At some point during this pandemic my wife and I became aware of people who had contracted the Coronavirus and were in hospitals unable to have loved ones near them because of hospital policy. Some of these people, on ventilators and sicker than they had ever been in their lives, died alone after weeks of struggling with pain, confusion, and misery. Susan and I could not help but wonder how we would cope and what we might want to say to the other if one of us faced such an ordeal.
We sat in silence for a few minutes holding each other’s hand. I said, “I would want to say, ‘Thank you, and I love you.’” Susan said she would want to say the same thing. We decided to say this goodbye at that moment, hoping that if either of us faced death alone, we could console ourselves repeatedly with the memory of those words. In my heart, I have said those words every day since that time when we sat on our couch holding each other close. And each day I have reflected on the blessings of sharing life, both the ups and the downs, for over forty-seven years with the love of my life.
There were, of course, so many other things we could have said to each other, but we realized that all the other things we might want to say were summed up in those five words. So much was included and intended in that statement of gratitude and endearment—all our memories, all those times we were forgiven by the other (I needing such far more from Susan than she from me), all the hope and dreams we both cherished (some of which were crushed by the realities of life), all the fears and sadness, all the joys and mountaintop experiences, all the blessings stemming from the wonderful gift of our daughter Miriam and her subsequent family including our son-in-law and grandsons, and so much more. It was all there in those five words.
It occurred to me that those words could be appropriate as the final prayer any of us might offer in this life. Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) said, “If the only prayer you ever pray is ‘Thank you,’ that would be enough.” I did not appreciate that wisdom from Eckhart until the last few years. God is the Source of our being. Everything that has ever existed has its ultimate origin in God’s gift of being. Nothing is here by accident. All being comes from Being whether it knows it or not. And the sustaining of all being is also dependent on that ultimate Source of creation. Every second is a gift from eternity.
Likewise, all consciousness comes from God. Science has failed in all its attempts to explain consciousness from a purely materialistic perspective. Our ability to reason, imagine, dream, plan, analyze, synthesize, create, enjoy, remember, hope, love, have compassion, visualize and seek justice and peace—all of these abilities and blessings come from a transcendent Source of Consciousness. The bliss we experience in life is rooted in the Bliss of God in eternity. It’s all a gift that, unfortunately, we too often take for granted or perhaps do not even recognize or remember.
Once we realize the extent and source of these blessings, we enable ourselves to live out of a profound sense of gratitude and joy. Such lives share the goodness of the God who chose to share the Divine Life with us and all creation. The blessing of our being becomes a blessing to the world and those around us—so much so that when we face death, we and perhaps others we have touched can pray with heart-felt thankgiving, “Thank you.” And in that prayer, we will touch a Source of love which can expand our horizons beyond our last breath in ways that we cannot even imagine. But for now, “Thank you, and I love you” is enough—more than enough.