Issue20 - FEB 2012 Back to newsletter | to TOS website
Insights through service
When I was in my early twenties, I moved into the home of a good friend in her sixties to help her look after her husband who was suffering from advanced oesophageal cancer. Brett had never seemed to have a particular philosophy of life that one could give a name to so in all the chats I had with him at his bedside, I didn’t mention Theosophy. What I did do regularly, though, was take advantage of the periods when he was asleep to stand at the end of his bed, extend my arms toward him and try silently to channel healing forces. I don’t remember whether I called upon a ‘higher being’, the ‘powers of love’, ‘spirit’ or ‘God’ but I know that I poured a veritable torrent of energy into the endeavour. One day Brett woke up when I was standing there, fully concentrated. He didn’t exclaim, “What on earth are you doing?” He said nothing. I didn’t explain myself. I simply sat down beside him again.
After a period of silence, Brett told me that he was afraid of just one thing at death: annihilation. He believed that human beings – body and soul – are annihilated and said that the fear of it was haunting him. He asked me what I believed happened after death. His courage in facing squarely what he believed to be utter extinction stopped me in my tracks. I had been raised a Theosophist but had yet to perceive the difference between these inherited family beliefs and what was ‘real’ through my own experience. Brett was the kind of man who could see right through fake speech. I was struck dumb! Instead of outlining theosophical ideas about the life beyond death as I had been taught them, I was constrained to sit and search within. After some time, I found that the only notion I could share with complete sincerity was the belief that the human being has infinite powers within – the brain infinite potential, the human heart an infinite capacity to love, for example – and that infinite powers cannot be annihilated.
Brett’s response showed me that it wasn’t so much what I said that gave him comfort as the quiet conviction with which I said it. That day I learned a small but valuable lesson about the importance of speaking the truth rather than parroting others' ideas of ultimate truth that I had not yet really tested and assimilated for myself. Today I still feel gratitude to Brett and his wife for allowing me to help them at an intensely sad time in their lives. They faced their trial with love, with dignity, and without desperately trying to make themselves believe something they were unconvinced of and thought was imaginary.
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