One of the most difficult things about my brother's physical death has been watching the pain of loss manifest in my parents. It's excruciating to think of Olivia growing up without her daddy to hold her hand, pick her up, give her advice, teach her and have lots of fun with. However, seeing the pain of losing their son in my parents' faces is worse. Olivia isn't aware yet of the loss she's suffered. For Frank and Laura Lee, it's all too real and palpable.

I recently watched "Ram Dass: Fierce Grace", a documentary about one man who committed his life to God; suffered a stroke, or "was stroked" as he calls it; and learns for the first time to truly be in the present moment and walk the razor's edge between this world bound by polarities, time, and space--and the infinite grace beyond which most of us can comprehend. 

In the movie, there is a scene with a couple, Steve and Anita, whose young daughter Rachel was murdered. With two other younger children left to raise and full lives left to live, they said they couldn't see a future. The pain they felt after losing their beloved firstborn was almost unbearable. But then they received a letter from Ram Dass, and what he said in it offered an insight into an expanded view of what physical human death can mean for those of us left behind.

I did an online search for the letter, and I found it on www.KotaPress.com, an "organization that provides grief support to bereaved parents and those who care for them after the death of a child." I thought I would share it here for everyone who has lost someone dear to them, and I dedicate it to my parents in the hope that it offers even a tiny spark that gives way to a brilliant light as radiant and life-giving as our Sun...and their son.

Dear Steve and Anita,

Rachel finished her work on earth, and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts, as the fragile thread of our faith is dealt with so violently. Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teaching as you are receiving? Probably very few. And even they would only have a whisper of equanimity and peace amidst the screaming trumpets of their rage, grief, horror and desolation.

I can't assuage your pain with any words, nor should I. For your pain is Rachel's legacy to you. Not that she or I would inflict such pain by choice, but there it is. And it must burn its purifying way to completion. For something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.

w is the time to let your grief find expression. No false strength. Now is the time to sit quietly and speak to Rachel, and thank her for being with you these few years, and encourage her to go on with whatever her work is, knowing that you will grow in compassion and wisdom from this experience.

In my heart, I know that you and she will meet again and again, and recognize the many ways in which you have known each other. And when you meet you will know, in a flash, what now it is not given to you to know: Why this had to be the way it was.

Our rational minds can never understand what has happened, but our hearts – if we can keep them open to God – will find their own intuitive way. Rachel came through you to do her work on earth, which includes her manner of death. Now her soul is free, and the love that you can share with her is invulnerable to the winds of changing time and space. In that deep love, include me.

In love,
Ram Dass

Our childhood home on the farmIn the words of a kind stranger, "Your brother did what he came to do, and people noticed." And with John in mind, with what he came here to do and most certainly accomplished with such zeal and authenticity, now is our time to let our grief find expression. Now is our time to speak to him and thank him for being with us these 33 years, and encourage him to go on with whatever his work is, integrating what he imparted into our lives, and knowing that we will grow in compassion and wisdom from this experience. His body may not be here with us, but the love and respect we have for each other will never perish.

Mama and Daddy, I love you and I hope your grief can find its tranformation into love and a future filled with all your greatest blessings, including your son in his new and infinite form. And to all the rest of us, friends and family alike who miss Johnny like crazy, I hope the same for us.