About half way through what I was calling My Year of Living Dangerously—the year I thought might last forever with me languishing gloriously on the sofa reading novels and watching the wind shake through the poplars across the street—the matter of Growing Old came knocking on my door. It wasn’t what you might expect—some bad news thing about a fall or the death of a dear friend or discovering overnight that I had developed jowls. It was a call, a wake up and show up and pay attention call that I had not anticipated at all. Read more »
Dying Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (2006)
By William E. Hablitzel, MD
Sunshine Ridge Publishing
This book is a rare gift that reminds us of our divine grace on the path of life. A gem of heartwarming wisdom about the beauty and courage of the human spirit, you will want to share this book with your friends and enemies alike. Taboos around death in the Western world might make us want to shy away from any book title with the word “dying” in it: be assured that this book is about life and living fully, even—and especially—in the face of the inevitable.
Sooner or later, each person in the book realizes that the healing in dying, or in life circumstances in which we metaphorically die, comes from one life-affirming choice: to fully embrace each moment that life offers. We are touched by these people’s fragility and their strength, for we’re not simply reading stories, we are being included in intimate and life-changing moments. That some of the people in these stories are dying (and eventually pass) from their condition is not a failure for physician or patient; it is, for both, their greatest inspiration for living.
Dying was the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me baptizes readers in a well of profound heart wisdom that is deeper than any one person or single act. Each story spills like a waterfall into our own heart of wholeness, reminding us that we too are here now because we have said yes to life.
Please join me tomorrow for the final book in this series.
Five people in my immediate world have died in the last two months. They slipped away during the night; they left when 911 was called and responded. Bodies weary, worn, weathered and no longer wondrous with life, let go of earthly hold. Spirits tireless, bright, dignified and elegant uttered their final messages — silent words of release and love. Somewhere in the years of then and now these five people lived. Through inspiration, objective, focus, responsibility and trust, each of these men and women were constant to their role as human being. Clearly without perfection they sought to live nobly, a testament to the grace rooted at their core.
“Maturing is not just aging. It’s taking responsibility for the time you take up and the space you occupy,” Maya Angelou affirms. Within the bounds and limits of expanding ourselves, we as conscious individuals attempt — and often fail– to express our soul’s aspirations. We become mired in doubt, believing we are less-than. Ego driven, we are afraid to look, act or BE older. Media reports to us unceasingly, the countless ways to remain beautiful, youthful and ageless. We have forgotten we are not these bodies. We live in fear of wrinkles, flawed countenance and loss of sex drive. Instead of taking stock of how we give back to the world, we fixate on how we appear to the world. By doing so, are we not misusing the space we occupy?
I believe aging is — in part– about discovering our purpose, uncovering the picture of a bigger story. This enterprise is no small task. It requires presence and deep consideration. Some days I struggle with my attempts at soul’s work. Some days, I’m not even sure I know what that work is! Caught up in my own human fears of aging — physical limitations more apparent, dreams unfulfilled, making sense of the reasons for my existence — I let ego steer me away from the knowing I AM spirit. I live in the past of regret and the future of what-if-only.
During these times, corralling my attention to the moment is imperative. I don’t ignore my fears; I move through them. I strive to age with dignity and grace. The five residents that passed away at the care facility where I work, have been an example to me. They have reflected it is through our imperfection in aging, that we grace this world. Though we cannot always be benevolent of heart and less driven by ego’s insecurities, we can prompt ourselves to live responsibly. We can wake up every day and in our finer moments, get close to our soul.
During my almost 15 years of hospice work, it was always Stephen and Ondrea Levine that provided meaning to a sometimes overwhelming sense of loss and suffering. His books, A Gradual Awakening and Who Dies, became like my bible, a constant well of words that filled my soul and helped me be present and accepting of whatever arose.
Their workshops broke our hearts open with compassion and filled us with infinite light and love. In closing, we would do a Sufi dance, moving from person to person, looking deeply into their eyes, sending and receiving love into our hearts. The dance was a tribute to one of my favorite phrases of his “The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.” Bless them both for their unique and devoted contribution. Read more »