“It’s the Circle of Life

and it moves us all

through despair and hope

through Faith and Love.”

— From The Lion King

These are soulful words though not typical of how we move through life. Our lives are usually experienced in a linear way — on a path that goes on and on until it fades away or ends abruptly. We count and measure where we are on that line of our lives. Even before we are born, the forward motion of counting begins — fetus is three months, six months, eight months — then birth. We track each year when our birthday rolls around as the years collect and the number gets larger.

We mark the passage of sections of life from preschool to kindergarten to high school graduation and beyond. A common project is to draw a timeline with all the events of our lives in sequence on that line. We feel a security in having a way to measure our days.

It works and makes sense until we face the end of life for someone we have loved. Often all that has gone before is muted compared to the vivid memories of the last days. Perhaps you can relate to feeling stuck on the place in your timeline where loss or trauma have occurred. Those ending images can fill us with pain, sometimes guilt and memories that make our process of mourning agonizing.

Imagine joining the beginning and ending points of your timeline to form a circle, a place where painful memories are enclosed along with all the moments of your life. In a circle the most difficult days become part of the whole — not isolated last moments that haunt us.

In a circle we can move in every direction and linger at the myriad of memories we have of our beloved. We can visit the first time we met, re-experience the good times as well as, if we choose, the times of trouble, illness, death. A circle has no before or after as it is filled with all our moments and memories. It is easier to breathe and move, rather than feel stuck at the most traumatic time. Our circle can expand to include new experiences as well as new people who might be coming into our lives.

My husband died of Alzheimer’s disease 17 months ago. Following his death, so much of my time was spent thinking only of the last difficult days and months. I kept reliving his struggles as time took away so much of the man he had been for most of his life. I did not want to banish those memories but needed some relief from the overwhelming stress of dwelling endlessly on the painful last days of 53 years of marriage. It gave me peace of mind to experience that traumatic time of death and dying as part of my circle not the end of a line.  For me, the circle is a holy sphere where all of life is encapsulated in a protective cocoon.

As the song lyrics so eloquently remind us, the circle of life moves us all through despair, hope, faith and love. It is a sacred image that can ease our way and remind us of all we have to treasure — past, present and future.