At the end of 1991, I was walking down the hospital hallway to visit a friend. I peeked into a room and saw a young man I had known briefly named Mark. He was lying quietly with his eyes closed and a tear was rolling down his cheek.
I walked into the room and asked him if he remembered me, which he did. He explained to me that the doctors had told him that morning that he had little time left.
Mark had moved to town recently and hadn’t made any close friends. His parents had “disowned” him because he was gay. He was all alone.
I asked Mark if he had any ideas for his next spiritual journey. Did he believe in life after death? His response was profound: “I just want to die and be forgotten.”
Because of the deeply intense sadness of that statement, he is one of the lost souls of the AIDS crisis that I remember the most. This answer burned in my heart. No one should have to die alone. No one should die with this level of shame. Mark is a soul that will live with me forever.
I sat with Mark for quite a while, just holding his hand as he cried and hopefully giving him a little connection hint.
Wherever Mark is today, his light still shines in my heart. Most of us view death and the afterlife from different perspectives, but in my mind, the souls who physically left us still remain in our hearts and memories. As long as we remember them, their souls are alive.
Is it a form of spirituality? Are the spirit and the soul linked?
What is the soul? It is easy to recognize the soul in artists and musicians. Not only do they feel compelled to unleash their talent and expression, but others are moved by the reflection of their soul. Many of us aren’t great at creating music, but we feel the incredible connection to the soul when we hear it. The same goes for art or performance. So many statements express it: “I felt in awe.” “I can not explain it.” “It brought tears to my eyes.” Tears are the number one symbol for feeling your soul. These are your solidified emotions.
This feeling of spirit and soul can express itself in our daily life. To see a young child playing and laughing, or watching him explore something new, or crying in fear…we watch his soul being created. We feel animated. It is their soul that animates our spirituality.
For many, religion is the basis of spirituality. It’s the community. It is the motivation and purpose of why we are here and where we are going. A modern definition of religion is: “The subjective experience of a sacred dimension. It is the deepest values and meanings by which to live. It is one’s own inner dimension.”
For others, spirituality is not about religion. It is to connect to an energy external to oneself. It’s about connecting to the universe. Humility. Find meaning.
It is these beliefs that can make us strong through a challenge in life.
Finding purpose and discovering personal meaning can completely change perspective when living in fear and despair.
We may very well have severed our closest ties when we are going through trauma. Finding something to trust other than ourselves can start a new journey when we feel no one can help us. Hope always waits in our souls.
Spirituality can also be defined as acceptance. Acceptance of others can be calming and lead to greater awareness. Accepting yourself and your life as it is right now is as important as accepting others. Do you accept. Be compassionate for your life. And please, more than anything else, accept and respect the beliefs and spirituality of others. It’s beautiful, not competitive.
The difficulties of our lives will test our faith. The reality is that these difficulties can only reinforce it, but we must really contemplate and do all we can to find the positive forces of our soul, or our spirituality, whatever it is. Mark didn’t have time to find that last step of acceptance. At the young age of 23, he never had the chance to find hope.
Ask yourself three questions:
- If I could send one message to the whole world, what would it be? Imagine that you have just won an Oscar, that you are in front of the microphone and that the whole world is waiting for your message. It’s criminal to say something as awful as, “I really don’t have anything planned. Or, “I guess I just want to thank my family.” As a former entertainment writer, I can tell you that when you thank someone in a acceptance speech, you make one person very happy and the rest of the world bored. So, what is the message you would like to convey to everyone?
- Second, what gift do you have that you think you are meant to give to the world? I’m not talking about a literal gift, but a trait, talent or knowledge. What is your soul?
- The third question is what else do you hope to learn from the world that it can give back to you. What do you still hope to live or learn?
As Mark faded into his final hours of crying, there was no doubt that his soul completely filled the room, and yet he was unaware of it. He felt he had no purpose.
His soul wrote this message.