Life can be hard. We all deal with harsh situations like the pain of loneliness, a broken heart, deep grief, losing a job or serious health concerns.

I’ve learned difficult life lessons over the years and remembering to ask myself a key question has been the secret to my sanity. Remembering to ask “What does Love look like here and how does Love move me forward?” has been one of my most challenging lessons. It’s certainly the most rewarding.

While I’ve actively used this query for many years, it took me being an observer to really understand the meaning of this practice.  I got to see first -hand what love looked like when my friend Jim passed away at home after a long illness. The experience was life changing.   

 When she knew Jim’s time was short, his wife Linda asked me to come by the house. It was here I witnessed a pivotal lesson about what love looked like at work in the world. I arrived and was greeted by the family, their faces red from crying. I went into the back room to see Jim lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by equipment. He was weak with labored breathing, but a dim light still shone from his eyes.

 I can tell you what love looked like that Wednesday afternoon at Linda and Jim’s house. I saw love in tear stained cheeks, in colorful posters made by the grandchildren, in the gentle stroking of Jim’s skin and in loving hands administering Reiki. I saw love in the fussing with the bed sheets, in the loving gestures toward Jim and each other, in the position of the bed so he could see the emerald green lawn and softly swaying trees in the back yard. I saw love in the medications and the essential oils, in the whispered “I love yous” and in Jim’s determination to hold on a little while longer. I saw love as patient, kind and resolved.

As the grandchildren arrived from school, I witnessed love move the situation forward.

We all gathered around Jim’s bed, gazing at his face, hands on him and each other. I heard his daughter whisper in his ear. “We’re here Dad. We love you, Dad. We’re all one. We’ll always be together.” Love moved forward with dignity, grace, respect, strength and surrender. And relief for physical suffering that would soon be over. Love moved with deep gratitude and appreciation to our Creator for a shared life and unique journey.

 Jim’s breathing became faint and we watched as he peacefully slipped from this world to the next, surrounded and supported by love. It was a beautiful experience. What a privilege to have seen love in action with this amazing family.

This experience was profound. It brought home to me the value of recognizing what true, unconditional love for oneself and others looks like in any given situation. Love for yourself is not long-suffering sacrifice which always breeds resentment; it’s not always having to get your way or even putting yourself first.  Love asks us to recognize the Divine Spark within and treat it with the same respect that’s given to others.

“What does Love look like here and how does Love move me forward?” I’m embarrassed to admit that I know how resentment, anger and jealousy move me forward. I’ve been shoved, prodded and pushed by those emotions many times and always with disastrous results. But how exactly does Love move you forward?

 While your head will never know the answer to that question, your heart already does. Go inside, into the quiet wisdom of your own heart, and ask. Listen. While I don’t know what your answer will be, I know it comes accompanied by a feeling of peace. And freedom.

Following Love’s guidance allowed Jim and his family to gracefully move through one of life’s greatest challenges. Love will guide you as well in any situation big or small.

You just have to ask.