This blog, and website is a place for celebrations and pretty pictures, chronicling and thinking about the best of times on this place we call home. So is it the place to talk about dying and what goes with that, and how it feels when someone we love becomes part of the celestial sky….maybe it’s the perfect place.
Dying, it is one of only two things that we as humans share, coming here and leaving here….everything else is up for grabs, but this part, this incredibly sacred part of this journey is universal. And in a way that’s beautiful. That we share that, that we all face what’s next, uncertain, fragile, scared, all armed with the same wonder, no one better than the next, the great equalizer. But dying is the thing we don’t like to think of, certainly for lots of good reasons. The sorrow of the loss of the loved one, is inescapable. The separation, although perhaps temporary, leaves a deep void, we feel the empty space with a loneliness that is heavy. And for those who are young and leave us too soon, there is nothing about that passing that could possibly provide anything but grief, anything but regret, anything but pain. But being a part of the final days of a long life can shine a light that is bright, filled with hope laced with beauty and significance. It reinforces the delicateness yet strength of our essence, the incredible ability to feel connected, the desire to be good. It seems somehow for just a breath, in the last moments of someone’s life we all transcend this earthly place and glimpse just for a second heaven.
I’ve said goodbye to both of my parents in the span of less than four years and it’s been transforming. I suppose it really started with the death of my father-in-law. We weren’t particularly close, but not because of any great reason except that life just works out that way sometimes, divorces, hurt feelings, lack of effort whatever the case may be, but we never doubted he loved my husband,his children or our children, it was just the way it was, totally fine, no hard feelings. I just didn’t know him that well. He died at 88. I had seen him the day before he died, and it seemed close, his breathing labored and it felt like he had one foot in each world, here and the next. The next day we got the call, and by the time we made it he was gone. I don’t believe I’d ever seen a person after they had died. But my immediate thought was, he’d made an impact on our lives. It was so powerful. The purity of love and connection was immediate, it was strong. This man, whose genes were running through my husband and my children, was important to us, pure and simple. He would be missed, pure and simple. We loved him, pure and simple. And at that moment I changed. I remember thinking, he had been a gift, his life, his death, it all meant something, something profound. I remember thinking, the clarity of this moment is pure and simple, and I would never look at life the same again.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2012, it was a shock. She was 80 and with it in every way. In the few months between her diagnosis and her death, she was the epitome of grace. Absolutely amazing, strong, quiet, accepting but still fighting. She was at her absolute best, and here we were facing her almost certain death quickly approaching. We had some of the best, most beautiful moments we had ever had. And yet death was knocking. The sweetness of life was presenting itself in a way that nothing else could interfere, nothing else seemed important, no priorities could slip in and steal away what felt like something so precious, so pure, so simple. We had an excuse, an excuse to sit and visit and reminisce and soak up our life together. Not that we hadn’t had some moments in the past where we would sit and visit but not in this way, not in the way you do when you know someone is dying, not in the way you do when you know that you won’t be able to touch that persons hand or hear their voice or smell their smell. You soak it up, you cherish it, you recognize them for who they are and their importance in your life, their importance to this planet. But you can never soak up enough of their essence to ward off the sorrow. It’s just not meant to be. But mixed in with the sorrow is love, pure and simple.
Losing my mom was hard on my sister and me and my kids, but it was really hard on my dad. They had a complicated relationship, lots of disappointments in each other, lots of emotions reserved for only those we feel desperately connected and disconnected to, but my parents put those aside when death came knocking. They looked the other way because what was underneath all the angst and disappointments was overriding, it was love, pure and simple. My dad was holding my moms hand when she took her last breath, he was her steadfast boyfriend those last few months, her life whatever was left was his priority, pure and simple. Death pushed every disagreement,every misunderstanding, every disappointment aside and let love shine through, pure and simple. My mom could’ve been bitter, could’ve turned my dad away, could’ve said too late, but she didn’t she welcomed my dad every day….what might not have made sense to anyone else made sense to them. I wish my parents had had more days that only made sense to them, but the ones they did have were healing, and beautiful, and pure and simple.
My dad was never the same after my mom died. We tried puppy dogs and retirement villages, and they each filled a space but to be honest he struggled. I spent lots of time with him during his last few years, I’d spent lots of time with him before those last few years too, but these last few years, they were different because they highlighted my life with my dad. They were the icing on the incredibly sweet cake. I got to sit with him on the edge of his bed months before he died, when he was teary eyed and worried whether he had taken care of me, my sister and my kids and hold his hand and ask him if he was afraid of dying. I got to hear him say no, he was just sad to be leaving us. Sad, pure and simple. I was able to witness someone both fighting and succumbing to age and illness. He was simultaneously frustrated and grateful, loving and angry. I got to love him through all of it, because I knew what was down the road and I was not going miss out, I was not going to look back with regrets. But the truth is, how can you get through all of this without some regrets, some desire for do overs, a wish for second chances. The moments where he was so cranky I walked out to wait for another day, the days where he wanted to take me to lunch but I already had plans, the times where his phone call went unanswered. I’d like one of those back for a redo, a chance to cancel plans for him, to pick up the phone hearing “baby girl” on the other end…….it wasn’t perfect this dance we did his last few years but it was pretty good. It was filled with chances of getting to see my dad as a person, fragile yet feisty. It was bittersweet to see him becoming forgetful yet always remembering me, my sister, my kids and my husband.
It was transcending, seriously transcending to be with someone as they start down that road to the end of their life, someone you love and adore. I think there is no other time in your life, except perhaps when your children are born that love is so pure, that acceptance is so simple, it’s as if you are open just for a moment to the most sacred part of the universe and it’s beautiful, humbling even magical. And it helps you see this world with a more open heart, it’s preciousness and beauty, it’s fleeting moments, it’s need for celebrations and quiet moments, it’s need for cherishing the special day, and holding on to all that is good, to find gloriousness in the pure and simple. It’s as if your loved one is bringing a little bit of the next world to you, the magic of the most pure and simple love. I’m so thankful they brought it to me.