Death is not a pretty thing, right? There’s the physical side of death that can be really distressing; for both the person dying and the ones watching over them.
Then there’s the letting go. People linger because they have so much attachment to their loved ones or their circumstances.
There’s also the void. That time between a responsive life and the passing of the spirit.
And then they are gone. Quite unbelievably gone. Although, we know it must be this way, we still feel it isn’t real. And what does it all mean, anyway?
Most of my life has been about living. I’ve loved life. I’ve had interesting work, opportunities to travel, marry and live happily with the same person for 30 years, guide 4 healthy children to adulthood, give 15 years to the children in a local Scout group, study informally, gain accreditations and qualifications, work overseas, discover and enjoy the great outdoors, practice tai chi and chi gong, stay connected with friends and family, celebrate milestones, meditate, write in journals, publish a book and even enjoy hanging out the washing and the thrill of the dash to retrieve it when a storm hits.
I’ve loved the people in my life more than anything, although, I didn’t truly appreciate how magnificent my parents were until they started declining. I didn’t truly understand what a powerful influence they had been on me or what a gift they had been to me.
I didn’t value them as much as I did in their final years mostly because I was busy living a ‘full’ life. I always loved them, but love is different when there is the promise of another day, another month, another year and things are ‘normal’; well, whatever ‘normal’ is.
I find it quite bizarre now to think that I never stopped once to consider that they might actually die. They had always been in my life and had always been full of life. They had always lived just 15 minutes away from us in Sydney and later again when we moved within 12 months of each other to the Blue Mountains.
They’d often drop in for a cuppa and a chat when they were in the neighbourhood and although we didn’t live in each other’s pockets we saw them often enough to start leaving our house keys in the front door so they could let themselves in; a practice still in place today.
Then it happened. Death came knocking at their door; before they expected it to, before any of us expected it to. And, of course, we didn’t recognise it as death. They were just sick and there would be recovery. This, over time, turned into, they were sick and weren’t going to flourish again… which shifted to, he can’t sustain himself and will leave her behind and then, I will be all things to her.
Then he passed; and I was. And it broke my heart and hers, every day. Because, you see, she would forget that he had passed away, and every day I would have to tell her again, that he had. Every day I would look into her beautiful blue eyes and see her disbelief, her fear, her sadness. Then after many hours I would tear myself away knowing how sad and lonely she would be until I came again.
Then back to my ‘other’ family I would go, but, with little energy to support them through their important lives. Back to the lounge & the TV news; meaningless dribble about a world I couldn’t be more disconnected from if I tried. Back to my dwindling work commitments spending most of the time thinking about how I could divest myself of any client engagement for an indefinite period without completely cutting all ties.
My life was not full anymore
My life was now in service to her and I did not want it any other way. From time to time I found myself wanting to opt out, feeling so angry that my brothers weren’t there for me, let alone for our mother. Amazingly though, every time I felt I could not continue there was someone who would reach out to me… and their kindness and concern allowed me to be strong enough, once again.
Life must come to an end as it did for my mother and father. At some stage all of us will let go and leave others behind. And then the living will choose how they want to ‘treat’ those who weren’t there or who were unkind to the ones they loved. Right there is the defining moment of life and the full measure of resilience. Right there, when our ego screams ‘crucify them’, we get to choose to do it well or begin our own decline.
Lisa SPOKE AT THE 2017 i4 TALES CONFERENCE
Outreach and an Ego's Retreat
Within two months of Lisa’s father becoming seriously ill, her mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. She quickly adopted the carer’s role and divested herself of her workplace commitments.
Her father passed first, then her mother joined him some 4 years later and all the while her children grew up, completing their schooling without her support. In her darkest times, when she thought she could not go on, it was the outreach of people that kept her going and a quieting of her ego that helped her to live fully again.