Life on Hold: The Weight of Death

For the past few days I’ve been walking around feeling like there’s a big weight hanging over me ready to fall at any moment. Getting things done has been a chore. Making plans beyond the next day has taken all of my willpower. It feels as though my life is on hold and that I’m just waiting.

The waiting part is true and there’s not much I can do about that. But the life on hold part is all my doing and there is much I can do about that.

You see, my wife is down in Nashville with her father who is dying. He was released from the hospital on Friday and is now on home hospice care. (http://www.hospicenet.org/html/faq.html This is a wonderful site full of excellent information about end-of-life care) Melissa is there with her sister, stepmother, and others to provide comfort and be there to help him through this transition to the next world.

Melissa was down there for a week, returned last Tuesday, and then on Thursday, she received word that her father had taken a turn for the worse. She dropped everything, turned around and flew right back down there.

It’s amazing how the two tiny words, “any day,” spoken by a doctor can create a sense of urgency in those close to the one about whom those words are spoken. In a very powerful way, also, those words bring a certain freedom, they provide permission to step away from the responsibilities of daily life and attend to the profound and transformative issues that arise around the ending of a life.

I can sense the relief in my wife when we speak. There is lightness in her voice, a clarity that seems to have come from this letting go. Her willingness to let go of the responsibilities she has up here so that she can be there with her father and family has clearly been good for her. The opportunities she has had to connect with her father during this powerful time of transition has brought them closer than they have ever been. And her ability to acknowledge and share her grief and sadness within the supportive environment of her family has had a cleansing effect on her.

As she goes through this powerful process down there, I am here, with Ella, feeling disconnected, unclear about my role, and more than a bit helpless. How can I support Melissa while she is Nashville?

I understand that, from a practical standpoint, my staying here and taking care of Ella is the best support I can provide. It gives Melissa the chance to be there with her family. But that has not made it any easier to be so far away.

This disconnection and helplessness is infusing the rest of my life as well. How do I plan beyond today? Should I arrange for childcare for the evenings that I teach? How about the Saturday Law of Attraction group? Should I get coverage for that? What about my early morning meetings on Fridays?

Ella and I will fly to Nashville for the funeral. But when will that be? Today? Tomorrow? In three weeks? Every time Melissa calls, I think, “This is it.” And every time I call her and she doesn’t answer, that same thought passes through my head. I can assure you this type of thinking is not conducive to a focused, productive work life!

In moments of clarity, I recognize this time as a powerful challenge and an opportunity to become more fully present in my life. And with clarity come questions. Good questions that can lead me into fuller presence. Here are just a few of the questions that are arising.

Can I move forward with my life knowing that, at any moment, I will be called away?

Can I let go of the picture I have of “support” and trust that my ability to be here with Ella is the most powerful support I can offer?

Can I acknowledge and take care of my own needs during this time?

Can I find the words to speak clearly with Ella about what is happening?

When I step back from all that is happening and get a bit of perspective, I really do see the blessing of this time. It is so easy to place life on hold, to wait for some momentous – or not so momentous – event in order to move on. I have seen it in myself and in my clients: We wait to hear about a job we’ve applied for. We wait to hear if an article has been accepted. We wait to hear if someone we like wants to go on a date with us. We wait for a check in the mail. We wait for a phone call. We wait…

How often do we put our life on hold waiting for some external circumstance to resolve itself?

Most of the time this waiting, this holding, is so subtle that we don’t even notice it. In this case it has been anything but subtle. This well-defined sense of paralysis has given me the opportunity to explore that place of holding. Now I am aware of it, conscious, and so I get to choose how to proceed. I get to claim full responsibility for my actions, or lack of actions.

That is both the beauty and the curse of self-awareness: As your awareness expands so too does the level of responsibility you must take for your life. I choose to take full responsibility for this moment in my life. Will I step forward, as Thoreau says, confidently in the direction of my dreams, knowing that my forward progress may be interrupted at any moment? Or will I continue to twiddle my thumbs, waiting for all the lights on the road ahead of me to turn green.

The choice is mine. And in each moment I will continue to make the best choice I possibly can. For that is all I can do.

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    10 Responses to “Life on Hold: The Weight of Death”

    1. Shekeyna on October 3rd, 2006 11:23 pm

      Ed,
      I thank you for your profound words and thoughts on death and dying. I appreciate you sharing the story of your Wife’s Father.
      I just read your story literally a few minutes before Midnight on October 3, 2006. This date is the one year anniversary of my friend Elizabeth’s death. She died less than a month before her 44 birthday. Less than a month ago, on 9/11 another friend, Uma made the death transition. She was just few years shy of her 60 birthday.
      Here, I share the Law of Attraction in an interesting way.
      I have chosen to live without cable tv for years believing the amount of garbage on tv outweighed the benefits. Then, today I had it installed. After working two of my jobs and making sure my children were asleep, I decided to flip through the channels to see what the televison medium would present that would be of interest. I stopped and watched a show called, “The Gifts of Grief.”
      The Law of Attraction, in this case is in dealing with my own grief over the loss of my sisterfriends. After watching the show, I found in my inbox an email from you titled “Life on Hold – the Weight of Death.”
      Autumn seems a particularly good time to contemplate death;
      our own death as well as the death of friends and family.
      Death is a common ground we humans share.
      Death does not care about our age, or our race or how much money we have or do not have…
      Death awaits each of us.
      We need to live each precious moment until death do us part.
      My thoughts annd prayers are with you and your family in this profound time of transition.
      Respectfully,
      Shekeyna

    2. elizabeth macisco on October 4th, 2006 7:01 am

      Great article. I love the ending paragraph. Like a mantra and guidance system for when times get tough. Making the best choices in each moment that we can, is doing a LOT.

