In his poem, The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot said, “April is the cruelest month.” The waste land refers to a state of spiritual desolation, a life without hope and meaning. It is a reference to the Grail legends, wherein the wounded king’s domain lies in ruins. It can also refer to modern times.
In a lifetime, we weather many storms. At times, sorrow rains, but at our core we remain dry. At others, joy shines upon us, yet we still cast shadows. In good times and in bad, there is a constant though sometimes imperceptible wind; what is this that can sustain us through the vagaries of life?
In 2003, April was indeed the cruelest month for me. The sudden death of my mother was a shock. Although I was fortunately old and wise enough to have already valued and nurtured my relationship with her, the loss struck with stark finality. It seemed as if all was lost.
It is no coincidence that Easter is celebrated in early spring, when the sun shines longer and the cherry blossoms bloom. Life emerges from the dark, dead of winter. We are ready for renewal.
The cyclical changing of the seasons informs our perceptions of time and mortality. Change is inevitable, indeed constant. Death is an unavoidable part of life.
Although we recognize repeating patterns and relationships, we are caught up in a dynamic of change, always moving forward in time until we meet our own end. We and everything in our world are never exactly the same from moment to moment.
Many when confronted by inevitable change, struggle to cope. Some see their cup of life as half full; others, half empty. In the golden years, a few see that cup as chipped and nearly dry.
I choose to see through the illusion of the cup. My world is infinitely grand. It is filled not with a finite amount of water but rather an ocean. It is teeming with life, mystery and adventure. It is ever changing, yet nothing of value is completely lost; it is transformed.
We are buffeted by the waves and storms of life, but no matter how great the storm, we can enjoy calm waters a few metres below the surface. We must each nurture a central core of peace. It is an inner strength that can sustain us throughout the great and small changes of life.
The grail which can rescue each of us from the waste land is an abiding sense of purpose. It requires us to be open to shift perspectives, to calmly revisit our deepest values and goals. It is these that will serve as compasses as we find our way out of desolation.
Life is all about relationships. My relationship with my mother did not end with her passing. Her greatest values, her wisdom and her love are inseparable from my own character. I see her and her influence in my father, sister, brother and each of her grandchildren. I appreciate the continuity of the past, present and future.
The key to living more fully and consciously is to remember what matters most. In your interactions with others, recognize that the present represents yesterday’s dreams and tomorrow’s memories. Treat and cherish your loved ones accordingly.