Last night I had the heart-wrenching experience of attending a vigil for a young man who died of an accidental drug overdose. In the sharing, it was clear this young man was dearly loved, was a valued member of his school and work community, made people smile and laugh, always showed forgiveness, loved to work hard, charged onto the basketball court and played hard, appreciated the times he was truly seen by others, impacted a lot of lives, and brought strength and dignity to his struggles and challenges. This young man filled a room with people grieving his loss and speaking of how he was valued and loved.
Emotions were raw. He died just one day ago. Tears flowed and hearts were heavy, yet there were smiles and laughter at remembering his sweet spirit and how he embraced life with energy and passion – whether it be a snowfall, a sheep farm, his love of a new sweatshirt and matching shoes, time spent with family and friends, or sharing contrarian political views to enliven the conversation.
There was also sharing of his struggles, his sensitivity, his pain – and mention of his red beard. In the marriage of those images I had the vision of a Viking warrior who had died and ascended to Valhalla – received to a place of honor and glory by other warriors who fought courageous battles. Brian represents a new kind of warrior, a Spiritual Warrior, valiantly fighting the battles of our day and age. This is a difficult time to live life with a sensitive spirit. Life isn’t easy when you grapple with your own challenges at the same time you deeply feel the suffering of others.
This quote seems appropriate.
The Knighthood of Our Times
There is a knighthood of our time whose members do not ride
through the darkness of physical forests as of old,
but through the forests of darkened minds;
They are armed with a spiritual armor
and an inner sun makes them radiant;
Out of them shines healing,
healing that flows from the knowledge of mankind as a spiritual being
They must create inner order, inner justice, peace and conviction,
in the darkness of our time.
— Karl König
For me, the most painful thing that was shared was that he felt he was a failure. In my mind, he was anything but a failure. When we leave this life we won’t take our wealth, awards, credentials, success, celebrity status, family or friends – we will only take our spiritual growth from this lifetime into the next. We are spiritual beings having a human experience that serves the evolution of the soul. From that vantage point, you are successful every time you…
- Learn to be raw and honest and not hide who you are
- Show compassion and forgiveness to yourself and others, rather than judge or criticize
- Couragously face the shadow self, giving all your aspects, light and dark, a voice
- Create deep relationships with fellow travelers on the journey
- Allow your challenges to give others the opportunity to learn and grow
- Face your struggles with dignity and courage and humility
Brian did all those things.
Our culture is drawn to beauty, celebrity, and money as evidence of success. We measure worth in superficial measures of “likes” or “followers”. We’ve given our children a world with huge economic disparity, political divisiveness, never-ending wars and regional conflicts, an overwhelming amount of negative information they don’t know what to do with, and an unprecedented rate of economic, environmental, and technological change to grapple with. They certainly have reason to feel disheartened, discouraged and disillusioned. And yet, overall, they manage to find a way to love life. They find relationships and experiences to embrace and enjoy. Clearly, given what was said in the sacred space of the vigil last night, Brian certainly did. I would call that success.
We feel he was taken too soon, his absence leaves a space no one else can fill. And yet we have to imagine the possibility he was here in the right time and place, doing precisely what he was meant to do, for the time it took to fulfill his life purpose.
In spiritual terms there is no such thing as failure. In his lifetime he was surrounded and protected by an army of angels, and now they are welcoming him home.