      Thank you for “doing” the ezine.

    3. Linda on October 4th, 2006 9:15 am

      I have never written on a blog before and am not certain that I am even writing in the right place. But I wanted to say that this article about “Life on Hold, the Weight of Death”, is very timely for me. One of my dear clients, who truly wants to live, is now dying from cancer. Hospice has come to her home, and family is abound. And we wait, and the wait has heaviness to it, as those of us who were on her healing team, are now focused specifically on the healing of her spirit as she prepares for transition. And I question, do I go to her? (being acutely aware that I never leave any time in my schedule for unforseen responsibilities and calls). Is distant prayer enough? Where is my place in all of this? I was such an integral part of her healing approaches, but now I think it is all about family. I wonder, does she want me to continue to pray for her body to heal? Is she still wanting to recover, or has she fully surrendered?

      A few months ago the topic on your site was Healing verses Allowing. Most of my clients cannot bring themselves to fully trust and practice the Allowing approach. They are scared into doing the allopathic treatments (by their doctors and family members), and are challenged to keep their belief in it all. It makes spiritual healing very difficult, when not only are you wanting to guide the person to the self healing mechanisms of their own body, you are having to contend with the side effects being created by the chemicals the doctors are administering. Oh the weight of all of this. It feels like I have my hands tied behind my back, when I work with seriously ill people, whose healing choices are driven by the fear their doctors instill.

      I am wondering what others think about Healing verses Allowing? Do we make a full 100% stand for self healing/ spiritual healing. It seems like when our approach is conflicted, the results mirror that. I have tried to guide people to align with all of their choices, so as to optimize their potential for successful healing. But what I am seeing is that it seems that perhaps a person who is experiencing life threatening illness would benefit from picking one approach and fully getting behind it. I am really struggling with how I want to approach working with people experiencing life threantening illness. I have tried a balanced approach, with some mixed results. Now I am considering only working with people who want to utilize the “Allowing” approach.

      I realize I am writing more about this topic then the one we started with. But for me, one is leading me to think more deeply about the other. Thanks for listening.
      Well-Being Abounds, Linda

    4. Evolving Times » A Missed Opportunity on October 4th, 2006 9:28 am

      […] End of story? Unfortunately, yes. After I dropped Ella off at pre-school it dawned on me that the Universe had just provided me with a perfect opportunity to speak to Ella about death. If you read my post from last night about The Weight of Death you might remember that one of the questions I’m asking right now is how to find the words to speak with her about the impending death of her grandfather. And this morning I was truly given a gift, a “teaching moment” as they say in the education world. And I totally missed it. […]

    5. Alicia Hodenfield on October 4th, 2006 10:24 am

      I know all about the waiting for something to happen and putting our lives on hold game. Thank you for the reminder. My thoughts are with Melissa and your family. May peace be with you all. Alicia

    6. Shelly Fitz on October 4th, 2006 7:57 pm

      Death is an interesting mystery to me. Thanks for sharing yourself, your process and your insights so openly and honestly…and thanks for touching and helping others in doing so.

      Thinking of you, Melissa and Ella (and Melissa’s family) during this sacred time. Sending much love and holding a space of healing and clarity!

      Love, Shelly

    7. Edward Mills on October 4th, 2006 9:30 pm

      Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. It’s wonderful to feel your support coming through this virtual realm. I know that Melissa appreciates it as well.

      Thanks also for sharing your own stories. I know we all have much to learn from our connection to death and by sharing our stories openly and honestly we begin to clear some of the fog that has shrouded our relationship with death for so long.

      With many blessings.

      ed

    8. Evolving Times » No Time To Grieve on October 25th, 2006 10:03 am

      […] Yesterday morning, as I was getting Ella ready for pre-school, my wife came downstairs and, after our good morning hugs, began telling me about some stuff that had come up around her father’s recent passing. She had just realized that the next meeting of her women’s group would be on November 1st, the Day of the Dead. […]

    9. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker on August 27th, 2007 10:59 pm

      Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of awareness. For most of last year, I put my life on hold waiting for my best friend to get back to living. She didn’t die, but because of some difficult circumstances in her life, she decided to withdraw from society and become a hermit. The only person that she was really involved with was her 5 year old grandson. I was ok with the arrangement and I obviously got something out of the situation also or I wouldn’t have joined her in isolation. I think I just needed a break to re-group.

      When I realized that I wasn’t moving forward, that we were both standing still, I tried to force her out of her comfort zone. My mistake and again, when I realized what I was doing, I stopped.

      I also told my friend what I had been doing and that for me it was time to move forward again. That is when I started blogging. In my isolation, I had even stopped writing. I need to write so that was my biggest clue that something was wrong with me. After inviting my friend to go forward with me on the next step of my spiritual journey, I have left my friend to do as she pleases. We still talk but my trust level is gone with her and she is angry at me because I am moving forward.

    10. No Time To Grieve on November 10th, 2008 10:13 pm

      […] and, after our good morning hugs, began telling me about some stuff that had come up around her father’s recent passing. She had just realized that the next meeting of her women’s group would be on November 1st, the […]

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