I wonder how does one ever balance future hopes for happiness with the realities of past sorrows? Ever since I learned of my dear best friend munch2's (Ben Walter) death, I've been thinking of parents that have lost their children. Suddenly I feel I understand the gravity of their heartbreak. Normally death pursues life in chronological order... The older pass away sooner and we gain new loved ones as we grow older usually... First, children followed by grandchildren, and if we're extremely lucky, we'll see great-grandchildren. There is a balance of loss with new additions. What then happens when death cruelly takes away our children which people normally value as the most precious new life additions? Can they ever make a new close friend or gain a new loved one that balance the depth of their sorrows? How can we find a balance of new precious additions in the midst of significant losses that contribute to making life meaningful and happy?
For example, let us ponder the following:
What period in your life would you describe as being happy and if you consider having as many loved ones still with you as a factor in determining life happiness, how would you choose a moment that would include some but exclude others who died earlier? In my case, if I pick a moment in early December before munch2's death, I had most everyone I ever loved or cared about alive and doing fairly well; I had three best friends (Munch2, Grace, Alex) and several close friends; my career seemed to be going pretty well; I was taking art classes at MassArt's continuing ed program. However, my paternal grandfather who died when I was 18 would be a loss in the midst of these wonderful significant additions. If I ever have children, would I choose a moment as being most happy overall that included them but if I did, then it wouldn't include munch2 in my life sadly. His loss would always be at the center of my new significant relationship additions. At the moment, I can't imagine loving children as much as loved munch2 because I do not have children yet. To choose a moment in the past, we may shortchange ourselves to the potential to love others in our lives that we could not imagine living without. For example, before my grandfather died, I couldn't imagine the exact depth of love I could feel for my three best friends who I met while in college or soon afterwards... New additions that I would have shortchanged myself I chose the past.
Another interesting example would be Democrat Vice President hopeful John Edwards... He lost his son to a tragic accident when he was very young. He and his wife were so devastated that they decided to have more children to bring new additions to their life to offset their terrible loss. Now ponder which period in their lives they would choose--the current moment where they now know the love of two young children who would never have come to be if it were not for the tragic loss of their first born in their memory? Or would they choose the past when they had their first born still alive and they were still innocent from the knowledge of that heartbreaking type of loss, but they will never know the love of two new young children? Tough choice I would think.
Essentially, I realized recently that there can never be a period in our life that we will have everything... Happiness cannot be merely dependent on having everything because we will never have everyone significant to us at the same time. There will always be people exiting our lives and new people who will enter our lives and if we're lucky or ready, we will be able to create new meaningful significant deep relationships, offsetting some of our losses. The younger we are, the greater the chance we will meet more people in our lives who will be of sizeable significance to us. We may gain grandchildren someday when we lose parents... Can the love of these grandchildren be so deeply significant that our current moment can almost balance the loss of such significant relationships as our parents, keeping the balance of happiness almost constant?
How can we be happy when we know more significant losses than we know happinesses especially when old people lose their long time spouses? What is the solution to this plight? One, I guess if one deeply believed in God or a heaven after death, that would be comforting because then we would have all the ones we ever loved with us at all times although not always visible to us. Another way to find value in the future is to bring all past knowledge to the foreground of current and future experiences. I would imagine that old people who manage to remain mostly happy overall are people who are able to love new people deeply... Find value in their losses, find room to love others whether it be their own grandchildren or people of the world who need their help, or important causes. If we can fully integrate all the knowledge we have learned from our losses and love that we have discovered from loving as deeply as we did for our dearly departed ones, perhaps, we just might be able to make the future worth living.