Essence of Life

Don’t look forward in fear. Don’t look backward with regret. But look around you in awareness. That is more or less what it is I think.”

At 14-years old I was not ready to be without my mother, but that moment in time when I went out to look for breakfast one morning, and instead found my father washing the walls of our living room in full scale grief, changed my life forever.

He told me that my mother, the love of his life, had died during the night at the hospital where she had recently undergone exploratory surgery for pancreatitis. The last time my 10-year-old brother and I had seen her being a couple of days before in the hospital as she was supposedly recovering. This death was sudden and unexpected.

This was my first lesson in the inevitable mortality of all living beings. Part of the wholeness of being embodied as death takes its many forms along the way. I was to go on and choose professions in nursing and as a holistic health practitioner, and much later in life as a hospice volunteer, where I was constantly exposed to this inevitable part of life, supporting many patients, clients and families as they navigated the landscape of dying.

In a more personal way it also touched me through my youngest sons fathers death at age 42 – also sudden of a heart attack, my father at 89 in his sleep of a stroke, and two beloved women friends recently from metastatic cancer who suffered greatly before transitioning.

Death has always served as a wake up call for me. Somehow along the way I have learned to integrate it into the daily unfolding of embodied life as the seasons come and go. I perceive death and regeneration all around me in the natural world.

“Before it dies, a Douglas-fir, half a millennium old, will send its storehouse of chemicals back down into its roots and out through its fungal partners, donating its riches to the community pool in a last will and testament. We might call these ancient benefactors, giving trees.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Now as an elder I know I am closer to this transition myself, and though not afraid of it, I do wonder if I will suffer. We cannot choose our own death for the most part, but what we can do is live fully while we are here savoring the precious moments we are given.

Awareness of the essence of life.

It can be unpredictable and last only a few minutes, or you can see it coming from a distance.  The thing about dying is that it’s not something you can negotiate.  Whether you’re prepared or not, it’s going to happen, and on its own terms, too.  

But what helps is making those last days count. They’re still with you. They haven’t gone yet.  Make their last days comfortable. Be honest and talk about what’s to come. Nothing has to go unsaid because you have the opportunity to say it. Tell them you love them, and more importantly, show them.   

Life is so unbelievably precious.  Make every day count.”  

Welcome to VINIT ALLEN our newest member of our Wildly Free Elder community! Take some time to watch his video interview talking about activism, conscious eldering, and his views on death and dying.

3 Comments on “Essence of Life

  1. This post touched me deeply today. Thank you both so much dear Gaye and Vinit. I feel moved and changed by the beauty and vulnerability of both of your sharings.

  2. This video in tribute to Lydia is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing…. the cinematography, the pace, the vulnerability and authenticity of this sharing is a gift to the world.

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