anger until they stop arguing out of sheer exhaustion or pure frustration. The result is nothing more or less than alienation.

Observation 2:

Why would a couple seek counseling when they rarely, if ever, quarrel? The answer is that they do not quarrel because one of them walks out of the room the minute a hot issue is raised. This is not a role that shifts but are perpetrated by one spouse repeatedly, driving the other mate to feel utterly frustrated. Most often, I have heard this complaint from women about their husbands. These men refuse to fight, respond to a question, or resolve an issue. The more she gets angry, the more silent he becomes. It is just not possible to argue with someone who refuses to argue. Of course, he is saving up all kinds of grievances that he may or may not be aware of against her.

The problem with this husband is that one day he explodes into uncontrollable anger over some minor issue. With small annoyances mounting for months or years, these men reach a “boiling point” where they explode in a way that shocks and surprises even themselves. After this cathartic experience, this man then returns to his quiet tranquility once again, leaving his wife completely confused and, of course, angry.

Observation 3:

There are those people who place the blame constantly on each other. Let us take a fictional example of this blaming scenario:

Example:

The couple has three children, all elementary school age. One has been diagnosed with a learning disability, and the youngest sibling may have a similar problem. Only the eldest child is free of learning problems and is doing well. The father ignores the children’s learning problems and blames his wife for the children doing poorly in school. He complains she does not help them with their homework and places all blame on her when report card grades are poor. He ignores the fact that she does help them with homework. Still, he does not because he is busy smoking marijuana in another room after coming home from work and having dinner.

In fact, this man blames his wife for the messy house, the clean clothes, and the bills not being paid promptly. He ignores her work, takes the children to and from school, makes dinner, does the laundry, and cleans the house. She complains she needs help with some chores with three kids to look after, but he refuses to help. She sarcastically notes that helping might interfere with his marijuana smoking.

By the way, he blames his wife for the eldest child being overweight!

I could continue this way, but the point is made that these are not good ways to argue.

How to argue better:

1. Stay focused on disagreement and do not stray from that topic for any reason.

2. Refrain from using curse words, and do not hurl vile epitaphs at your mate.

3. Do not derail the issue by saying, “you are yelling.” Such a comment can take you down a side road.

4. Do not yell.

5. Instead of trying to “win” the argument, work on reaching a consensus.

6. If anyone has been drinking or using a drug, avoid the argument until everyone is rational.

7. Give one another permission to pause if the argument is becoming too angry and permission to go out for a walk to blow off some steam.

8. If you made a mistake, like being late, admit it and apologize. An honest admission harmed no one.

9. Avoid using all-inclusive but incendiary words such as “You never do this…” or, “You always…” or “You….”

10. Bite your tongue before you say that really mean and angry thing when you are angry. Most people later regret what they said in the heat of the moment.

11. Do not use the silent treatment.

12. Never, under any circumstances, become violent.

People argue, and this is a necessary part of relating intimately. The idea is to fight in healthy ways. Fighting in healthy ways means not working to devastate or emotionally wipe out your partner. Remember, this is the person you love. A healthy quarrel can bring couples closer together.

“happy arguing.”

 

Loss, Grief and the Aged

a man with painful reaction

Poem by JOHN DONNE, 1633

Death Be Not Proud

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

“And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.'”

John Donne’s poem means that after he dies, humans awaken and enter heaven for all of eternity and, in that way, conquer death.

Whether one believes that is a matter of religious faith. Even for those not religiously inclined, when we pass away, we leave a part of ourselves as the contributions we made in life, big or small. We know it is excruciating to suffer the loss of loved ones, whether family or friends. As we age, those losses are worse.

Yesterday, a very beloved friend of mine called to let me know her father passed away after a long and tragic struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. His death meant that both her parents were deceased. Her parents were also very close friends of ours.

After her phone call, I experienced profound grief when I suddenly realized with a new and deeper awareness that most people from my past were gone. I am 80 years old and am keenly aware that loss is part of the life cycle. That awareness does not make it any easier.

Among the many losses I’ve suffered during my life was the death of my wife of 50 years. She was 71 and wanted to watch her grandchild grow up. The fact is that watching close friends and family pass away leaves a sense of internal emptiness.

To everyone, embrace life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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