There is something about sadness that is life-giving, or perhaps I mean, "life-affirming." I don't mean the sadness that is non-specific or the kind that lingers for long periods of time without an identifiable cause. That's what we call depression. That kind of sadness drains and depletes us, eroding away life's worth.
But there is another kind of sadness that comes over us that reveals what we have come to love, a sadness that would not exist if we had not learned to love. Grief is another word for this kind of sadness. It is painful. But it is the kind of pain that comes with being human, fully alive. To not know that kind of pain is the saddest thing of all.
Love is not sudden. Attraction, infatuation, being smitten--such emotions come suddenly. But love is slow and deep. So much so that it's hard to measure. It has a way of working its way into our lives and shaping our way of being in fundamental ways. It's only when we experience loss that the degree to which our lives have been implicated in love is exposed. This, of course, is what we experience when someone we love is lost--by death or distance of some kind (geographical or relational). That experience and the sadness it brings over us, the tears that come unbidden, reveal something profound about who we are and have become. We learn what matters to us. It's impossible to fake sadness--at least the kind I am trying to name here.
Regret is a sadness that wishes what was had not been. The sadness I am naming here is the recognition of what was (and remains) so valuable about what was...of how what has been has made it possible for us to understand what is valuable in this life.
We were having dinner. The four of us. Two couples who had become close friends. The conversation turned to the loss of John's mother when he was a young boy. It was not a particularly intense conversation. John was not one to be tagged as "emotional." All of a sudden, he literally burst into tears. Life, Love, loss, and sadness overflowed in that moment.
Sadness is a gift when it awakens us to the goodness we have known in this life, to the ways we have become implicated in love, and to the possibilities for love and goodness that are yet to be known and discovered in what is and is yet to be.
"O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me." (Psalm 131)