I just received an email from the head of my TC department titled: sad news. My second person, Dr. Leslie Williams, died Thursday night. She had been sick for quite some time now, and cancer finally won the battle. She was a great person, warm, kind, and very wise. She was one of my favorite professors when I was first here for my Masters ages ago, and that great impression I had of her was what drew me to ask her to be on my dissertation committee.
I’m numb, as I tend to be when I get news of death. Speechless, sad, a bit torn, but non-reactive. As far as I know she had no partner, and no children of her own, but she did have a sister and nieces and nephews, whom she loved greatly. I can’t begin to imagine what it is to lose someone so dear and loved.
On the other hand there’s always the thought of her feeling relief from ending the pain and moving on to a better, more beautiful, spiritual place. Here in the Western world we consider death as something sad, terrible, something everyone wants to avoid at any cost. In other places they understand that life is transitory, a stage which we outgrow, and once we are ready for it, we need to keep on going to the next place. Some people even believe that this life is a temporary challenge we need to endure to be able to be worthy of the “good life”, which comes after this material one. The spiritual realm is considered by many as the true gift, the goal we are all in search of. In spirit is when we are happiest, and thus we should rejoice at the fact that someone we love has finally moved on to a better more peaceful place. But this is so hard to feel. We are all so attached to this life, and miss so much not being able to have the day to day relationships we had with those we love. The longing hurts too much.
I struggle with this every time someone I know dies. Juggling culturally acquired sadness which is ingrained in who I am at my material egotistic self, with my spirit and my understanding and belief that there is a place in which we can all be purer and happier, is a constant battle. I think this is the main reason I go into numb-state. I immediately start to balance feelings based on cultural upbringing, with thoughts based on core beliefs. It’s not easy.
Leslie, I hope you are in a better place and feel no pain. I will always remember you and love you for who you were and all you did for me in your own special way. Your smile and warmth will live with me forever. Thank you.