How do we face the death of a beloved in these challenging times? The death of my friend Peter inspired me to live in the world, learn to be a lover, and give the gifts that only I can give.

I am no stranger to death. At sixteen months old, I had a near-death experience. I have lost all but one member of my immediate family, save my beloved sister Ginger, to deaths expected and unexpected. I have grieved, and I have let go of grieving.

So, I was surprised at the shock to my system when I heard that my dear friend Peter Britton had died suddenly of an aneurysm. He wasn’t a young man. He was over eighty. In a rational world, I would not be surprised that a man of his age would die, but I was shocked. It felt out of alignment and somehow unfair.

I was even more puzzled when I realized that he had made a special effort to visit me a day before he collapsed, never to regain consciousness. I am convinced that he had no awareness that he was nearing the end of his earthplane journey, although my friend Adrian was not surprised when I told him of Peter’s passing. He said that as soon as he touched Peter, he was shocked to feel that his end was near. I was grateful that I did not have Adrian’s sixth sense. I would not want to be in a world where I could see my friends’ exit plans.

I have felt a heaviness since I heard the news. I will miss Peter, as will the many people he loved and gifted, but I don’t believe that is the only cause of my discomfort. It feels that something has been triggered beyond the personal.

Peter’s passing was not the only challenge in his last week. My Aunt Ginny, now over one hundred years old, is teetering on the edge of life and death. Stories abound of the incredible loss of life in Gaza and Ukraine. The political stage in this country and worldwide seems to have gone crazy, and lies seem to be the commerce of the day. And then there is our beloved earth. For perhaps the first time in recorded history, we are having conversations about the extinction of plants, animals, and maybe even humans.

When I was younger, life seemed to make sense. I am well aware of how privileged I was to be the daughter of two people in love, a member of a vibrant church community, and a family with sufficient resources to feel comfortable. Of course, I was white and not a hated minority, which shielded me from many harsh realities. Still, there was a sense of order. The order wasn’t fair, but the pieces seemed to fit together in an accepted, although unjust way, and I felt that if only humans acted correctly, all would be well.

Of course, that had to change. It was an unsustainable order. The foundation of that order was that success was about money and power. Even many religious communities urged that we should work hard and be successful, which would show that we were worthy of God’s love. Undoubtedly, there were positive outcomes; however, the adverse outcomes kept multiplying.

In my earlier years, I truly believed that if we, as humans, did the right and loving things, all would be well. We marched against the Vietnam War, and it ended. We worked for women’s rights and the rights of minorities, and progress seemed to be made.

And suddenly, everything turned upside down. Lies seemed to take the day, and the order that had felt so comfortable to me in my privileged position seemed to collapse into chaos.

With Peter’s death, I am left wondering what this whole life journey is about. I was taught we were here to improve the world and bring justice. Now, I feel powerless to make a difference on the larger stage of the world.

I came up with a new story. This story says that we come from a place where people had evolved far beyond ourselves and wanted to continue growing in consciousness. They decided to create a virtual reality that was challenging beyond all imagination. In this reality, we wouldn’t know where we had come from or where we were going. In this reality, we would be met with challenges, sometimes ones that would be egregious. Our job would not be to fix the unfixable since this was impossible. However, we would have to learn to navigate the challenges with our unique gifts in the areas where we had agency, thereby learning more about love than could ever be learned in a world that included only peace and harmony.

Thinking that our chaotic world is a school for learning love may not seem intuitive, but by thinking this way, we can move from hopelessness to the empowerment that love can bring.

Peter was a lover, and he put his love into action. He was an Outward Bound International board member and established youth wilderness education programs in Oman and Rwanda. He brought twenty-foot tall, twenty-ton stones to Shalom Mountain to create a sacred stone circle. He founded Brick Ends Farm in Hamilton, MA, to restore fallow lands along the North Shore to agricultural production. He established a pioneering operation for processing organic waste into usable compost, which he has shared with his community and lucky friends, including myself.

Peter was an inspiration for me to live in the world, learning to be a lover, giving the gifts that I only I can give. I will miss you, Peter, but you will live on in me and the lives of all you have touched.