This past May, Dr. Norman Fried was honored for his contribution to the grief community at our annual COPE Golf Outing. For those of you who weren’t there, I’d like to share with you his moving speech…
In her famous poem, Conversation with a Stone, Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature wrote:
I knock at the stone’s front door. “It’s only me, let me come in. I want to enter your insides, have a look around, breathe my fill of you.”
“Go away,” says the stone. “I’m shut tight. I’m made of stone and must therefore keep a straight face. Go away. I don’t have the muscles to laugh.”
I knock at the stone’s front door. “It’s only me. “ I say. “Let me come in.”
“Go away,” says the stone. “There isn’t any room.”
“It’s only me,” I reply. “Let me in.”
We are parents, friends, physicians and teachers. We are children, students, and siblings. We are fellow travelers, each of us, and we live a life that demands inner-reflection, and outer action, most often manifested through the love we feel toward one another. We are governed by a Divine mandate and structured by a drive toward order. But sometimes we discover that order is the last thing we truly have in this life. Rather it is confusion, despair and uncertainty that too often seem to prevail over our days.
As a psychologist and counselor to both the physically ill and the worried well, I am struck by the paradox of living – how we go about our lives, gloriously unaware of our vulnerability, until one day, without warning, the telephone rings, a doctor enters a consulting room, or a newspaper headline calls out. And without regret for what it sweeps away, life ushers us into a new world. Wet and bewildered, we quickly learn that the person we were, the couple we were, and even the family we were only moments ago, is changed now, and forever.
How then do we survive the pain of living? How do we make sense of tragedy, sickness or suffering? And what are the lessons, if any, from this human journey upon which we have been reluctantly or willingly placed?
I suggest, that in the face of difficulty, we search for the strength that comes from “connection,” or as the COPE Foundation calls it, Connecting Our Paths Eternally. I suggest we search inward for spiritual or religious refinement, the chance for personal growth, and a connection to a higher self, a happier time, or even a Higher Power. But I also suggest that we look outward – seeking gestures of kindness, mercy and understanding from others.
Every one of us has a story to tell, and when we are fortunate enough to find the right listener, that special soul who bears witness to our story of woe and wonder, sadness and success, as do the people in COPE, we begin the healing process.
Like climbers on a circular staircase we are rising, confronting the human themes of sorrow, regret, spirituality and personal growth. And one day, if we tend to our human connections with love and honest reflection, we may come to see the world from a loftier, a heathier, and perhaps even a holier point of view.
But through it all, we must remain grateful. Grateful for the love we had, and still have. Grateful for the wisdom that living imparts; and grateful even for the lessons that in dying, our loved ones are trying to teach us.
“I knock at the stone’s front door. ‘It’s only me. Let me come in.
May we all discover our ability for inner reflection, as well as our ability for outer expressions of love and gratitude, so that we may strengthen the healing that Connection has for us all.
-Dr. Norman Fried, recipient of 2016 COPE Professional Service Award, acceptance speech
COPE President and Founder
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