An open letter to a deceased loved one

Mar 26, 2023
Source: Getty

That gift is the experiential proof that an ordinary man, like you Ken, could routinely do something that is extraordinary – to live a life of unconditional loving.

I could not think of anything more important, nobler, and more beautiful, yet more difficult, than a life lived for unconditional loving, as you did Ken.

This is wonderful news to me – an inestimable gift. 

At the same time, it is also very challenging. 

For you, having lived till your death as an unconditional lover, has taken away my last excuse for avoiding genuinely attempting to live unconditional loving as the purpose of my life.

Until your death now at 81, I could just vex lyrical about unconditional loving but keep postponing really going for it, having put it into the “too hard basket.”

I held on to my conviction that though living a life of unconditional love is the noblest of all goals I could have, I could only approximate but never live it fully, because “this was humanly impossible for an ordinary person.”

Even mothers at their best – I was trying to console myself – could perhaps love only their own children unconditionally

You proved me wrong Ken.

This proof stings me the more because having been your soulmate and best friend for a whopping 58 years, I could not but witness personally that you, an ordinary man, actually succeeded in living a life of unconditional loving all this time. 

Till now I have lived according to Herman Hesse’s joke that – 

“Oh, I would love to become a saint… but not yet.”

Alas, your death made me run out of excuses.

So, no matter how confronting your extraordinary feat is to me now, I cannot deny its reality any longer, because I personally experienced your triumph as a black-and-white fact. 

Before your death I kidded myself believing that sure, there could be moments of unconditional loving, but then every ordinary person would just revert to conditional loving if loving at all. 

I clang to the belief that only the most extraordinary people like Socrates, Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela were capable of rising to the challenge of devoting their lives to unconditional loving. 

But I saw it as beyond me, thank you very much.                                                                                                                                              

Ken, of the many examples of your routinely living a life of unconditional loving here, are just two.

The first relates to an incident that took place when you visited an underdeveloped country and were robbed. 

The thief pulled the wallet out of your pocket and tried to run away with it, but you noticed this, gave him a chase and caught him.

You reprimanded him and wanted to hand him over to the police. 

Then you opened your valet and gave him money.

This story reminds me of the scene in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, where an act of true unconditional love towards the criminal Jean Valjean saws the seed for transforming him to devoting his life from thereon to helping others, even his worst enemy, his relentless persecutor, Javert. 

It is a remarkable story, alas it only happened in romantic fiction.

But your acts of unconditional loving Ken, have happened in real life.

The second example, for your life of unconditional loving, has taken place in relation to me over many years, starting early in our relationship. 

We both were doing Arts Degrees at the University of New South Wales in our youths. 

In breaks between study sessions, we went outside the Library and we regularly discussed religion.

You had deep faith in God but I was like a card-carrying atheist.

I took every opportunity to rubbish and try to destroy your religious convictions, your most fundamental beliefs. 

Yet you remained calm as you listened to my attacks.

Not once did you get angry or raised your voice, no matter how vehemently I tried to provoke you.

You just kept up looking at me smiling, with eyes filled with tears of joy, gratitude and child-like excitement, every time you talked about your love for Christ.

And you never tried to convert me.

Except that your love was converting me to loving your loving kindness.

I still feel the laser rays of your love irradiating me.  

I have been unable to resist it, yet how this love has been transforming me over the years is still beyond my comprehension. 

Your faith has remained rock-solid in the face of many years of my atheism when I constantly had a go at your religiosity.  

And I never ever saw you losing your temper.

Ken, you had to go away for me to treasure more, the power of the love that you have been meditating on. It is eternally unconditional. 

After you passed away, I scrolled down on my mobile phone numbers and when I came across your name I felt shocked. 

“My God, I can’t find you any more on this number; I can’t see you any more in flesh and blood!”  

But then, as I closed my eyes and to my relief, I could see you greeting me with a broad smile, the softest of hugs, and tears of joy, glistening in your eyes.  Then you said as always: 

“Andris, let’s get to work.”

Filled full with love, you struggled to find words to let me know that it has been unconditional loving that has given meaning to your life and your mission has been to spread it.

But from here on, all I have to do is to just close my eyes and it comes to me through your now forever sparkling and smiling eyes, saved in me, so it cannot be deleted.

Your journey on this Earth may be over, but your personal unconditional loving stays with me and with all of us you touched.

What Shakespeare wrote about Brutus on his death, could be written about you:

“His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man!'”

Those “elements” were indeed beautifully mixed in you- Your eyes may have been gazing at the heavens, but your feet were firmly planted on the ground.

You were amazingly practical. 

You fixed your cars, helped me to buy mine, you took apart to pieces your entire chain saw that the repairperson could not fix and you fixed it and then reassembled it, all in front of my eyes.

You loved your wife and your four beautiful daughters and your grandchildren.

But your love extended far beyond your family. 

In turn, the kids you taught in High School in Geography cared so much for you, that when once you shared with them that one of your daughters had to have life-saving brain surgery, your students inundated you with well-wishing cards.

You never forgot about the neediest people in the world by donating regularly to organisations, which helped them to help themselves.

You did not fail to remind your fellow faithful regularly to go beyond just praying and reach deep into their pockets to help the poor.

And you always voted for politicians who did their most to serve “the common good.”

You lived by Micah’s motto – “Do Justice, Love Kindness, and Walk Humbly.”


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