NEW JOURNEY: The Sixth Step

When words fail, there is poetry.

I have so many thoughts to share this week, but no time to sort them out. So this short post….

I was in a major funk all weekend. Nothing seems to be working out. My enemies seem to reign triumphant. My bills are mounting, and my sense of failure seemed overwhelming.

Then, in hospice training this week, we watched this incredible movie on death and dying and hospice called Letting Go: A Hospice Journey. It’s hard to find how to see it outside a hospice setting–Blockbuster doesn’t have it! But if you get a chance to see it, take heart, and do it.

It was difficult to watch–I felt on the verge of tears the entire time. It showed the finer moments of hospice, and a few of the not-so-fine. We watch as a vibrant middle-aged woman, an 8-year-old child born with incurable brain disease, and a strong man who’s always protected himself fiercely from love, come to their end with the aid of hospice. We watch as their loved ones all struggle to resolve major life issues during these patients’ last days on earth.

These people’s final moments are poignant and powerful, very sad, and yet somehow beautiful. And ultimately, utterly human.

Not everyone is at peace. Not everyone can accept what has happened. There are no miraculous cures, no reprieves. Yet miracles abound, and great healing is there, too.

At one point in the movie, one person says that people near the end have usually lost everything they valued in life. Their jobs. Their skills. Their health. Their physical abilities. Their hopes and expectations. Either those they love have gone before, or they leave grieving loved ones behind.

Everything is gone, in the end. All that is left is love, and all its complications: Things we should not have done to others. Things others should not have done to us. Gratitude. Love. The role of hospice, he says, is to create a tiny space, a haven, for the dying person to resolve these issues, to say the “four important things”:

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

And later, he recited this haunting poem, and that’s when I cried:

The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation.
Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling, they’re given wings.

Rumi

So much can interfere with love–our own human shortcomings, or those of others: pride; anger; jealousy; ignorance; selfishness; fear.

It can be so difficult to get past that, to get to the core. But when we do, love is devastating in its power to transcend even death.

And, at the end, this is all that matters.

We fall, and falling, are given wings.

I apologize for this rambling post. I know some are chafing at the bit, eager to hear more about art marketing and booth lighting, catalogs and mailing lists. These are important, too. I just have to pause to think about where I am today.

I still have no idea what is in store for me, or which way I should go on the river in my little boat.

But all of this is such powerful, beautiful, sometimes scary stuff, my heart feels at peace today. And wide, wide open.

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19 Comments

Filed under death, hospice, lessons from hospice, love

19 responses to “NEW JOURNEY: The Sixth Step

  1. ???
    “I apologize for this rambling post. I know some are chafing at the bit, eager to hear more about art marketing and booth lighting, catalogs and mailing lists.”

    No! ;-)….keep writing about what is important to you, it is so powerful when it comes from your heart…maybe there are not so many people waiting to hear about business as you may think there are.
    I am watching a whole lot of Byron Katie (http://www.thework.com/thework.asp) videos tonight on YouTube…so I’ll ask you…is it true?…can you really know that this is true?
    Fly with what is happening in your life right now…you are going through a transformation…don’t try to put expectations on yourself that may not even exist.
    Your simple little mention of Martha Beck’s book set me on a journey that is changing my life right now….what if you didn’t write about that? You can never really know what people will need to hear from you. (And they don’t necessarily know either, until they read it, like I did.)
    I think you are developing a new voice for yourself, the world needs it!
    Have you read Breaking Point (Martha Beck, again)? What an eye-opener this is for me, and great for anyone who’s life doesn’t make sense to them.
    I have a lot to process, also, so writing about it is not easy. I appreciate what you do write here.
    Thank you,
    Cindy

  2. Pam

    I agree. It’s nice to have you share this personal journey. My 97 year old grandmother left us last year and we were fortunate to have such caring hospice people to help us with her journey. It was important to have someone explain the stages of dying and to encourage us to open ourselves up and say what we felt. I talked about little things I remembered like having puffed rice cereal and red rose tea with her when I was little, and the advise she gave me on my wedding day. She was so surprised that I remembered. I told her that I would miss her. She looked into my eyes, smiled her beautiful smile and said no one else had told her that. We all miss her.

    Thank you for the human connection.
    XO

    • I’m so glad you had the courage to tell her what everyone else probably felt, but felt too unsure to say. Kudos to you for taking that step–it’s obvious how much it meant to your beloved grandmother.

