And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
“Late Fragment” is the last poem in the last book that Raymond Carver ever published, written to his wife, before dying of cancer at the age of 50. Prior to meeting his second wife, Tess Gallagher, also a poet, he had alcohol problems, was divorced from his first wife and apparently unable to write. He credited Tess on giving him a second chance in his life. This poem is a tribute to the happiness she gave him but I think also its meaning is universal. Many people have these words read at their funeral or celebration of their life ceremony.
Carver was an American short story writer and poet who wrote about the seemingly insignificant lives of blue-collar workers.
Gratitude and appreciation
What is the significance of these lines? To say as much as possible, to condense one’s whole life in such few lines and have such impact on the reader is one of the attractions. He uses fragments of a sentence as if he is inviting you into the end of a conversation with the last piece of dialogue. This form of dialogue deepens its meaning and the questions could be from another person, a loved one, a stranger or from his wise self. He is saying as much as possible in so few words, its simplicity is its beauty. The poem speaks of gratitude and appreciation of his life, even if it was cut short and in spite of challenges of alcoholism and broken relationships.
Our lives are made up of a million moments spent in so many different ways. Some are spent searching for love, peace and harmony, others are spent surviving day to day. There can be no greater moments of truth when we discover that we all have the power to be fully satisfied and live a life with true meaning. We have the ability through living one moment at a time to cherish and rejoice in each minute. Each day is new and living one day at a time enables us to truly enjoy life and live it to the fullest.
What does it mean about having acceptance of our lives? I understand acceptance as finding the serenity within to let go of the past with its mistakes and regrets and to move into the future with a new perspective. Acceptance means that when difficult times come into your life we embrace them with courage, find the learning and healing and so increase our knowledge, growth and wisdom. Life is not only about being happy but it is about accepting the ebb and flow of challenges and difficulties and knowing that this is part of the rich tapestry of life. Not judging an experience as “bad”, or this is “good", but rather accepting this is “as it is” at the moment can help us to flow with life. I know in my own experience things that I have labelled as “bad” have turned out to be the most growthful and have helped make me what I am today.
When most people come to the end of their life they focus on love and about leaving their loved ones. Friends and family usually focus on their loving feelings towards the deceased. In "Late Fragment" Carver is asked what he wanted from his life. He replies “to call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth." He is accepting the power of love, his capacity to love and his belief that he has self worth to be loved. Healing is the rediscovery that we and everything in this planet are connected and that we are all part of true nature. It is our birthright and we need to learn to recognise and foster those conditions that our true nature is part of love and love is the greatest healer in the world.
We love and we seek love. Love can be seen as a spiritual pursuit. Love is not measurable nor can it be seen or accurately described but when we feel love becoming more significant to us than the materialistic view of the universe we usually feel good and at peace with ourselves and the world. Other examples may be hearing some beautiful music, being in nature, holding a baby, playing with a pet. The word “beloved” means a person who is loved but it has a charm to it, a feeling of devotion and permanence. It also has a sense of being cherished. “Beloved” tends to be used in obituaries.
What is spirituality?
Spirituality is more about how we live our lives and our values about the world, rather than specific beliefs or connections with religion. For some people it is about a greater connection with the universe and a life force that flows through us and everything that is living on the planet. It can be a path that leads to a higher state of awareness and to be in touch with the True Self, as opposed to the personality structure, which we develop from childhood and which we normally see as our true self. If you can think of the planet as an electrical circuit and you are a small part of that electrical circuit. Being part of it means that you are connected to the whole. Becoming more aware of this connection, living your life with this energy flowing through you is all about becoming more spiritual. Global warming may be seen as a wake-up call to us all that we need to be in harmony with nature and all life on the planet rather than abusing and pillaging nature for our own narcissistic wants.
Why is spirituality important?
It can help us to look at the bigger picture of life, it can help to create meaning in our lives and to help us answer the eternal question “Why am I here?” What is the purpose of my life?” It can lead us to a deeper connection with others, it can promote quality of life and help us to let go of the past, to let go of hurts and grievances, anger and to abide more in the richness and fullness of our lives moment by moment. Using the tools of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which means to accept what is out of your personal control while committing to action that will improve the quality of your life. In the process of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy it is important to learn the technique of Mindfulness which means:
In the present moment without judgement
Learning to BE rather than DO
In Carver’s poem he was acknowledging his own worth and blessings and a contentedness with his own uniqueness of his life. A person who is dying, or living with a person who is dying, usually re-arranges life’s priorities. During this time people separate trivia from important things. People in this stage often have a sense of liberation which enhances the “now.” Usually they have deeper communication and a far less fear of rejection. Most of us want to know how deeply others will be hurt by our departure and to know and feel that we were deeply loved and that we felt deeply loved in our life.