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Yesterday I told a little story on Peace Talk.
It was from a time I vividly remembered in 2004.
I was wanting something part-time to do for work. I had been working as an editor from home for awhile, with two little kids.
I was restless.
This wasn’t restless for employment, although we could use the money for sure….I wanted something I couldn’t put my finger on.
I had read Loving What Is the previous winter, and gone to see Byron Katie when she visited Seattle.
(What’s going on around here? What does this all mean? Who am I? Hello Universe, where to now? What is mind? What is peace? Am I missing something?)
A month later I was sitting in a wet, rainy, mostly empty parking lot late morning on a Tuesday.
The windshield wipers thumping back and forth.
This was the first real live interview for my new job working on a research project for people in hospice care.
I was visiting a woman on hospice, about my age, with breast cancer.
That’s about all I knew…..although that’s quite a bit.
I turned off my engine, and ran quickly for shelter under the covered pathway with a row of condominium entrances.
I sat with this woman for about an hour, holding my laptop computer and asking her many questions.
She teared up once or twice while speaking, holding a crushed tissue in her hand the entire time.
When I left, my heart was very heavy.
I felt so sad. Almost afraid, like I wasn’t enough, or this was all too much.
My mind raced with thoughts.
Including….maybe I’ll go tell them this isn’t the job for me.
Even though they just trained me for several weeks, I love the team I’m working with, and something feels exactly right about what I’m doing.
Funny how that can happen in about 90 seconds.
I’m outta here.
But even though I experienced a swell of grief about what people endure in human life, it was almost too big to “do” anything about.
Nothing truly horrible had happened.
I was simply feeling.
Have you ever had the idea you gotta ditch something or someone?
I’ll quit. I’ll say I’m sick. I’ll cross the road if she’s coming down the street. I’ll move to the other side of the meeting hall from those people. I’ll dance on the opposite edge of the dance floor from him. I won’t pick up her call.
Sometimes, if you feel a great dilemma or angst about it, like you’re not REALLY sure (as in, you know it’s not right to ditch) you may feel like doing something else.
I highly recommend sinking in to the dilemma, the agony, the torn feeling, and questioning your troubling thoughts.
Well, OK. I’m recommending this, once again, to myself.
Death is frightening.
Is it true?
I don’t really know. At all.
But the leading up to death, like my friend who just died of breast cancer, didn’t look very good.
It hurt her so much just to cry. She was in awful pain. It just seemed so, so, so…..sad.
She is gone, is that true?
I am frightened, is that true?
It’s sad to have limited time here, is that true?
I’m not sure. Not sure. Sooooo not sure.
I cannot know any of these are true. I cannot know they are NOT true. I don’t even get what’s true.
How do I react when I believe death is frightening?
I feel loss. I miss my dad.
I want to cling to people who are alive who are close to me.
I feel needy, uncertain, confused. I have images of the length of time I myself have left available to me.
Is it 6 years….the same age as my friend who just died, or my father?
Is it 25 years, like my own mother who acts and looks like she’s got another 25 still?
Is it 8? 15? 40?
Funny how we don’t know, although some ways of going would be far, far less surprising than others.
And this is all based on stories. Past experiences. People very close to me. DNA stories.
Who would I be without the belief that death is frightening?
What an astonishing inquiry.
Who would I actually BE without this thought, as I sit in the presence of someone who has days to live? As I remember my father’s last breath so many years ago? As I think about the death of those I love so much….my family, my partner, my children, my mother, me?
“When you go deep enough to the formless, the dreadful is no longer dreadful, it’s sacred. Then you will experience the two levels, when somebody dies who is close to you. Yes it’s dreadful on the level of form. It’s sacred on the deeper level. Death can enable you to find that dimension in yourself. You’re helping countless other humans if you find that dimension in yourself – the sacred dimension of life. Death can help you find the sacred dimension of life – where life is indestructible.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
P.S. Cancer Support Group Seattle begins October 21 Weds 6-7:30 pm for 8 weeks. Any stage of cancer or remission welcome.