To Divide is Not to Make Less: When Loss Leads to More Love in Life

Barbara Lindsay, Doug Lindsay, and his Grandma Sophie.

Dear Reader, 

I wrote the 750 words below on the one-year anniversary of my mother Barbara Lindsay’s death.  I haven’t shared them until now because I didn’t think they had much to do with being a speaker. 

 But that changed this week.  On May 2nd, my friend Ricky’s mother Lidia passed away after a long battle with cancer.  Because she struggled with cancer for years, she had a special joy in seeing me healthy after my 14 years of debilitating illness.  I went to her son Ricky’s wedding in a wheelchair.  I’ve been standing each time I’ve seen her since.  When I’d see Lidia out at events, her joy and her husband Gino’s joy at my recovery reminded me to be grateful. 

 One of the first times I went out after my first surgery was to a nearby New Year’s party.  That night Rick and I were talking.  He reminded me that I’d told him to carry around a small notebook to jot down good ideas that would come to him.  He said he kept one near his bed always because of this advice I’d given him years earlier.

 Yesterday, as I passed through the receiving line at his mother Lidia’s wake, Rick told me he’d shown Lidia the video I made.  When I made my first speaking video, I didn’t talk about innovation or problem solving; I talked about finding happiness by focusing on joy during life’s hardest times:

Hearing that Rick showed my video to his mom made me so proud!  I would have gladly made it just for them, but others have seen it and told me wonderful things too.

 Then Rick told me something more: Rick suggested to his mom that, together, they write down a list of things that made her happy.   That way, when she was feeling down, they could go to the list and see if they could do any of these simple things to bring her joy.

 Two pieces of wisdom I’d shared years apart helped Rick do something positive and constructive with his mom during the later months of her many years of struggle against cancer.  That is deeply humbling. 

 So, I share this passage that I wrote earlier this year, humbled by the idea that maybe it too will give someone something constructive to do when life feels its hardest.

 God bless Lidia and her family: Rick, Anna, Gino, and Carlo… and God bless some of my friends who’ve helped me focus on being a more loving person in the last year: my buddies Dan and Steve, and my friends Kimberly and Miriam.

My Mother’s One-Year Passing

My mother Barbara died one year ago today.  She died in a nursing home after living in immense pain for years.  As I reflect on her death, I don’t feel a lot of sadness.  I feel something else.  I dug into that feeling, and I realized that my mother had hinted at this feeling years before she passed away.  I think that it’s a way we can live better, more love-filled lives.  And it is a way to be better for having loved, even if we’ve lost. 

Barbara Lindsay died a year ago, but I don’t love her any less today.  When we lose someone, some people carry regret for years.  They say “I never realized how much I loved her until she was gone.” I don’t have that regret.  But if you do, should you?  If the soul lives on, and if you live on, why should that realization, late as it came, cause you so much sadness?  What a gift to your loved one that you realized it!  What a gift to you too – that you can feel this immense love now!  Is it really too late?  Is that what your heart tells you?

Imagine you hear a joke but you don’t get it.  Then, you wake up laughing the next morning. What does that mean?  That the joke wasn’t funny?  That the laugh isn’t true?  What’s should you do: enjoy the joke, or regret that that you didn’t get it the first time?

A joke’s purpose it to amuse.  You should laugh, not regret.  Love’s purpose is to love.  So, why must our love end or diminish when someone we love dies? I believe that is what many of us have been conditioned to think.

Our love for others is supposed to be an outgrowth of our love of God.  I first read that in a footnote in the Bible.  It was the Bible that my mom used in her Catholic high school.  The good things we do for others are supposed to flow from our realization that the God we love loves all the people we meet.  Sometime around 1820, the poet Shelley said Love differs from gold and clay in this: that to divide is not to make less. (To any Shelley scholars out there… I’m paraphrasing.)

Love is not finite; it can multiply.  I love my mother not one iota less now that she’s been gone a year.   And I think I can use my love for my mom to have more love in my life.  I think you can use the love you feel to have more love in your life too.

  • My mom struggled in pain for years?
    • My love for her can imbue me with a special humanity towards those who struggle.
  • My mom was gentle and kind?
    • My love for her can inspire me to love the gentleness I see in others.
  • My mom was creative; she had a listener’s heart; her smile was warm and caring?
    • My love for my mom can spur me to love these gifts when I see them in others.

Barbara first perceived this idea in of all places The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  She said, Jay Leno really loves his wife.  He always tells pretty brunette guests that they remind him of his wife.  Jay Leno’s wife Mavis is a good egg.  She fought for women’s rights in Afghanistan under the Taliban long before 9/11.  And they’ve been married since 1980.  His love for his wife leads him to a warmth towards those who remind him of her, and my mom noticed that.

I remember this simple moment not because of Jay Leno but because it seemed insightful.  Now I understand why.  My mom was really saying that we can love the great qualities of our loved ones when we recognize them in others.

The word Namaste means the divine in me acknowledges the divine I see in youIf our love of others stems from our love of God – and from our recognition that God cherishes each of us – why shouldn’t our love for our friends and family do the same?  Why should my mother’s passing mean less love in my life when it could easily lead me to more?   

She first learned that watching The Tonight Show.  I first realized it today, when remembering my mother Barbara Lindsay on the one year anniversary of her passing.