What Death Has Taught Me

In this moment I am sitting by my Nana’s bedside watching her labored breath. Her eyes are open but I do not think that she is seeing anything anymore.  Nana is very close to the end.  I think that she is at peace with it. I do not feel any struggle coming from her.

Nana would be turning 96 this July 3rd. She has had a long life surrounded by people that she loves and that love her.

This past year she has often spoken to me of how she has outlived her siblings, peers, and most of her friends. She even outlasted one of her two children. (My Mom died in 1993) She said that she gets a bit lonely when she thinks of it too much, so she chooses to focus on what she has left; her son and daughter-in-law, 5 grandchildren, and two great granddaughters. That feels good to her.

Once the Drs. told us that she had cancer all through her stomach and esophagus and it would be over quickly, the family started pouring in to be with her and say our goodbyes. For 12 days she’s had visitors and phone calls from extended family and old friends, all sharing a moment, looking at pictures and surrounding her with love.

It’s been such a beautiful celebration of her life.

It makes me realize that in my vision for my kick-ass life, I want to include time to say good bye and celebrate my life when it is time for me to die. I want a peaceful release after saying goodbye to the people I love.

I never really thought about it in that much detail before.

I have thought about how I do not want to go.

I do not want to suffer through a long drawn out dance with cancer like my Mom, and denying that I was going to die when the end came.

I can’t really blame her for resisting it with all her might; she was only 55. This is what she told me in our last coherent conversation:

“This is the time when I am supposed to be enjoying my life, not dying. I did everything I was supposed to do and now it’s my time to have fun. Leah, you need to enjoy your life now. Don’t put it off until the future. “

I carry that advice with me every day.

When my Dad passed it was rather sudden, and most of the family was in a place of surprise and denial around what was happening. I feel extremely lucky that I was able to meet him where he was and discuss what he wanted & what he was afraid of. It was extremely powerful for me, and I would like to believe that it made it easier for him to release life and move on to whatever was waiting for him.

The experience taught me the great gift of being present with what is, no matter how hard it is to face.

The vigil for Nana continues. It is time for me to return home, but I leave her surrounded by love and peaceful.


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