in Personal Reflections

The Circle of Life

“I’m from Germany,” she said with a smile.

“I was seventeen when I got married and I went to visit the United States shortly after that.”

The complexion on her face suddenly changed and her smile disappeared. “When I returned home a year later my husband went off to the Korean War.”

There was a pause and she seemed to hesitate with the next few words.

“He never came back.”

“I was a widow at eighteen… so young…” Her voice drifted off into the distance and I could see in her eyes that she was reliving a life that seemed so distant and so far away.

Rosie was in her mid-70s but her beautiful blue eyes and lively attitude made her seem twenty years younger. She sat alone during her lunch break, quietly staring out the window watching people come and go from the store where she worked.

I had been using the cafe in the store as my makeshift office and after making eye contact and exchanging smiles several times, we began striking up random conversations.

Spontaneously sharing deep thoughts about life and the lessons it teaches us, our conversations seemed like an odd interaction between two strangers who were separated by nearly forty years of life experience.

A few days later I went to my sisters’ house to hang out with my brother-in-law and my one-year-old nephew. When night fell, we started a campfire in the backyard and brought my nephew out to see it.

In the darkness his face glowed orange and he smiled so big that his tiny teeth shown through. As if witnessing a never ending stream of magic, he looked up at his dad and pointed at the fire in awe.

I’ve sat around perhaps hundreds of campfires in my lifetime, but my nephew was experiencing one for the first time.

Over the course of his life, how many campfires will he sit around? Since the dawn of mankind, how many times has this process repeated itself?

Listening to Rosie tell her wartime stories had made me realize how much had occurred before I was even born. Now I was looking at my nephew and realizing the exact same thing, only this time I was the older one.

It’s easy to forget that our entire bodily existence is an infinitesimal moment in time, a single raindrop in the sea of eternity. We subconsciously focus on our little slice because it’s so much easier to digest. It solidifies the reality around us and makes us feel in control.

But it’s important to remember that many others have come before us and that may others will come after us. This greater perspective allows us to see what’s real. It allows us to be aware of the precious time we have left and appreciate the things that are really important.

No matter how difficult our situation or how many challenges we may face, there’s no point in wasting time soaking ourselves in depression. We all struggle and experience loss, but it’s our attitude that determines how we live, not our circumstances.

Watching my nephew stare at that fire, I remembered Rosie’s attitude and the important thoughts she left with me.

As if sensing the empathy I felt towards her story, she said in an insistent tone “But life is good!”

“My father-in-law, who I’ve seen perhaps only twice since the war, reconnected with me a few weeks ago. We talked for hours. For so many years we didn’t know each other and now we have so much in common and so many stories to share.”

Her beautiful smile returned. “It’s the circle of life. Everything changes, turns, and loops back around again.”

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35 Comments

  1. Beautiful. Powerful. Sad but uplifting at the same time. Your writing, Raam. :) I love it. Thank you for sharing Rosie’s story with us. Let me tell you what makes me feel like reaching back into the ages: reading about Ancient Egypt, which I love to do.

    • I’m right there with you, Farnoosh! I love reading about Ancient Egypt. :)

      It’s incredible to think on the scale of not even thousands of years, but millions of years. To realize that humans in one form or another have been living here for possibly millions of years is incredible. And that’s not even considering the high likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe!

  2. This is beautiful because it is true. I was a widow at 26 and at this moment my father is in a hospital in Boston dying from the same illness that killed my late husband. This was very comforting to read right now. Thank you.

  3. Like Farnoosh, I also love your writing Raam; always sharing profound insights that uplift your readers, and give pause for thought.
    Thank you

  4. I’ve just read this after turning on my computer to start work.
    It’s a beautiful and inspiring post to start my day.
    Thank you Raam.

  5. Raam, this is your best yet. So vivid, so touching. Thank you for sharing your unique viewpoint in such a poetic way. I will remember these stories for a long, long time.

