I have a friend who is going through what is called a rough patch. Karma smackdown number one, after serious financial setbacks she and her family are losing their family home of multiple generations. They did everything humanly possible to save it, but the juggernaut of "the bank" would not be deterred. A week before they were expected to pack their duds and decamp...her father died. Her mother passed previously. Understandably this dear lady is reeling. I have heard that more than one or two "life events" in a year should cause one to pay attention to one's mental and emotional equilibrium. She's doing her best to stay positive, but it's one of those challenging times that come to most of us in some form in a lifetime, that just have to be endured.
This morning I read that she was sad and grieving, and said "And now I'm an orphan."
My heart hurt for her. I thought about it for a bit and replied to her post, "I honor your grief. I'm sorry all this has happened to you. I do think however, that once you're past childhood and out of the teen years, you're not actually what is called an orphan." According to the definition below, you can be considered an orphan as an adult, but there's an emotional charge associated with the word "orphan" that I would rather not have packed in my personal suitcase, and yes my dear parents have gone on to their next experience.
"The linguistic definition of “orphan” applies to a child. So technically, a person over 18 can't be an orphan. But in real life, we apply the term to anyone whose parents are dead."
The word orphan triggers feelings of abandonment, loneliness, vulnerability, sadness, grief. All entirely valid emotions, and not to be dismissed.
What I said to this friend was that the event of her father's death simply means that there is no one behind her now in the seen world. Her beloved parents may well still be behind her at the soul level, but their physical presence has vanished. It falls to her now to be that person that is behind her children, grandchildren and friends. Now she is the light, the bulwark that will uphold and protect them as best she can.
I very much understand missing our loved ones. I still to this day think to myself "I should call my mother! She would know..." She would know whatever it was. That persons name that was a lost brother to the family, the name of that song that my dad loved, the spaghetti sauce recipe of my aunt that is now lost forever. I miss her mobile face and salty sense of humor, her wisdom that was pure because she was kind of childlike in a lot of ways. I'm sorry for not being all that I could be for both of them. They are on their own journey, and it was all on purpose. I do not miss the end days of their lives, they were both so deeply unhappy about how it had all come to pass. The aging, loss of independence, illness, the isolating power of deafness that had so diminished the vital joyous being-ness of earlier years.
I love Dr. Wayne Dyer and his valuable teachings on so many things. He too was an orphan as a young child, or at least lived in an orphanage with his brothers for some years. I think his mother reclaimed them later. I recall that in one of his books he described being an orphan as actually a liberating thing, he could go out in a field at night and look at the stars for hours if he wanted, and no one was greatly concerned. His mind ranged far and wide to learn and experience, with no particular rein on it.
I did have a lot of lack, but I never experienced it. I grew up in the east side of Detroit, in an area where there was very little, except for a lot of scarcity, poverty and hunger. Even growing up in an orphanage, I never woke up saying, "I'm an orphan again today, isn't this terrible?" Dr. Wayne Dyer
Parents are so many things, so many different personae in one body. That is a vast discussion all by itself. One thing that 99% of parenting brings...is expectations. We incarnate into this world needing guidance and direction, how to speak the language of our culture, to walk, eat, talk. To navigate in our chosen life experience with life skills, manners (hopefully) and how to try and not get killed along the way. Those expectations though. Yikes. We might have to spend the rest of our lives trying to shake off the certain knowledge that someone somewhere wants us to be someplace doing something that they expect us to do. I'm in my 6th decade and I still do it a bit. I apologize to my child and her children for doing the exact same thing to them.
A truly dedicated spiritual life can move us out of that field of expectation somewhat, and help us to see that we have spiritual fathers and mothers who will not age and die. When we follow and learn from Jesus, or Buddha or in my case, Dr. and Master Zhi Gang Sha, we grasp a bit of the possibility of our own lives as enlightened eternal beings. Jesus did it for his disciples when he told them to "leave everyone and everything and follow me." It may sound harsh to us, but he had the right idea. It's certainly a learning curve for us here, how not to be attached to people or things and see that they come and go. There's a dream state quality about the mortal existence that we identify when we have our eyes on heaven, and we occasionally get a peek at spiritual reality.
Perhaps being an orphan can also give us permission to lay some griefs and expectations gently aside, remember our dear ones in the highest possible way, and march on through our lives with our hands lovingly at the backs of those tender, gorgeous souls that are in our care.