Life Witness


life witness

I’ve had several people transition recently who were present for a large part of my life. First, my sister passed and then my former wife of twenty-five years and the mother of my children passed. My sister, who was fourteen years older than me, was a witness to my birth and early childhood. While geography and life cycles brought us closer or further apart at times, we were witnesses to major moments in each other’s lives.

My kid’s mom passed away far too young and leaves my twenty something year old kids without the feminine witness to their entire lives. Unfortunately, I also know this pain of a too early loss as my mom passed when I was only twenty-one.

After the services for my former wife, her family, my kids and Denise (my current wife) and I all gathered. The kids brought over photo albums from the days before they were even born. I hadn’t seen them in many years. As we went through the albums together, it was made clear that the person who knew me most closely for my early adult life was no longer living. There was no embodied witness to much of my life.

My brother’s former wife also recently passed away and we began talking about this concept of a life witness. While neither of us were now close to our former spouses, it remains a strange feeling that the person you knew you the best for a large part of your life is no longer in body.

Denise too recently experienced this kind of loss when her former partner of ten years passed in a tragic accident. He was someone she knew she could call on as a person who had a perspective on her and her life that no one else had.

Now it could be easy to sink into despair and feelings isolation, but what is really gone? The events, feelings, and connections in our lives happened. Nothing alters that. The memories remain in me and, as many traditions would hold, remain in consciousness. Bodies come and go. Time and change happen. But consciousness is something beyond bodies. That’s verifiable from your own experience. You have thoughts, memories and feelings about people, events and experiences that are long “gone.” My mom and dad are no longer in body, but they are still with me.

So yes, that “life witness” in human form is, as one of my teachers would say, “is no longer locatable in a particular geographical place in space and time,” or as most of us would say, “they are dead.” But again, bodies die, that is an inherent and inevitable fact of the condition of life as we know it. But consciousness and the record of all our experiences, our wisdom, our joys and sorrows and our lives is something different. Consciousness is an enduring participant and witness to everything. And if losses start getting to you, light a candle, reflect, remember, and see if you can’t feel that nothing is ever really gone. 

Be Joyful,
Paul Rogers

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