Key Takeaway: True purpose isn’t called “higher purpose” for no reason: it is greater than us and is beyond us, and will keep on going even long after we have gone – whether it’s dying or simply leaving. It is most evident in how we remember someone, and what we do with that remembrance as we live our daily lives. It is, in a nutshell, love beyond passing.
When we say higher purpose, we mean a purpose that transcends us, a purpose that is beyond us. It is greater than us in so many ways – one of which is that true higher purpose always includes others and is not selfish or self-centered.
But it is also greater than us in the sense that it is greater than our lives on earth, and that it will go on as our legacy after we have gone.
True higher purpose is rooted, rooted in awareness and service. From this alone, we can already gauge that one’s higher purpose is not meant to remain in them alone, but is to be shared with others – not simply family and friends but with any of one’s neighbors (i.e. the Great Commandment for Christians). Thus, when one dies, the purpose does not die with them: It is carried on by others as a living testament of the purposeful liver’s legacy, proof that they lived a life of true purpose.
A more comforting term for dying, “passing on”, conveys this most clearly and beautifully. A person who passes on also passes on their purpose, their love, their life. This is most seen in the ways we remember our loved ones who have gone on ahead of us. We don’t forget them, do we? We talk about them fondly, we reflect on the ways they have impacted our lives, we may even speak to them through “prayer” (I enclose the word in quotation marks because it is not prayer that is rightfully reserved only to God, at least for Christians like me, but “prayer” in a sense that we “speak” to them across boundaries).
As a Chinese-Filipino Catholic, I practice ancestor veneration with my family most especially during the Western and Chinese days of the dead and their death anniversaries (or as my cousin calls it most movingly, “angel dates” – the day they became angels glorifying God in heaven). This practice, which includes sharing the meal “offered” to the ancestors’ spirits afterwards, for me conveys the “passing on” in a very poignant and meaningful manner – but there are so many other ways.
Recently, Scott Dinsmore, founder of a fellow purposeful living blog, Live Your Legend, passed away during a hiking accident in Africa. What did his followers and devotees do? They continued to push LYL, if not more fervently, in his honor and memory – their way of making the most of his “passing on”. Dinsmore was someone who lived his higher purpose, and this is reflected so perfectly in the way his believers live even after his death – to emulate the man and encourage others to do the same. Scott Dinsmore is very much alive, then, in their hearts. By living their legends, LYL devotees live out his memory and thus keep the legacy of him alive and kicking – even long after he himself has departed this world.
And it’s not limited to dying. Any form of departure will create a void at first – and it is how we react to filling that void (or not) that matters. A close friend who will be moving to a faraway country can also “pass on”. A breakup can also be a form of “passing on”. But higher purpose will transcend all these and triumph.
If there’s one word higher purpose is all about, it’s “love” – and true higher purpose is love beyond passing on. You show your love for your gone-away loved one by loving. For Christians, this is the crux of the Christian faith after Christ returned to heaven. The same goes for Buddhists: the Buddha’s followers live out their master’s teachings of love in his honor and memory. It’s a universal truth that not only helps us cope with the departure of a beloved, but also empowers us to keep on living truly, equipped with further arsenal that we steadily build up as we journey through life.
The phrase “in memory” has never been so salient.
As a parting thought for the week, I leave a quote from my favorite fiction series ever:
You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.” -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling)
In loving memory of Auntie Anita P. Ong (9 November 1953 – 21 October 2015), a big blessing to my mother’s and clan’s lives and a second mother to me.