Does Grief Serve a Higher Purpose?

Fran Blackwell - Grief 2
Photo: Pixabay

In our last post, Fran spoke of a profound inner experience that came with the passing of her husband. It helped her gain a deeper understanding of the eternal nature of existence, and of her place in it.

In this post, she provides insight into her deep and lasting grief, which seems to co-exist with an unshakable faith that the essential part of Ed continues in another existence, and that the love they continue to share is as real as—and perhaps even deeper than—it was when he was with her in the human form.

Despite enduring 20 years of kidney failure, jazz drummer Ed Blackwell and his wife Fran continued to live a life filled with love and humour. There were so many close calls over that period, says Fran, that they began to call them “dress rehearsals for death.”

At one point, after an emergency during the Christmas holidays, Fran says she told Ed, “Well, you can’t go during the holidays because that would make it a time of sadness instead of celebration. Also, you can’t pass on any of the kids’ or grand-kids’ birthdays for the same reason. You can have my birthday but stay away from the dates of my church seminars,” she remembers saying.

“He looked at me and said… ‘What do I have to do, make an appointment to die?’”

It turns out that Blackwell did accommodate his wife’s request, translating from this physical life on October 7, 1992, three days before his own birthday and two weeks before her church’s spiritual New Year, October 22. This timing was especially symbolic for Fran because it is considered a period of renewal, as well as being the date for a major worldwide gathering.

“The true blessing of my experience with grief is realizing that it has been one of my greatest teachers in this lifetime,” says Fran, now age 86.

For Fran, who follows a spiritual path called Eckankar, the loving connection with her husband continues.

“I learned more about divine love with my husband’s passing than I did in all the years we shared life together. In fact, there was a moment I said to him, ‘You left too soon. Now I am really getting greater insight about love.’ He laughed and said, ‘Well, it took me leaving for you to learn these deeper aspects… Right?’”

But this connection did not stop Fran’s grief, despite admonishments from others that she should move past her emotions, secure in the knowledge Blackwell was doing just fine in his new existence.

All the same, Fran was undeterred. “I knew I would honour this grieving process however it manifested moment by moment in my life.”

Then a friend told her that a spiritual teacher once said, “Tears wash the eyes so we can see the Grace of God.”

So, “I would weep when so moved and know, beyond any judgement of others, that I was being true to my heart.”

Something else Fran learned “is that two opposite feelings seemed to occupy my heart at the same time: Joy and sorrow. Joy that he was no longer suffering and that, as Soul, he was on his journey home to God; sorrow that he was no longer here with me and I could no longer hold him or touch him.”

“I also found that grief would come as waves. At the beginning they would come often, crashing on the shores of my heart. When they hit, the pain in that moment was almost unbearable. It would be hard to breathe. Yet, when they receded, they would leave large deposits of divine love. And, though my heart would be broken into millions of pieces, the deposits of love would serve as the mending glue, and when all the pieces of my heart were glued back together, my heart grew bigger and bigger.”

A month after Blackwell passed away, Fran was driving to New Jersey from her home in Connecticut. It was on this journey that her feelings about grief were confirmed.

“It was after a winter ice storm and everything was frozen, even the blades of grass. The sun began to set in rich, glorious pinks and oranges and purples. But what was truly spectacular was that the colours of the setting sun were reflected in the ice, so that the trees, the blades of grass, were on fire with the sunset. It was like driving through the blazing artwork of the Creator!”

Fran said inwardly to her spiritual master, “Just look at this! Is this not amazing?”

And at that moment, she says, “Another wave of grief crashed into my heart. And, as I was trying to catch my breath from that, I had an inner vision in which my master pulled aside a veil to reveal a pulsating portal. He told me we were going on a ‘journey of the heart’.

“With that, he showed me all my lifetimes in progression, one by one: When I had grieved at the loss of love, when I had rejoiced in the presence of love—And I realized they were all the same. All were gifts to teach me that all blends into one and the same, that this is the eternal nature of Soul: To learn through all the celebrations of life; and, no matter what comes, to go on living and giving, to be joyous, to be as glorious as the sunset the Creator was sharing with me.”

“Yes,” concludes Fran, “all is fleeting in its own time and place, but life is for living through the ups and downs, the grief and the heartache. Love is the only reason life prevails.”butterfly 1

The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.



How Much Love is Too Much?

Fran Blackwell - Blackwell's Translation - Ed pic
Photo courtesy of Fran Blackwell

Having watched her husband suffer for 20 years with end-stage renal failure and dialysis, Fran asked him one day if he was afraid of dying.

“No…” he said thoughtfully, “I’m just wondering why it’s taking so long.”

Edward Joseph Blackwell was a celebrated jazz drummer who played and toured with such musical luminaries as Ray Charles, Ellis Marsalis, Ornette Coleman and Thealonis Monk to name a few. Known throughout his career as a musical innovator and, later, artist-in-residence at Wesleyan University, Blackwell loved to play—even as his health continued to fail.

But Fran and Ed had long since let go their fear of death. They had come to view life as a continuum through which everlasting souls progress, taking on deeper love and wisdom as they go. To them, death of the physical body was simply a translation from one state of being to another. All the same, there could be no discounting the deep bond of love that 34 years of marriage, of weathering both the good and the bad in this world, had fostered between them.

“In the last year of his life, on top of everything else he was dealing with, he developed carpal tunnel syndrome (a painful nerve compression in the wrists),” recalls Fran. “Whenever he picked up the drumsticks and played, pain would radiate up his arms. But he played anyway and no one could tell.”

“I knew, though,” says Fran, “and my heart ached.”

So great was her love that Fran begged her inner spiritual guide to let her to take on the pain. Her reasons were partly for Blackwell and partly for her:

“If he could no longer play his drums, there would be no reason for him to stay on this planet. So I asked my inner master to please allow me to take on the carpal tunnel. I did not need my hands and arms to fulfill my mission. Yet, days went by and he was still in pain, and my hands were fine, and he played and endured the pain, never losing the beat.”

When the time finally came for Blackwell to leave the physical world, he was surrounded by friends and family, and Fran was given a profound spiritual experience in which her inner master invited her along as he escorted her husband into his next life. Fran recalls that, as she returned to the present, her guide paused to tell her something.

“I know that when you asked to take on your husband’s pain, you did so out of great love, but he needed this last challenge,” she remembers the master saying. “He didn’t let the pain stop him; he gave all he had and more. This gave him the opportunity to realize that love can overcome pain.”

Then, gently, he explained that if Fran had taken that away, Blackwell would not have been able to graduate to the spiritual level due to him. Because Fran was not permitted to interfere, he told her, Blackwell was able to move on.

“He has earned a place in one of the high worlds of God,” Fran’s master assured her. “This soul has returned home.”

Looking back on that day, Fran is struck by another insight: “What a loving and gentle way for me to learn how deeply significant is the Spiritual Law of Non-Interference.*”

* The Spiritual Law of Non-Interference is said to be a universal law that forbids one person from interfering in the personal affairs of another without their permission, either intentionally or through ignorance. To learn more, try an internet search for “law of non-interference”.

The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.