Lily Velez: the hardest goodbye of my life - and how I'm keeping my peace
How to find joy in the midst of trialsThis past weekend, I said the hardest goodbye of my life. My dad battled stage 4 cancer so bravely and so gracefully for 9 months. On Sunday morning, with a breathtaking view of the sunrise painting stripes of gold across his hospital room, his strong and kind heart beat for the last time at 8:17AM.Unbeknownst to me, my dad kept a journal of written prayers over the course of his journey through cancer. They read like love letters – to God, to his family, to his church, and even to the compassionate men and women who attended to him during his time in the hospital.I won’t lie to you and say that my dad was unfazed by his fight with cancer. The truth is, there were days when he was too exhausted to get out of bed, too weak to walk to the mailbox, or too nauseous to eat his favorite foods. Any normal person would naturally feel depressed by such a fate as that and we wouldn’t blame him for it.However, as evidenced in these written prayers, my dad found a way to keep his head above the water when it came to depression; he discovered the secret to instantly transforming a heartache into rechargeable joy. And no matter what you’re going through, I know that this one insight can help you maintain your own joy even when the world around you is falling apart.The formula is simple:Selflessness will drown depression every time. Every time. This happens because:
Selflessness is how to find joy in the midst of trials because it combats depression and transforms thoughts and energy into an unstoppable force that will enlarge your heart and change the world around you.I first learned of this concept from New York Times Bestselling Author Gabrielle Bernstein. When asked how she combated depression, her answer was simple. She said that she simply picks up a phone, calls a friend, and asks how she can help them. The depression dissolves immediately.I didn’t buy it at first. After all, if I was drowning in depression, how could I possibly find the energy to help someone else? Or, more selfishly, what would I care about someone else’s needs when I was nursing my own wounded heart?It wasn’t until reading my dad’s letters to God recently that I finally understood it. It finally became clear. You see, when your night is darkest and the wind is howling and there’s no escape route in sight…selflessness is actually the only thing that can lead you out! You can choose to feed the harmful emotions that are attacking you and focus all your energy to them–but this isn’t going to reward you with the peace you deserve and want.Understand: I’m not saying to not feel your emotions. It’s only in feeling our emotions that we can move through them. What I’m saying is to shift your thinking in the midst of your emotions.As I said before, my dad’s 9 months through cancer weren’t always brimming with sunshiny moments and he could’ve easily fallen into an inescapable depression. However, my dad made a choice to shift his thinking in spite of what he was going through. In doing so, he was able to keep his spirits uplifted, maintain his peace, and trust in his unshakeable faith. How did he do it?Per the above formula…1) Shift your focus. My dad’s letters weren’t just prayers for healing. He also asked that God would show him what he was supposed to learn during this experience and how he could use his trial to help other people. More than this, he also prayed that God would help his family, because he recognized we were hurting too. Talk about selflessness!When you find yourself giving too much attention to your problems and how they are hurting you, turn the microscope from inward to outward. Pray for other people. Write them encouraging emails. Tell them you love them. Reach out to those who need help. Ask yourself what lessons you’re learning that might benefit someone who’s walking a similar road and then share them.2) Transform your energy. When you feel a wave of depression coming on, embrace it. Then redirect the energy. Once my dad shifted his focus outward, he turned any sadness he might have felt into action. He decided he wanted to help children in need somehow and started to think of ways that he could start a charity and have collection drives. While he didn’t get to complete these efforts, he created an example that I could follow.When a particular wave of depression struck me just days ago and I was consumed with my sadness, I suddenly found my focus shifting. How could I be a blessing to someone else in this moment? I remembered my dad’s desire to help children, and that’s when the idea blossomed in my mind to ask that in lieu of flowers, people send us teddy bears that we would then go on to donate to children in hospitals who are battling cancer. As my dad’s nickname is ‘Bear’, it was perfect synchronicity.Suddenly, I was energized and felt more alive than I had in a long time! I organized the drive and then sent emails to friends and family about it. I had successfully transformed my energy from something that was self-serving (focusing on my own sadness) to one that was of service (making a difference in the lives of others).3) Which leads me into the last step: embracing at-one-ment. My dad asked God in his letters what lessons he could take away from the experience, and he got his answer: to reach out, make new friends, touch people’s lives, and effect them in a positive way.My dad was always kind, warm, and engaging with everyone who entered his room. He asked them about their family, he thanked them for their service, and he treated everyone like a brother or sister. Physicians and nurses who had only known him for hours would make remarks about how he was such a great person with such a big heart.Smile at strangers. Start conversations with people and genuinely care about their responses. Be present in every moment (silence the cell phone, ditch the laptop, power off the TV). Give of yourself to others. Never let a day go by without telling someone that you love them, appreciate them, and/or are glad to be sharing this journey of life with them.At the end of the day, we’re all apart of the same big family. And the key to finding joy in the midst of our most challenging and trying trials is to practice selflessness and discover the peace, energy, and at-one-ment that comes with it.What are some ways that you’re embracing selflessness in your own life? Share your insights in the comments below and share this article with a friend!
- You allow focus to shift from yourself to another’s need. This is like throwing up a detour sign to the avalanche of exhausting thoughts pulling at the frayed ends of your sanity and watching them speed right past you.
- You transform energy that will otherwise drain you into energy that is constructive. Among Freud’s many defense mechanisms is the idea of ‘sublimation’, transforming emotions into positive actions.
- You embrace the beauty of at-one-ment. Your world has gone from population: 1 (just you) to population: infinity (there’s no limit to the number of people you can form a connection with in this state of mind).
'May we live in peace without weeping. May our joy outline the lives we touch without ceasing. And may our love fill the world, angel wings tenderly beating.'