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My family moved a lot when I was a kid—but I always found ‘em. – Richard Pryor
Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted. – Paul Pearsall
In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future. – Alex Haley
The family is a school of compassion because it is here that we learn to live with other people. – Karen Armstrong
Do you have a loving family?
If you do, you have one of the most valuable things on Earth. Those of us who enter the world welcomed with love, and who grow up surrounded by love, owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our families. Families teach us what love means, and what it means to love.
I have a friend who just lost her entire family two weeks ago. Her parents, both serious drug addicts, didn’t really raise her so much as feed her occasionally and sometimes provide a roof over her head. They both eventually committed suicide, one of them in front of her, when she was a teenager. As a result of these enormously traumatic childhood experiences, she never felt valued or loved; her psychological and spiritual scars ran very deep; and she found it extremely hard to love others.
Then, in her early thirties, she met a man who truly loved her. It changed her entire life. For the first time, she understood the transformative force of love. She started to figure out how to let her own heart feel and express love, too. They were together for three decades, closely bonded, but a few weeks ago he died, a sudden heart attack giving her no warning and no time to say goodbye.
She called me last night, weeping, inconsolable. She has friends, of course, like my wife and I, but he was the only person she ever really allowed herself to truly love, so he had become her whole family. I found it really hard to console her, because she doesn’t believe in God or any life after this one, so she feels like she’ll never see her true love again. She feels deserted, alone and bereft. She feels, actually, like her entire family has left her forever, and that she’ll never feel love again. Devastated, she can’t see her way clear to any future happiness at all.
So we talked for a long time about what happens at death, and I told her what the Baha’i teachings say about the love of God and the beauty of the next world:
O son of justice! Whither can a lover go but to the land of his beloved? and what seeker findeth rest away from his heart’s desire? To the true lover reunion is life, and separation is death. His breast is void of patience and his heart hath no peace. A myriad lives he would forsake to hasten to the abode of his beloved. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 23.
To hold that the spirit is annihilated upon the death of the body is to imagine that a bird imprisoned in a cage would perish if the cage were to be broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the breaking of the cage. This body is even as the cage and the spirit is like the bird… Therefore, should the cage be broken, the bird would not only continue to exist but its senses would be heightened, its perception would be expanded, and its joy would grow more intense. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 262.
We cannot realize in this world the bounty of God nor can we appreciate His love. But in the next world we can do so. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 8, p. 37.
Think about it this way, I said to my bereaved friend—what if you could imagine that your Creator loves you intensely? What if your very existence testifies to that love? What if your love for your dear departed husband serves as evidence of a greater, more profound and more perfect love in the next world? What if the inner spirit of the one person you considered your family waits for you in a placeless and timeless place?
“I’d be so overwhelmed with gratitude,” she said, crying. “I’d love God so much if that were true.”
“It’s true,” I told her. “I promise.”
I hope she believes it.