Life is a Present

Someone reminded me the other day that life is a gift. Someone else told me that my deceased life mate/soul mate is in a better place. The juxtaposition of these two ideas used to perplex me. If life is a gift, why was it denied him? If he is in a better place, why am I here? I don’t think about this conundrum any more, at least not much. Somewhere along the line I conceded that he might have gotten the better end of the deal. (It was easier to accept his death that way than to think he was missing out.)

gift2Life, with all its pain and trauma, seems a dubious gift at best. It’s more like a present, something that was presented to us whether we wanted it or not. Or like a presence: being present (being here now) in the present (this moment).

Considering all the possible gamete connections, it’s amazing that any of us are here. (Though I suppose it’s like the lottery. Someone will win the lottery even though the possibility of any one person winning it is astronomically small.) Our presence could be deemed a gift, yet there is the matter of pain and trauma, angst and ill health, grief and stress and old age, along with all the trials of everyday life. (There’s no need to mention joy or wealth or friendship or any of the other wonders of life — we know those are gifts without ever having to look for a bright side since they are the bright side.)

Perhaps the gift of life is emotion — joy and sadness, laughter and tears and all of the thousand other emotions that we humans experience, both pleasant and unpleasant.

When my profound grief over the death of my soul mate started to wane, I missed it, as odd as that might seem. There was something so very immense about such grief, as if I were standing on the edge of eternity, one foot poised above the abyss. I also missed the constant life lessons grief taught me about myself, about will and survival, even about the workings of our bodies. Would I choose to feel such grief for the rest of my life? Of course not, though knowing I will always have upsurges of sorrow doesn’t bother me like it used to. Mostly, I am grateful I was able to feel such grief and to honor his life in such a way.

It’s rather a literary cliché, one that most of us have come to believe, that the more intelligent a person or species is, the less emotional. Mr. Spock from Star Trek and Lucy from the recent movie Lucy are two such examples. But what if this belief is not true? What if emotion is a form of intelligence, and the more emotional we are the more intelligent? Are ants emotional? Are cockroaches or rats or cows? I don’t think so. Some animals do feel some sort of emotion, but no other creature can experience the range of feeling we do.

(Even if emotion isn’t a gift, it probably has some sort of survival mechanism because otherwise, why would emotion have developed?)

Not even all humans feel emotion. Sociopaths don’t feel emotions, or if they do, the emotions are very shallow. (There could be 30,000 non-killing sociopaths for every murderous sociopath, so this is a fairly common emotional disorder. See: Your Mother-in-Law, the Sociopath.)

So perhaps life is a gift after all, including all the parts like pain and sorrow that we would just as soon live without.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 165

During the first year after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I often wrote to him in an effort to bridge the gap between us. The only problem was, he never wrote back and told me how he felt about his dying and our separation. Did he feel as broken as I did? Did he feel as if part of him had been amputated? Or was he simply glad to be shucked of his body, and perhaps even of me?

It’s been three years now since the following letter was written. I still don’t understand the purpose of pain, loss, suffering. Still don’t understand the nature of life or death. Still don’t know how energy can have cognizance, if in fact, consciousness survives death. The main difference is that the wound where he was amputated from me has healed. I don’t worry about him — at least not much — but I still miss him and I probably always will. Most of all, I am learning to get on with my life.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 165, Dear Jeff,

People keep telling me that you’re in a better place, but that I have to get on with my life because life is a gift. Huh? If you’re in a better place, why aren’t I there? If life is a gift, why was it taken from you?

I still can’t figure out the point of it all. Is there anything universally important? Love, perhaps, but not everyone loves or is loved. Creativity? But not everyone is creative. Truth? But what is truth? If nothing is universally important, does anything matter? You’re probably tired of this constant questioning, but your death has posed such a conundrum for me that I’m totally lost. I need to find the bedrock of life, a foundation on which to rebuild my life.

I had no idea I had all these tears in me. The drops are huge, like a badly dripping faucet. I am still stunned by the depth and breadth of my grief. I grieve for the good times and the bad. I grieve for what I got from our relationship and what I didn’t. I grieve for me, what I’ve lost, and what I’ll never have. I grieve for you and all you lost, all you never had, all you never will have. I grieve for that young man, that radiant man I met so many years ago because I know the end of his story. And I grieve for the man whose life was cut short.

It can’t be normal, this protracted grief, but people in the grief business keep assuring me I’m doing well.

I hope you’re doing well, too. I love you. I always will.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.