Reflections on the Meaning of Life
I struggle every day to get past the sadness and loss of my son, even though I know my sadness won’t feed one child or make the world better in any way. I can only keep believing that kindness, in general, improves our lot and that the world is big and enough for us all to have what we need. I am no longer sure that life has meaning or purpose—for that matter, I’m fairly certain, in the grand universal scheme of things that it does not, but I live, trying to make meaning for myself. I can only do what is in front of me to do and hope that will satisfy.
It has come to this several times in my life—the point of believing in nothing. These are not pleasant times. One becomes so dependent upon one’s unconscious philosophies. To wipe the slate clean, to think, once again, from the beginning about what I believe or know for sure. To go through each question again:
Each time there are fewer questions I can answer in a definite way.
God? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. At least nothing that is at all similar to the kind of god being taught in Presbyterian Sunday school. There is structure, action and reaction, patterns that repeat in a multiplicity of realms, lacey, winged, rounded, full multiplicities, but other than this vast and unimaginable lushness, there doesn’t seem to be any overarching sense that can be made of human life, of the way things work, or don’t work. In spite of all this lushness, most of us miss it, don’t even stop and wonder at it. We live our little futile lives surrounded by beauty and rarely notice.
Afterlife? Dead is dead. I always wondered about it until Matthew died, but the connection formed between us in this world is gone. Completely and flatly non-existent. My uncertainty became near-certainty.
Spirit? Soul? Well, there does seem to be some sort of energy or connection between living people. I have a feeling of my family and friends alive in the world. Electricity? Organically implanted cell phone systems? Are we all in wireless connection with each other? There does seem to be something.
Purpose? I, who was filled to overflowing with purpose, have none. I do not see the point. Am I depressed? Or just realistic? I fill my days with things that please me. I try to show up and support my friends, do my job, act responsibly. There are many people who love and count on me, but really, if it weren’t me, wouldn’t they find others to count on? If I just slipped out of their lives, wouldn’t they move on?
As I look at those words, I know that is what Matthew thought. That we would move on, could move on. That his being in the world didn’t matter so much, but look at the truth. It’s nearly killed me, heart and soul and body. How could I do that to anyone else?
They count on me to be fine. To be enjoying my life. To be always here. It is my gift to those I love to see them all, their intelligence, their talents, their hearts and souls questing, working toward their life’s own something. My gift is that I believe in them. That I believe in their gifts. That I know they are each the world’s own unique and important person. I know they all have a voice, a song, a word, a talent, a purpose. I am more than their audience. I am not their wings, but I know they can fly.
I’m not just a mother to Matthew, I am the mother to every one of those I love. Encouraging, supporting, comforting, listening, pushing, and praising, knowing their richness, I send them off into the world. Can I be satisfied, not having glory in my life if I can see the glory in theirs? I used to hate the book The Giving Tree, but now, maybe, it makes more sense. I always wanted something of my own, some glory of my own, but look at all the wonderful people around me who shine back on me.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, first published in 1964 by Harper & Row, has been translated into more than 30 languages with millions of copies in print around the world. It can be purchased through Amazon or Barnes & Noble or can be found at your local library.