  3. Hi Luann,

    Thank you for sharing this.

    There is a reason why you are compelled to write and share this with us. I am drawn to read what you write, no matter what the topic. It is powerful, profound, and meaningful. You need to write about it and what you share touches each of us in a way that may be exactly what we need at this moment in our lives.

    Keep writing what you feel is important to share. We’ll keep reading.

    All the best,
    Kathleen

  4. I can’t express how much your words of support mean to me right now. Kathleen, thank you for the affirmation. Cindy, your words were the first ones I saw this morning and their power will be the wind in my sails today. Pam, thank you for sharing such an incredibly beautiful experience. You are all on my gratitude list today! :^)

    • Luann, I came to your blog today from your FASO article on letting go of ‘Stuff’, and writing an artist’s statement and here I am reading about your journey in Hospice. I have just lost my dear mother, unexpectedly and am in that netherworld of, “it’s going to be alright, but it’s not alright now”.
      Reading your blog is most comforting and as usual, (which I had forgotten) I am in the right place at the right time.
      Thank you.
      Mary

  5. Hospice is the place of absolute truth and reality, isn’t it? In much of our life, we avoid that, we create a different reality because we like the view better. What a lovely, powerful, touching life lesson. Please don’t turn away from it. It may be the most important thing you will ever learn–more important than booth lighting.

  6. Luann – No apologies for not writing about business. This is wonderful – and it’s when you shine your brightest – when you speak / write from the heart about things that matter to and touch all of us. This is the real stuff, the stuff that connects us all.

    I believe people sometimes need to lose everything in order to let go of life and move to the next step. I believe in the next step, that it’s going home – and that hospice workers serve as loving escorts through that door.

    I didn’t know you were doing hospice training, but you are an amazing woman and are going to give gifts to so many. Thank you for this post, and for who you are.

  7. Luann – I agree that you should write what moves you and not what you think you should write. It helps both you and your readers – you get something off your chest and we are touched by your insights. You never know if something you share might make someone else think about a situation in a different way or take them down a different path (like Cindy above). If you just impact one life, isn’t that worth it? Keep on writing from the heart!

  8. Nancy Vittoria Bello

    Luann, you wrote only what you could bring into words; we know there is far more there, just beneath the tears and introspection.

    Just know that you wrote what I needed to hear at this moment, in this place.

    We all seek respite of some sort. I often find it here.

    I’ve been selfish in the past, starting to post a comment here (or in other blogs) and then stopping – feeling stupid, feeling as though I might only echo earlier comments, and then dismissing my potential post as nothing of substance to offer.

    Blessings on you for sharing where you are and allowing us to hear it and find our own tears….and our own meandering way.

  9. mary reynolds

    Luann, what you have to say is always so valuable and helpful to those of us who are listening. Your thoughts about real life and it’s meaning are just as important as all those other subjects. Actually, as you know from my recent experience, speaking from your true self is the only thing that is important.

    And if you are feeling lost and stressed with the difficulties in your life, remember that you don’t have to decide which way to go on the river. All you have to do is let go of the oars and let the river take you downstream.

  10. Powerful input today, Luann. I began this morning where I left off last week, eager to catch up – the business info you share is what brought me to your blog. As I continued through the entries, thinking about who I trust enough to pull ‘the truth’ out of me I stopped in my tracks here. Read it again. Then again. Sharing your hospice training is brave, raw (truth at the core), emotional and I feel a deeper connection. To you and those that responded. In the end, all we have is love. Everything else simply leads us to the end. Many years ago when a friend helped me realize that true love is forgiving and giving I was profoundly changed. Open heartedly thanking you for the reminder, Linda

  11. Pingback: NEW JOURNEY: The Seventh Step « Luann Udell

  12. Luann, I’ve read and re-read your sixth step post about 4 times this week. Each time I read it, I pause and come away with something new and different. Thank you for writing what’s in your heart. Truly touching that you would share this experience with us.

  13. These are the most important words you’ve said. All the rest is only ornamentation to the thoughts given here, it’s true that no one gets out of this thing alive at the end, but we need to ensure, if we can find our way there, to be alive at the beginning and in the middle, since we may not know when the end will arrive.

    Words are emotions, thoughts are ideas, and both can be created, independent of the situation. Thank you for sharing your ideas, thoughts, emotions and words.

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