Thursday, August 11, 2011

Death and a Snowstorm

     I have lived in New England for all but the first few years of my life.  I love it; it's my home.  Here, we don't have many natural disasters, the most common being a "Blizzard" - essentially a frozen hurricane, with high winds, lots of snow (think feet, not inches), whiteout conditions, trees and  power lines down, roadways disrupted and the like.

   It is completely disruptive, a major hassle, and one of the most spectacularly beautiful and awe inspiring events you may ever witness.

    We often know a "storms a'coming" so we empty grocery shelves of water, milk, matches, those cheater Duraflame logs, popcorn, marshmallows and often some beer or wine.  We make sure to have batteries and candles nearby -- and also get our home office in tip top ready condition for the onslaught of trying to manage the demands of a work life that never sleeps with a natural disaster who could care less.

     And then we wait.  We think we know how it is going to play out, having seen many before.  We convince ourselves that the experts (in this case, the TV weather forecasters) will know what to do and will help us out, and we convince ourselves that if we have the right STUFF, listen to the right PEOPLE, and follow all the RULES all will be fine and we will be able to stay in control.

     Does this sound a little like death to you?

It sure does to me.  The knowledge that something is coming.  The frenzy to collect things, experts, information and advice to stave off the inevitable but dreaded event, the unwillingness to let go of our daily routines and our commitment to our professional selves to stop for even just a minute and experience the joy, the fear, the exhilaration and the beauty of the unknown.

     Given that it is August here in Massachusetts and my work is hospice care, I'm more likely to be facing a death than a Blizzard in the coming days, but whichever comes first for you, here are some suggestions:

     1.   STOP, breathe, know that no matter how rough it gets, people will be here to love and care for you no matter what.

     2.   ACCEPT that you can't ever be fully prepared.  Get together the necessities and then let it go.What you do will always be more important than what you have.

     3.  Turn off the TV, turn off the computer, ignore your work.  This is Nature's (or God's or the Mystery's or whatever word works for you here) way of giving you time to do the work that REALLY matters.  Be with your family, wholeheartedly, undestractedly.  Be quiet, be serene, be peaceful.  Be thoughtful.  Recognize that the world is giving you a rare Time Out - don't squander it.

     4.  LISTEN to your heart.  You are connected to your loved one and to the natural world in a deep and true way.   Trust me.

     5.    Don't let fear turn you away from the real and the true.  Being afraid to look deeply into the eyes of one who is dying may deprive you both of one last chance for intimate connection and an exchange of deep and true love that will sustain you both on your journeys ahead.

     6.  Get out there and LAUGH and PLAY.  Throw the snowballs, get wet, cold,and uncomfortable.  You will always remember that special day, just like the day you laughed with your loved one, played a special quiet game, or just exchanged looks that meant so much.  It's OK the laugh even in somber times.  It buoys your spirit and brings joy.  These are the treasures.

     Whether it takes a snow storm or a death to rock you back on your heals and get your attention, smile and know that someone or something is looking out for YOUR well being, your innate need to connect, be joyful, be loved and be loving.  It won't be how you pictured.  It won't be convenient.  And it most likely will not be what you want.  But it will be time you will always  remember and it will fill a place in your heart that is aching.  Take a time out from your life, throw yourself into the experience with wild abandon, experience it fully - the good, the bad, the frightening, and the joyful. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to amazement.

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