Suzanne E. Harrill
you fully understand that each day you awaken could be the
last you have, you take the time that
day to grow, to become more of who you really are, to
reach out to other human beings.”
Kubler-Ross, Death The
Final Stage of Growth
wrote the following piece after a close friend died. She
taught me many things about myself. Death is one of the
mysteries most people are not prepared for. This may be the
time to get more comfortable with this part of our life
died yesterday and I feel very sad. Yes, I will miss her, as
will many others. She led a selfless life of love and service
to others with high integrity. Even until the last moments of
life here, she would ask about others, never focusing on
herself. My sadness is that I never got the opportunity to help her
with her feelings about leaving or to express mine, as she
insisted on expressing her positive attitude even to the point
of denial. At her death, Sharon was 52 and that is so close to
my age that it causes me to reflect on this experience called
life and ponder its deeper meaning for me.
though I suspected Sharon was nearing her death, I regret we
never talked about it. I believe that she knew she was dying
but did not want to burden others with her process. Sharon had a positive attitude to the end, remaining lucid
and talking about healing instead of dying. I believe death is
a successful conclusion to the healing process, just as a full
physical recovery is. It
is not the dying that bothers me so much, rather it is the
resistance that I observed in Sharon to talk about her
process, to surrender, and to receive emotional support.
It is almost as if her positive thinking was used
against her in the end. It
kept her closest friends and two children from really
supporting her emotionally to help her come to terms with her
life and relationships. It also kept her from teaching those of us left behind what
she was learning in her process of completing a life. I believe that this would have helped us better deal with our
people believe that you must only talk about the positive,
that if you even mention the negative, in this case dying,
then energy is put into creating it. I observed Sharon not wanting to talk about the possibility
of dying with me because it would add weight to that outcome.
To me it is not negative to admit that one might be
dying or that by talking about it that it creates it. We all
have to remember that life here is finite. My fear of bringing
up the subject has to be owned today as I look back at the
last couple of times I stopped by to see her and share a meal.
I missed the opportunity to really say goodbye to her in
person. Instead I
took her lead and honored her choice of topics at lunch, which
included other people and their problems and discussions about
her latest alternative healing methods.
though I do not believe in death other than as an ending of
one experience and a passage into the next, I needed help with
my feelings, my loss. When Sharon made her transition out of
physical expression, I received great comfort from reading
passages from Stephen Levine’s book Who
Dies: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying.
He has a guided meditation called the Guided
After-Death Meditation. As
I sat in bed that night I read the meditation out loud to
Sharon’s consciousness. I felt very close to her and able to
process some of my feelings.
remember the day I met Sharon.
I was new in the neighborhood and we met in front of
our homes. We
each had one child; her son was three months old and my
daughter was nineteen months old. They grew to be playmates
because Sharon and I saw each other almost every day for the
five years I lived in that neighborhood. We were both away
from our own mothers and extended family, so we shared
babysitting, meals, walks, holidays, and waiting for our
husbands to come home from their long days at work. We
supported each other through our second pregnancies (our
daughters were born three months apart).
I remember the day she came home from the hospital with
her new daughter. The air conditioning in hot, summery Houston
was broken in their home. Her whole family, including grandma,
was welcomed to our house for a couple of days. Sharon
returned the favor four years later when my family moved back
to Houston with our three daughters, ages 7, 4, and 3 weeks.
I have lots of memories of sharing, love, and support.
death is catapulting me into an introspective period as I
grieve. It is a time to evaluate my own life: where I have
been and the choices I have made, where I still want to go,
and what is important to me now at this stage of my life. I am
gaining clarity about the quality of the rest of my life.
It is triggering me to ponder the greater mysteries of
life again, too. Also, how do I want to handle my feelings and
communication to loved ones when it is time for me to die?
There are some things I learned from Sharon that will help me.
For one, I like that she left each of her two children
a gift, a notebook filled with her memories, feelings, and
thoughts about them. This fact alone tells me how honest she
was with herself about dying, which comforts me.
notebooks are a powerful way to connect to her grown children
and to help them grieve and come to terms with their
relationship with her and with themselves. I think leaving
something tangible to comfort loved ones is a nice idea. It
may be years before each of them can truly appreciate this
second thing I learned from Sharon is how I want my own
transition to be. I want to do it differently. If I do not
have a quick death and go through a dying process as Sharon
did, I want to be able to let go and surrender. I want to talk
about my life and my relationships and my letting go process
to those in my life who want this. I want to allow family and
friends to grieve openly with me and to help me face my fears,
as I help them with theirs. I want to let my loved ones in
emotionally so that we might support each other.
I want us to meditate together and to talk about the
spiritual journey with those showing interest.
I want my life to end in joy and celebration.
Life takes me
quickly, I want to know the slate is balanced daily between my
relationship to myself and my relationships with others. It is
my intention to live each day consciously, to be honest with
myself about what I am feeling and doing, to use my gifts and
talents, and I want to be available to connect emotionally to
those close to me. Since I could die at any moment, I want to
know that I have given my life the best at each moment.
thing I know for sure is that the passing of my friend Sharon
has made me appreciate my life more deeply. I am alive today
and I want to live it to the fullest. I thank her for all the
good she brought into my life and the support we gave each
other with young children.
I honor her for the courage she had to face her illness
in the best way she knew how. I continue to feel the
connection to her and will learn from Sharon for quite a while
yet, I am sure. Goodbye,
you have a friend or family member who has died, you might
like to get your journal out and write about your experience,
even if it was years ago. You might write this person a letter
discussing any incomplete thoughts or feelings you have about
your relationship with her/him.
Or you may want to sit quietly and talk to this person as I do
with my friend sometimes.