Mercy and Grief: Teachings Revealed

Clarity Through Music
The older I become, the more frequently I revisit music from my past. Certain lyrics have triggered thoughts and teachings that have helped me develop clarity during the journey following the death of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine in 2003.

Welcome to the Real World
My wife Cheri and I have been trying to downsize as we are currently living alone. In my attempt to contribute to the mission, I put aside some compact discs from the 1980s and ’90s for my youngest son, Matt. In the process, I rediscovered a compact disc from 1985 titled “Welcome to the Real World by Mr.” Mister. It had been one of my favorites from the ’80s, but I hadn’t listened to it in a long time.

I revisited it again and rediscovered all of the reasons I liked Mr. Mister in the first place. There was one song in particular that resonated with me, as a parent who has experienced the death of a child.

Kyrie Eleison
Kyrie was one of Mr. Mister’s most recognizable songs; the full title “Kyrie Eleison” is Greek for “Lord Have Mercy.” I remember reciting this phrase silently and sometimes out loud during Jeannine’s illness and for some time after her death.

After listening to this song numerous times, I decided to explore what asking for mercy meant for me in early grief and what it means to me today. The Free Online Dictionary has many definitions for the word mercy.

These are the two that resonated with me: Alleviation of distress; relief and something of good fortune; blessing. In early grief, I routinely asked for relief from the extreme emotional pain and distress that I experienced day in and day out, after Jeannine’s death.

However, I eventually learned that my pain would become manageable only if I was willing to sit with it, learn from it and be transformed by it. Today when I ask for mercy, it is because I desire to be blessed by the presence of those individuals who are of the highest level of thought and who are willing to witness my continued transformation on the road that I must now travel. I am blessed with many people in my support group who have continued to inspire me with their presence and teachings.

My “Chosen” Road

When I was young I thought of growing old
of what my life would mean to me
would I have followed down my chosen road
or only wished what I could be
(Lyrics are from the song Kyrie by Mr. Mister)

After my 25th birthday, it seemed that the next 33 years of my life were a blur. Certainly, the life that I am living now is different than the life I envisioned myself living when I was younger. I believed that I would be married with children, and the owner of a successful career. This was the road I chose for myself and one whose path I thought I could control.

Jeannine’s death quickly taught me that any control I thought I had, was simply an illusion. The universe reminded who was in charge. As a result, a different road has been chosen for me. It is a road that I did not desire but have embraced because of the revealed teachings about grief, service, life and death.

I also know that this is a road that I do not travel alone. In addition to my earth “soul family,” Jeannine is my constant guide and companion from the other side. Together they have contributed to the metamorphosis that I have undergone to this point in time.

The North Shield
I e-mailed this post on Dec. 18, 2013, to my good friend Patty Furino, who responded with: “I like it, but it feels like you left something out.” Patty is not only a good friend, but also an important member of my “soul family” and witness to my journey. Her input is something that I always strongly consider. I reviewed my post again but could not immediately determine what was missing. So I decided to leave it alone and trusted that spirit would guide me in the right direction when the time was right.

On Dec. 21, I woke up and had a strong urge to draw a card from The Sacred Path Cards. The cards accompany the book: “Sacred Path Cards: The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings by Jamie Sams.” Letting my intuition be my guide, I drew The North Shield card. On pages 110 and 111 of her book, Sams discusses the application of the North Shield to our daily lives. Here are some excerpts:

Some type of wisdom is coming your way, if you have chosen The North Shield card. You are now being asked to show gratitude for these new understandings in order to continue the growth process. The North Shield tells you that you have learned a lesson and derived from it a sense of self that will serve you for the rest of your life. The successful completion of this lesson should be marked by prayers of thanksgiving or acknowledged in gratitude. Remember that the gift of wisdom is in the heart of the recipient and remains alive as long as it is honored as a blessing.

Sams reminds us that the wisdoms or understandings that occur from any discovered teachings are additional gifts that need to be acknowledged and honored as blessings.

Perhaps we can discover mercy in teachings that are revealed to us, and in the process share those teachings with others who are traveling roads that they did not willingly embrace.

David J. Roberts, LMSW, CASAC, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer in March 2003 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College, Utica, New York.  You can read more of his work here.

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