Counselor's Corner . . .

Saying goodbye

Fred Cavaiani

These past two weeks many people I have known for years have died. They were friends and mentors and people who had a positive influence on my life. Saying goodbye to them is both painful and inspirational. I remember their positive qualities. I believe that they have transitioned to the next life of joy and peace. Yet at these moments it is always difficult to realize that life leads to death and death leads to a resurrection of new life. Saying goodbye to people we love and respect becomes a constant reminder for me about the purpose of life.
Our time on this planet is very short. As I look over my life I am grateful for everything that has happened to me. Each experience has taught me so much about life and love and a hunger for a peace and joy of eternal permanence. Everything I have learned in psychology, theology and philosophy becomes challenged when someone dies whom I have personally journeyed with through life be it for a short time or a long time. This saying goodbye jolts me into asking myself what I really believe. It confronts me with my own personal values about my life and my own spirituality.
I spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation. I have spent much time in studying philosophy, psychology and theology. For more than forty years I have listened attentively to the emotional wounds of so many people. It amounts to more than 60,000 hours of listening.
When someone I know dies I ask myself, “What really have I learned about life from entering the emotional life of so many people?” “What have I really learned about God in taking so much quiet time in prayer and meditation?”
Deaths always challenge me. It is in these moments of experiencing the deaths of friends, mentors and relatives that I begin to deepen my own spirituality and theology of life. It is in the pain that I experience and the remembering of the wonderful qualities of those who have died that I realize that there must be something that has eternal permanence.
I look at history and realize that there are so many people who have left this world in a much better condition because of their compassion toward others and their intense belief in God. I also look at history and others I have known who have died who did not show much compassion or kindness toward others. They did not leave the world a better planet. What was the difference?
What is the difference between a Stalin and a Ghandi? What is the difference between a Hitler and a Martin Luther King Jr? What is the difference between those who become violent and those who become peacemakers?
When I think of all the gentle, kind and humble people I know I realize that they have had a very deep and personal relationship with someone they called God. From the little old woman I remember as a child walking a mile to church every day saying prayers all the way to my old friend Fr. Peter Kutch OFM Cap. who just died last week, I see the consistent pattern. They both believed in something bigger than themselves. Just to be around them gave me a sense that there was something profound and deep in this life that I need to experience and grasp.
So when someone I know dies, I ask myself two questions: What really was the fundamental basis of this person’s life? Then I ask: What is the real foundation in my life? Deaths propel me into deeper silence and reflection and to look more carefully at those I most respect and admire. At every death and at every funeral I attend, I am again challenged to examine and experience my own personal life in a deeper manner.
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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com.

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