Gratitude triumphs over grief

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I got the call on a Monday morning. A close friend had passed on. I dearly love this friend and wasn't sure what to think.

Whenever I need direction or inspiration, I ask God for guidance. As I did this, I recalled a news interview I'd seen with basketball star Michael Jordan shortly after his father had been murdered. I'll never forget what Jordan said. He expressed his deep gratitude for his father because he had been such a wonderful influence in his life. He seemed to focus more on his gratitude than on his loss.

That moved me. I couldn't help but think that Jordan's gratitude must have brought him some comfort.

Now I realized that is exactly what I needed to do – be grateful. So I started being thankful for all my friend had taught me about unselfishness, courage, fearlessness, love, dedication, commitment. The more I deeply loved all the good he had shared with me, the more I felt comforted and connected to him.

Feeling close to my friend was important to me because it contradicted the conventional wisdom that says death means your relationship is over. It is over only if you look at it strictly from a material standpoint. But I was yearning to find my way spiritually – to discover what God was showing me.

Praying and searching, I came across this statement from the Bible: "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more" (II Cor. 5:16).

So I asked myself: Am I going to know my friend "after the flesh" or am I going to know him the way God, Spirit, created him?

I realized that knowing my friend "after the flesh," materially, would mean losing him and feeling sad because I couldn't see him anymore. But knowing and loving him spiritually would mean that I could continue to love how God created him – unselfish, courageous, fearless – and know that my friend's expression of God is a permanent part of creation and therefore a permanent part of my life. Not even death could take away the love or the unified purpose we shared.

Knowing someone apart from what we can see, touch, and feel (materially) takes spiritual sense. Spiritual sense comes from God and enables us to understand something beyond what matter tells us so that we can discern the things of God.

God has given each one of His children spiritual sense. The Bible speaks about "the spirit of God," or spiritual sense, this way: "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (I Cor. 2:12).

What God has freely given all of us is the joy of knowing and loving our friends, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, the way He has created them – spiritually. Loving the good in another doesn't hurt, disappoint, or make us bitter. The hurt and pain come from clinging to a particular situation, insisting that things never change, that someone has to be there as he or she always has been.

In my own situation, I realized that if I clung to matter, clung to what my relationship with this friend had been, then I knew I would feel sad and deprived. But I realized that I didn't have to do that.

Instead, I could continue to love all the good my friend expressed, and admit that I couldn't lose the love I felt for him or any of the inspiration and good he gave me. And that is why I feel I still have a relationship with him, that I am still connected to him. No, it's not the same as it was. And yes, there are times I would like to be able to have lunch with him or talk to him on the phone. But those times, those moments, pale in comparison to the ongoing joy of knowing and loving him spiritually.

Each of us can find that discovering ourselves and others as the children of that one creator, Spirit, God, melts grief. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Spiritually to understand that there is but one creator, God, unfolds all creation, confirms the Scriptures, brings the sweet assurance of no parting, no pain, and of man deathless and perfect and eternal" (pg. 69).

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