  6. i thought i was a young widow at 33. at 18 with her whole life ahead of her! i am so impressed by you, raam. you have a gift. thank you for being you. one of my favorite quotes is i think probably from lao tzu, by way of wayne dyer… “i am an immortal, spiritual, being having a temporary human experience.” lovely! it calms me and makes everything seem like a next big adventure… even the present moment.

    • Tammy, that is such a wonderful quote and such a wonderful way to live! Thank you for sharing it with us!

      I extend that philosophy to possessions and attachments: We own nothing and take nothing with us when we go — not even this body — so what’s the point of getting upset or attached to things?

      Every moment has the potential for a big adventure, just as every moment holds unlimited opportunity. If we attach ourselves to things — possessions, people, memories, even time itself — we will constantly be stressed out that we’re going to lose it.

      Time always moves forward and the only way we can flow with it is to remain detached.

  7. Hi Raam,

    Thank you for sharing this great post and all the inspirational thoughts, moments and events with us.

    Life is really amazing if we let it be and get out of the way, but takes practice :). The more I live, the less I believe in coincidences. The Universe really does provide us with what we need and there’s no mistakes.

    Namaste :)

    • Hi Santoshi,

      You’re so correct about it taking practice and practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to recognize when life is trying to teach us something.

      Namaste

  8. This post captures an essential truth, that no matter our age we are all in a circle around a fire of life. Perfect.

    • I find it’s a difficult truth to see clearly, as age often brings a feeling of ‘completion’. A circle has no beginning or end, so all of us, no matter where we are in that circle, are one and the same.

  9. It’s part of the circle of life. Years ago we used to hang out together and run free like there is no tomorrow. I really miss the factory, turtle island, sleep overs and Ravi’s mischief :)

    Father of the lamb, life is good.

    -Sarith

    • Hey Sarith,

      It’s amazing how life changes and how things change. When we’re in the thick of it, life seems like it will last forever; the moment seems to go on forever.

      We definitely need to hang out the next time I’m back in the area!

  10. Thank you for understanding that I was so excited about your site that I wanted to share with friends right away.
    Normally I would have asked first, but being without electricity today made me not think straight. And I was so excited I wanted to share you with my audience immediately!

    I will do better in the future.

    • You don’t need to ask permission — everything on my site is “Uncopyright” and can be freely republished without asking permission. :) Words are the conveyance of energy; to hoard energy and pretend we can “own” it is rather silly. Words can only reach their full potential by freeing them, so thank you again for sharing and keeping the cycle alive! :)

  11. It’s easy to forget that our entire bodily existence is an infinitesimal moment in time, a single raindrop in the sea of eternity. We subconsciously focus on our little slice because it’s so much easier to digest. .. how wonderfully explained…

    … and this is the most inspirational one “We all struggle and experience loss, but it’s our attitude that determines how we live, not our circumstances.”…

    just a fortnight back i lost my uncle and have been sad since then perhaps because we had some misunderstanding and never spoke to each other for over last few months and i was rude enough to not to ask him how was his health and all but i never thought he’ll go away so soon, all of a sudden… it really felt miserable but now after reading your write up full of inspirational thoughts.. it feels much better…. how truly said , “We all struggle and experience loss, but it’s our attitude that determines how we live, not our circumstances.”…
    thanks a lot for such a lovely write up…
    God bless u…

    • Keya,

      I’m sorry for your loss and I’m grateful that my words made you feel better. Sometimes all that is required is a shift in perspective, to see things from another angle.

  12. This is beautiful. I think the exchanges I’ve had with older generations are some of my most memorable ones.

    “When I reached 80-years-old, I kept thinking I was going to die. And now I’m 90. I spent ten years thinking of death.” She laughed.

    These three sentences are my constant reminder to live in the moment. People only a couple years my senior can offer me the same advice, but there’s no way they could have said it like this lady did.

    I’m glad you two started having “random conversations.”

    • Adeline,

      Those three sentences are incredibly powerful! For many, death is an ugly thing to fear, but I like to think of it as my best friend: the one thing that can convince and remind of me of the treasure I have right in front of me: This moment. :)

  13. dear raam,
    very inspiring write up……
    you have nspired me to write something of my own…
    thankyou very much for your post……