He didn’t say much; he didn’t have to. The quality of his listening itself was so warm and loving, everyone would relax in his presence. Like my father, my beloved Uncle Jim was wise and focused; he could see the humor in all of our various life dramas. Losing him signals the last of his generation in our family. Most of the Goodman clan gathered for the memorial in New York this week where 300 people celebrated Jim Goodman’s life.
My father and his siblings lost their own father to cancer when they were very young. Yet, each of the three brothers somehow became the steady, present father they never got to have. My Dad told me how unkind their uncles were especially when their father died. And yet, all three brothers grew up to be generous uncles to their nieces and nephews. How is it that some people who suffer adverse childhood experiences reenact their trauma, inflicting similar suffering on those around them, while others become alchemists, expert at transforming their losses into wisdom and kindness?
Being seen and understood is the key. Our caring attention can change the course of a child’s life, and somehow all three brothers understood this and passed it on to others. While there are many factors in healing trauma, without being an expert on trauma and resilience, each one of us can make a difference in a young person’s world with warm, relaxed listening like my Uncle Jim offered to so many. Listening attentively conveys caring – whether we’re listening to our own hearts or another’s. We humans flourish in the light of mindful, loving awareness.
The memorial for Jim was a warm-hearted tribute to a life of kindness, and it left all of us touched and inspired. Still it is hard to be here in New York without him. The passing away of our parents, or any of our loved ones, is unimaginable. And yet, here we are, amidst birth and death, beyond belief, catapulted into this mysterious life, wondering on…in awe and love. Loyalty and affection remain alive; love and listening are forever.