Pamela Daw, who blogs at Musings of a Stoic Woman, explores a heartfelt response to grief.
At the Journey’s End
Today’s reading from Words of the Ancient Wise was:
“HOW do we act in a voyage? What is in my power? To choose the pilot, the sailors, the day, the time of day. Afterwards comes a storm. What have I to care for? My part is performed. The subject belongs to another, to the pilot. But the ship is sinking: what then have I to do? That which alone I can do; I am drowned, without fear, without clamour, or accusing God; but as one who knows that what is born must likewise die. For I am not eternity, but a man; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. I must come like an hour, and like an hour must pass away. What signifies it whether by drowning or by a fever? For, in some way or other, pass I must. –
EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §5. ¶2.”
My response to this was “Have courage to face the inevitable with reason and peace. Do what you can to influence or change your circumstances, but when you have done all that you can, act with dignity.”
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I have recently experienced a momentous loss in my own personal life. My mother passed away from a terminal form of cancer within four months of diagnosis. The example that mother gave me of “grace under extreme adversity”, “peace when the storm of life is raging”, will stay with me for the rest of my life and with anyone who witnessed her incredible dignity and fortitude. Upon her initial diagnosis she spoke with her doctors and specialists discovered that there was little medical intervention that would prolong her life considerably and made the choice to accept the inevitable and to spend what little time she had left with family and friends around her. She chose not to rail at the circumstances or to fight the inevitability of death, but to accept things with serenity. Her moments, although tinged with regret that she would not experience the future with those that she loved, were filled with important words, love and friendship.
I am blessed to have been part of her final days, blessed to have had such a mother. I am blessed to have known such a woman; an example of dignity and virtue in the face of insurmountable and unbeatable adversity.
When we are given a circumstance or challenge in life; first we must virtuously examine our actions moving forward, secondly we must act as we have determined virtue would demand, and then we must accept the outcome understanding that we have done all that we could. We can then let go and move forward into the sea of life, able to release the outcome and enjoy the journey that is left to us.
This post first appeared on Pamela’s blog in February 2013 and is reproduced here with the author’s kind permission.
More about Pamela:
Pamela Daw is mother of three adult children, and has been married to Michel Daw for 27 years. She blogs at Musings of a Stoic Woman and Words of the Ancient Wise. With her husband, she runs a Stoic community, which meets regularly, in Canada.
Pamela, over the last few years I have been fortified and gained inner strength from sharing the last few months of relatives’ lives in this world, and from witnessing how heroically they bore their suffering. I realise now that I became stoic around death at aged 16 when I first started to lose loved ones and since then many more relatives, including my mum, and close friends have died. I think I have moved toward the teachings of Ancient Stoicism partly due to this chain of events and especially to support my children who have been unfortunate enough to suffer the pain of bereavement from a very young age, when they were toddlers. I think the ancient Stoics are especially valuable when one needs help through such pain. I can’t explain why or how, but the reading of ancient Stoic text causes an instant calming effect on me, and helps me to steer my family ship through choppy waters. Thank you for your words of wisdom and thank you for speaking of your inspirational mother.