With Death Looking Over My Shoulder

“The moment you have in your heart  this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed”. -Krishnamurti

My 88 year old aunt suffered a massive stroke this past Thursday. It happened during the morning and by the time her caregiver arrived, she had been unconscious for an hour. The family received heartbreaking news nothing could be done to save her. They removed the saline drip Saturday and slowly, her organs are beginning to shut down. Pending death has had different effects on members of my extended family.Some commented she looked “better” one morning vs. another, others from her church came and prayed with her for a full recovery.

Many searched in their hearts to say something comforting and well meaning and at the same time.  “It’s God’s will” “Be glad he/she didn’t suffer” floated around.  Stories were shared around the hospital bed about her in 3rd person, as if she was not there. Some spoke loudly, slowly at her because she was in a coma meant she could not hear (hearing is actually the last sense to go in a person transitioning).

Each night, three generations, spanning 3 continents met up at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. There were some big elephants in the room.

I thanked the universe for where I was at this moment, to be able to be compassionately aware of all of it around me, and allow it all to float back to nothingness from which it came.

Today, I don’t want to bore you with yet another list of what to say or not say.
There are plenty of those.
Since we all grieve differently, I am not here with another list of how to mourn either.

I want to instead, inspire you to think about death today.
It is my hope, in reading this, it will inspire you to live more in each moment more mindfully today, tomorrow, and maybe the day after that, and so on.

With death looking over my shoulder-

What would looking in death’s door inspire you to do?
Open your heart more widely?
Love more generously?
Take more risks?

Would death inspire you to be
more honest,
more generous with words?
Not withhold love when you are mad at a loved one?

At the same time, if you desire someone, something,
Not hold back on the love you have to give?
But give freely, with abandonment?
Make love as it if were the last time?

What would you say?
This is what I would tell you.
You are amazing. You are strong. You are brave.
Your strength of heart inspires me.

How would death inspire you to touch someone’s heart without words?

If I were with you, I would
Gaze into your eyes, into the windows of your soul
And smile,
Validate and remind you the bright light that you are
And if you give me permission for an embrace,
I would linger longer than usual, giving you a big big squeeze.

Witnessing suffering and pain has cracked me wide open.
I’ve cried everyday since Saturday.
Past losses percolating up for healing.
It’s natural, my dad is 87, and our relationship has its own bumps.
At moments, it feels like there is nothing left to be said, and yet, so much left unsaid.
I feel raw, vulnerable, but strangely in a very good way.

This past week has inspired me to be more true to myself.
Being fully present with all of my emotions.
I was inspired to pull out Steven Levine’s book “A Year To Live” again and re-read.
This is the most amazing book as he teaches us how to live in each moment, each hour, each day, mindfully, as it it were that were left.
I would highly recommend it if it resonates!

Are there any elephants in your closet?
What would your world look like if you did not wait for grief to be a catalyst for great change? Would you show up differently in the world?

In a few days, it will be Valentine’s day. Perhaps this upcoming holiday can have another purpose beside celebrating everlasting love.
Perhaps it can also be a time to reflect on healing any unresolved grief lurking in the background, so that you can love more fully, freely.

I’d love to hear from you below if grief has been a catalyst of great change you in the past, and what tools are in your toolbox to heal.

With loving,

Claire

ps- As I was about the hit publish, I received a text she made her transition peacefully this morning at 4:30am. Love and light to you Aunt Rita.

5 Comment

  1. I think when we share from the heart about things that affect us like this, we help others to connect with their own true feelings too.
    I am rebuilding my life after the loss of my best friend, my beloved dog Neo last year. I am realising through the big gaps he’s left in my life, all the many needs he fulfilled for me, in ways that before now I was not aware even needed healing. I will always miss Neo, but I can take all the good out of that time together and use it to create a new and different life. I am reminded of the Bhuddist principle of impermanence and that integration after loss is a spiritual and very personal journey.
    Thank you for being willing to share your experience Claire, and may Aunt Rita rest in peace.

    1. Thank you for your share Kirstin. Yes, the reminder that everything is impermanent is a good one, and I too resonate with the word integration, vs. moving on. Neo’s spirit continues to surround you with lots of love as you continue in your spiritual journey of healing. <3

  2. Unfortunately Claire, as you know I’ve had to deal with death at a very early age. Old enough to understand that I would never see my little brother again but young enough to not understand why the sun still shined after he died. That experience and the suffering it caused in my family turned me into the compassionate person I am. And after experiencing other untimely deaths, I have come to see that there really is no death but rather a simple release of the body. So I never grieve for the one who has left this state….but rather for myself…for how much I’ll miss them. And for that I send you much love. You don’t grieve alone.

  3. Claire, your words have urged my tender heart to reach out and embrace your heart right now. I hope you can feel it, somehow. I know you can. You ask, “What would your world look like if you did not wait for grief to be a catalyst for great change? Would you show up differently in the world?” When I was 19, one of my best friends, Alison was diagnosed with leukemia. By the time I was 20, she was gone. The loss hurt and confused all of us who were close to her. I mean- we were teenagers! At a time when most kids feel invincible, we were all faced with mortality and loss. Recently, my friend Jackie came across a “time capsule” Alison had created in high school. Alison had placed notes we passed in class, pictures, and memories within it. So Jackie found it after all these years, and decided it would be a fun way to honor Alison if we sent it around amongst a small group of us. It is my turn to open the time capsule and relive the memories, but it has been lying unopened on my desk for days. I have just been unable to face my grief again after all these years. Scared really. But after reading this post, I realize that I am not honoring Alison by keeping her memories sealed away on a shelf. And so, here I go to open it… Thank you Claire. Thank you for being a catalyst. Thank you, Aunt Rita for being a catalyst. “As below / So above / Flows Universal Love / Flows Universal Love / Happy trails to the One.”

  4. 10 years ago this August I lost a friend use to a hiking accident. She was only 25. Her death was such a reminder that no one is exempt, we are all here only for a limited time. It was hard but it really inspired me to pursue what I love, and was the main catalyst in me finding a spiritual path I resonated with. Thanks for the poignant reminder.

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