Thursday, December 31, 2015

In the Shadow of the Eve

nature, night, dark


As the eve of a new year approaches, I find myself in a shadow land of memory, reflecting on the accomplishments and the losses of 2015. The losses were heavy. I lost my mother, Natalie, and my younger brother, Joe, this year, only six months apart.


Mentally surviving their deaths to reach another New Year's Eve with my sanity apparently intact, while finishing a degree and dealing with a host of other trials and losses, is an accomplishment of grace made possible by the love and support of some wonderful friends and family and a compassionate counselor.

Yes, a counselor. I put that word in here on purpose. Talking about things can be a huge help in working through grief or other traumatic experiences. Counselor shouldn't be a word whispered behind the hand when no one is looking. It's a resource to help people along when there is a bump in the road of life, just like a mechanic, plumber, dentist or IT tech. When something needs fixing, the smart thing to do is to fix it. Perhaps 2016 will see the fashionable facade of "I don't need any help" fall out of vogue. As one of the proverbs of the rock and roll sages says, we all need somebody to lean on at some time in our lives. But I digress.

Another shadow wraps itself like a shroud around January 31st. It is the anniversary of another loss

In 1995, my brother Nathan died after a brutal battle with AIDS.   He was one of more than 658,500 people in the United States diagnosed with AIDS who have died up to this date. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50,000 people become infected with HIV in the U.S. every year and more than 1 million people in the U.S. were living with HIV at the end of 2012. There were 36.9 million people living with HIV globally at the end of 2014, according to the UNAIDS 2015 fact sheet. Nearly 40 million people, their loved ones and their communities have been affected by HIV. In spite of the heart-wrenching numbers, the World Health Organization says growth of the epidemic is reversing and there is reason to be optimistic in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

When I take time this New Year's Eve to reflect on Nathan's life, it helps me to refocus on one of the core principles I want to live by. Rather than be overcome by heartbreak and tragedy and injustice, I want to overcome those things with compassion, beauty, truth and hope. I want to help the world be better, not badder. Some days I feel more successful about that goal than others. That's why reflection is so important. It brings me back to my purpose when I begin to wander off course in one direction or another. I invite you to visit The Whole Life Journal's sister blog, This Life, to read about Nathan and the lesson his life and death taught me.

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

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