It often surprises me that something that costs nothing to give seems so difficult to come by. I’m speaking of affirmation, a gift of encouragement and expression of appreciation to those who deserve the most but are given it the least. The act of recognizing someone for the things that they do — be it an act of kindness, a job well done, or simply a selfless gesture — is certain to brighten their day immeasurably and resonate well for days to come.
Surprisingly, those who ought to know the value of affirmation often use it the least. I found that out when I worked at my former job as director of public relations for a South Florida television station. For whatever reason, management was reticent to encourage the people who worked the hardest. However, as a PR professional, I realized the worth of offering compliments to those with whom I worked, regardless of their ranking in the company. I also began to understand that even the smallest gesture of thanks was absolutely appreciated.
Of course, there was a selfish motive as well. When people realize that you are grateful for their efforts, they become more inclined to give their all. Kindness is a gift that keeps on giving, and it works both ways.
And again, affirmation costs the giver nothing. Yet it resonates in a way that appears priceless. That’s a lesson we all need to learn.
Likewise, there’s probably no subject that’s shunned as much as death and dying. The need to confront the end of life is something everyone is forced to deal with, regardless of wealth, stature, place or position. Many people fear it and rightfully so. After all, it’s something we can rarely control, and generally hope to forestall. No matter how full or rich life has been, there are generally things we still would like to do.
After all, time is the one thing we can’t buy. Likewise, no one knows when it will run out.
On her new album “Negative Capability,” Marianne Faithful, the former paramour of Mick Jagger and a member of the Rolling Stones’ inner circle, waxes philosophically about her own mortality. She shares a stoic resolve that’s striking in both its tone and temperament.
Fully invested in her senior status, having seen many of her friends pass, and accepting of the fact that the flowering of her youth long since has faded, she expresses her thoughts about approaching the end from a sobering perspective, both fearlessly and freely.
“Send me someone to love,” she sings on the song “In My Own Particular Way.” “Someone who could love me back, love me for who I really am, not for image and not for money. I know I’m not young and I’m damaged, But I’m still pretty, kind and funny.”
There’s the point. Age need not diminish one’s capacity to be attractive to others. Let’s live fully until we die. That’s all we can ask for.
That said, I leave you with this verse by Henry Scott Holland, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and a canon of Christ Church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In May, 1910, he delivered a sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral to commemorate the death of England’s King Edward VII. From that address, titled “Death the King of Terrors,” several verses still resonate.
I found it very comforting when a friend sent it to me following my mother’s passing. I hope it soothes your spirit as well.
“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
“Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
“Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.
“All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”
Those words are so eloquent that I all I can add is this: Resting in peace isn’t only a wish for the departed. It is incumbent upon those who live on to feel content as well.