Letting Go: One Man’s Journey

This week’s article is written by United resident, Jim Dolph. Always optimistic, Jim has shown many fellow residents and our staff a different way of looking at life. Having lost a son and his wife, Jim says that death should be accepted as a natural part of life. Jim talks about two aspects of loss. The first is how we deal with it on a personal level. The second is the importance of surrounding ourselves with family and friends for support. Here he describes his personal journey and offers advice for those going through a loss in their own lives.

By Jim Dolph

Jim can often be found practicing on his guitar

Jim can often be found practicing on his guitar

When a person goes through bereavement, there are two aspects that I think are important. The first is how we deal with a loss on a personal level. The second is the importance of surrounding ourselves with family and friends for support. Every person is different, but each must find a strength within themselves to carry through. For me, it was my faith in God and the wisdom of those who have gone before us. I hope my experience can help others find the comfort I found in wisdom and community.

Before my son passed away in 1995, I was drawn to the wisdom of others in religion and philosophy who spoke of the meaning of life and death. I was struck by their words, which have given me comfort and helped me come to terms with my losses. I have always been one to look forward, not back, and to embrace life.

I’m really drawn to an analogy about a river joining the ocean. I recall a quote from Samuel Coleridge: “How well he fell asleep! Like some proud river, widening toward the sea. Calmly and grandly, silently and deep. Life joined eternity.” That analogy really helped me because it clearly says to me that death is not the end but simply a transition. This is the common thread or message that runs through all of the wisdom traditions and religions. I know that Jeffrey and Laura have made that transition. I hold their memories close, but knowing that they have moved on to something better has given me the permission, if you will, to move on with my life. I want to serve others and have a useful life. In many ways, we can see our loved ones in the lives of others we serve.

Jim and friends singing in the Garrison Green choir

Jim and friends singing in the Garrison Green choir

Laura and I moved to the Garrison Green community a few years ago. Laura became ill and passed away in 2015. We had made many friends here and it was the community that supported me and still does today. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to go home to an empty house. In that respect I had family and friends, some who have also gone through the loss of a wife or husband, who supported me. And now I’m in a similar position, and support others who find themselves facing a loss.

Following the losses of both Jeffrey and Laura, many friends and acquaintances shared their own bereavement experiences with me. What a comfort it is to know that I was not alone. There is a whole crowd out there sharing my feelings. Best of all, there is a strong consensus that we will see our departed again.

Jim with one of his many paintings

Jim with one of his many paintings

Being surrounded by a supportive community also means engaging in life-affirming activities such as music and art. I am frequently in the art studio, learning new ways to express myself. I’m also drawn to music – and regularly practice on my guitar – and attend many of the performances by the musicians who come to Garrison Green, or who perform concerts in the larger Calgary venues.

I enjoy life. That’s what Jeffrey and Laura would have wanted.

I have seen the words, “Gone, but not forgotten” on memorials. This is a sad concept  because it regards death as a termination. I like and agree with this memorial, posted on a bench on the trail to a mountain peak. “And when you have reached the top, then shall you begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

I know Jeffrey and Laura are dancing, and that is a freeing thought, one that I often think of as I continue to embrace my life with the help of my family and my community.

Photos and video by Sherana Productions, United Active Living

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