In November of 2012 I held my sister as she took her last breath. Without me knowing, her death prepared me to support my friend Greg while with him on Christmas Eve as he too said good-bye to physical life. Both experiences cracked open my heart and allowed me to say adieu to my teacher and mentor, Debbie, in February. That sum total of loss helped me breathe into one more good-bye, my brother Timothy, in April. All toll, an equation of loss I’d never considered.
The effects of these experiences with death ranged from sheer terror to the most blissful moments of my life. All four of these people gifted me with opportunities to grow I had never considered possible. I had only believed growth was possible, in such profound ways, with the living.
For some time past each one of these deaths I noticed or perhaps I felt that a part of me died. Gustave Flaubert shares, “A friend who dies, it’s something of you who dies.” Yet, under my grief was this greater call to come alive.
From November 2012 to April 2013 I became acutely aware of each week’s ten thousand moments. Pain scorched my soul, while outwardly, I pretended all was well.
For much of my life I was a runner, running from life’s movement. This behaviour was justified, at times it literally saved my life. The quiet murmur of these passings whispered that I move towards them and not run away.
As a way to uphold my commitment to living a conscious and soulful life, I continued to search for the meaning attached to these transitions I had witnessed and experienced.
From the people who surround me, with love, came staggering support. Some shared that perhaps I was digging too deep simply to get the lesson.
Although completely justified and at a time of immense emotion I heard these five words, “It is what it is!” Really? Then came the anger. It was directed at those five words, not four dead people.
“It is what it is” is an anger snuffer, and that’s not healthy. Anger actually helped me be optimistic because it forced me to strategize to defuse it. Anger promoted action; “It is what it is” asks only for passive acceptance.
In a conversation with a dear friend I mentioned feeling angry that a family member wanted yet another gathering to celebrate the death of my brother and sister.
This wise, love filled and compassionate friend gently shared a story about how she simply said, “No, I’m complete with the death of our parents.”, when a sibling asked her to honour them one more time. She had done what she would and was doing no more. It’s exactly what I needed to here.
It was time to declare that I was complete!
Nearly ten months after saying good-bye to Ann, Greg, Debbie and Timothy I chose a favourite photo of each and wrapped them all around a rose quartz crystal, known as the ‘love stone’.
I leaned over the seawall here in Vancouver, whispered my gratitude for their gifts and clearly stated, “I am complete with your passing and not finished with the lessons you have for me.”