Sister Wendy in her Book of Meditations notes the risk we take to love someone. “All love,” she writes, “whether of child, parent, partner, friend, even of place, possession, or animal, holds the potential for suffering, because of death. We cannot possess or hold fast anything or anyone: it is all gift."

Life contains inevitable partings and inescapable pain. The loveless are protected against this suffering: the zombie feels nothing.” At some point in our lives, if we dare to love, we will have a parting moment to endure. It may be a simple “goodbye” until we meet again. Or it may be a time when a loved one departs this life. We gather to surround the dear one with our love, seeking to offer comfort and to say our goodbyes. On occasion people wait to die until a son or daughter arrives; and then having seen offspring for one last time they slip away.

Life is filled with partings. It may not be the death of a loved one but separation from a career or possessions that were meaningful for us. Many in their later years have to give up driving. For them it is the same as giving up their freedom. It is a little death in itself, and they need a place of solace to feel safe and to heal.

David Whyte describes this place of solace as “the beautiful, imaginative home we make where disappointment can go to be rehabilitated. When life does not in any way add up, we must turn to the part of us that has never wanted a life of simple calculation. Solace is found in allowing the body’s innate wisdom to come to the fore.” (Consolations)

Certainly with a parting of any kind we hope for a place where our inner spiritual resources can bring us peace. We know this doesn’t happen over night, and we know that we will never let go of the love we treasured; but we consent to the rhythm of life of which we are a part. J. Philip Newell says it so well in a prayer:

“For earth’s cycles and seasons, for the rising of spring and the growing summer, for autumn’s fullness and the hidden depths of winter, thanks be to you, O Christ.

For the life force in seeds buried in the ground that shoot green and bear fruit and fall to the earth, thanks be to you.

Let me learn from earth’s cycles of birthing the times and seasons of dying. Let me learn of you in the soil of my soul, O Christ, and your journey through death to birth. Let me learn of you in my soul and in the journey of letting go.” (Celtic Benediction)

A friend told me that at the time of death he would like someone to love. He is taking the risk of loving others and knows that even in his own parting love is what gives life purpose, meaning, and hope, even when we begin the journey of letting go.

Solace will come as we celebrate the life we have been given, the beauty of creation, and as we remember that parting is not just an ending but a new beginning.

Editor’s Note: This column was originally published May 4, 2017.