Sunday, May 6, 2012

What death has taught me about change

Change.  Sometimes change is for the good.  Sometimes not. Some say that everything changes. Some say, things always seem the same. I guess it is all the way you view it, or at least, want to view it.

Lately, I have experienced a lot of change. Moving from the Boston area to Utah. Letting go of my hospice job that I loved for seven years. Leaving my daughter's school, her friends and the comfort of knowing everyone at her small school for the past 7 years. Leaving friends, certain favorite places that were once part of who I am.  Leaving my brother and his family who lived only 30 minutes away.  Letting go of my backyard flock of chickens (harder than I thought).

Change always brings loss. Even good changes. But loss is inevitable in life. Many try hard to avoid loss; they become rigid and try to control everything because loss is too overwhelming. But loss finds them anyway. No one can escape it.

Death brings the ultimate loss.  I have witnessed it over and over again. The loss of a lifetime of memories to come.  The loss of companionship. The loss of the familiar sounds and smells that we all know. It brings the loss of tradition, hard as we try to maintain it.  It means the loss of ourselves in so many ways.

So, smaller losses, to me, are not all that meaningful.  Sure, leaving a home and a place you love is not a small loss, and indeed it can be quite overwhelming. But you take your life with you and create new memories and maybe even grow a bit. Smaller losses should be seen and felt and comforted for sure.  But they are not the end. Not like death. And that is what I have learned.

Death is it. It is the game changer, the end game. We can pretend it won't affect us, but it will.  It does not discriminate, so you may lead a healthy, good and clean life and death will get you anyway.  It is unfair.  It is cruel. But accepting that you are going to one day die frees you in a way that allows you to really, finally live.  When you accept that this is it, this is really all there is, and that what you see is what you get, then life's little or big changes can be tolerated with less of an impact.

I wanted to curl up in a ball in my bed when I realized we had to move. It was so overwhelming. Selling two houses, moving away from family and friends, yanking my daughter out of her best year in 7th grade when she was an honor student and happy, letting go of my dream of living in New Hampshire or Vermont one day. And especially giving up my job.

But once death said to me, 'this is nothing,' I knew that I was being silly.   Death will tell you things if you only listen.  It tells you to go on, live while you can. Experience it all; the good and the bad.  Learn to comfort yourself and do not look to others, for you will die alone, be prepared. I know this sounds like doom and gloom, but actually, if you think about it, it is life affirming. So, comfort yourself, cry a bit, but carry on. That is what death says to us. It is just that we don't listen.

So, knowing death has made my move easier. It has buffered me against the overwhelming urge to feel sorry for myself.   It allows me to move on and meet new people and move forward, even if the steps feel small at first. It says to me, it is okay to be unhappy, but you are certainly wasting time with all of that.  And that is true.

And so I stopped.  And I have decided to be happy. And it worked. And I am.

Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.  ~Alice Walker

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. ~Susan Ertz, Anger in the Sky

Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.
~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that your hospice work has helped you into your next adventure. I wish you much joy!