I spent the day helping a friend go through the belongings of a dear loved one who has passed. It’s tough going. One might think it’s the expensive toys, gadgets, and gizmos which you’d want to hold on to but instead, it’s the little things; sheets of paper, old license plates, CDs, notepads. Items which wouldn’t sell at a yard sale or purchased at Goodwill are of immense value, a treasure to the ones who remain.
Death is often an open wound. Scabs may form, some healing might occur, but grasping at past memories and experiences, strains and pulls apart the wound and the pain, heartbreak of loss returns. Its hard letting go. It’s difficult to say; “goodbye.” but death demands we do it again and again in many ways, on many occasions and you wonder if it will ever be the last time.
Moving on requires that one live open-handed, no clinging to earthly, temporal things, allowing the shared life of the one who is gone to be enough.
Last night I sat in front of a roaring fire outside at our fire-pit. I had cleaned up the yard over the last two days and had limbs and other stuff we no longer needed to burn. I watched as the flames consumed the items and then deposit them in the air as smoke and ash.
I thought about life and all that we hold dear is quickly used up and thrown away. Nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is transient. I reflected upon the life of my friend who is suffering in a hospital holding on to a life which isn’t intended to endure. However, he holds on as tight as he can because he loves his family and his friends. He and we don’t want to say; “Goodbye.” In his weakened condition, he still worries about others and how they will make it without him.
The fire burns down and I start to feel the cold of the evening. I’ve run out of fuel to feed the flames. They get lower, the embers glow less brightly and soon will go out. I get up and move inside. A place of warmth, safety, and comfort. I pray my friend, at the right time, will leave this cold world and find his eternal dwelling place as well.
Today I had to make a most difficult decision. It’s been coming for a long while but sometimes its easier to put off uncomfortable choices than to ultimately choose, especially when your decision cannot be undone. Our Golden Retriever, Belle, came into our lives almost 15 years ago. She has been a faithful companion, a good friend and has given us unconditional love in many ways. The last couple of years she’s lost her hearing, vision, her back legs became extremely weak and she’s had trouble standing. These issues along with heart, breathing and other difficult health maladies have greatly diminished her quality of life. The past few weeks she’s taken a major turn for the worse; not being able to stand without assistance, stopped eating and so we made the decision to take her to the vet one last time to be euthanized.
This morning I took her outside and we walked around the yard. I snapped a few pictures, petted her, talked to her and tried to let her know I’ve appreciated the blessing of her companionship. I helped her into the truck and on the way to the veterinarian continued to tell her how much she’s meant to me and stroked her head. She looked so tired and worn out. Arriving, we slowly walked into the waiting room and a few moments later were put in a room where we said; “Goodbye.”
Life is about transition. Bidding farewell to loved ones, furry and human, is never easy. However, it’s what needed to be done. To hang on any longer would’ve been selfish and cruel. As I sat alone with her in the room gently running my hand across her face one last time, I could hear the receptionist answering phones, folk walking back and forth down the hall. Laughter and life continued on the other side of the door. I got up, left the room and walked outside into the beautiful sunlight.
The lecture was over and most of the attendees had exited the room. One stayed seated finishing up his notes and another loitered near the door. I knew he wanted to ask me a question but wasn’t sure how to get started so I looked at him and inquired; “How’s your day going?” It was enough to break the ice and we chatted for a few moments until he found the courage to vocalize what was on his heart and mind. “I have someone in my life who is important to me. I love them but they aren’t good for me. If I go back to them I’ll follow them down a path which will lead to my eventual destruction and death.” I followed up; “So, what do you think you should do?” He sat down and sighed; “I have to leave them. They can’t be a part of my life.” I could tell this was a difficult choice and his heart was hurting. I looked him in the eye and said; “It’s a tough decision but you have to choose what doesn’t harm you and will allow you to live fully.”
One of the most painful things we’ll do in our lives is saying goodbye to someone we care about but whose influence upon us leads us away from peace, wisdom and purpose. It may be a family member or a long time friend. This person may have been a sounding board, supporter, provider, even at times a protector but they also bring troubles, trauma and temptation into our lives. Because of our history with them, the bond that exists, its hard to let them go and walk away but inside of us there is a growing realization that separation is the only option which leads to our survival.
The young man and I spoke a few minutes more. He thanked me as I packed up my things and headed toward the door. I turned and looked at him as I walked through the doorway; “Make good choices.” I told him. “I will.” he assured me. Walking down the hall and exiting the building I hoped he had enough strength and courage to say; “Goodbye.” to the things and people in his life who would stop him from continuing to move in the right direction.