August 16th, 2008 by Marcia
Gifts for Change
Recently, I was given the gift of assisting a loved one in her last days. In this case, it was my former mother-in-law. She became ill suddenly and her sons were unable to go to New York at that time. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and it was a blessing for all concerned that I was the one who was able to leave right away and make the trip.
I am no stranger to death and dying, having worked for several hospices. I have also experienced the loss of my parents and sister. Each death and transition is unique, however. Through this recent experience, I received
several gifts or lessons. Each one of them helped me as I went through this change with her.
So many of us are going through changes and challenges in our lives right now. Perhaps you will find in my words and descriptions something helpful in your current life situation. That is my intent in sharing this personal story.
You don’t need to be going through the death of a loved one for these gifts of change to be helpful. These apply to any change or challenge.
Five Lessons for Living Your Best Life and Making Change Easier
Celebrate the Mirror and Relax Into the Fullness of Who You Are
Everyone on this planet is a mirror of you and me, no matter what language they speak, what neighborhood they live in, or what’s going on in their lives. Each person I saw and met on this trip was a reflection of some part of me. Now, I
already knew that intellectually, however, it became more integrated into my being. I think this lesson was stronger on this trip because I was involved in a very intimate journey, and my senses and intuition were heightened.
Whether it was the nurse who was screaming when Mom and I arrived at the nurse’s station on her floor, frustrated that she was being sent “one more” patient, or the other nurse, the one who said a very compassionate goodbye to us several days later when we left the hospital, both of these women showed me parts of myself. Any quality you see in another, whether it’s one that is usually considered “negative” or one that is “positive” lives in each of us.
Although I don’t want to live in New York, in this case Queens, I certainly do like the variety of ethnicities and personalities you meet on any given day. One day, I was riding in a cab from Mom’s apartment to the hospital and the driver was playing an Enya CD on a boombox that was sitting on the front seat of his cab. He was from South America originally and had a beautiful accent. It was clear that he was truly enjoying the music and that he had found a way to relax into his job. He was showing me how to “relax into” whatever the situation is, to make the most of it. We shared some brief conversation, but mostly sat listening quietly to the music and soaking in the warmth of the sunshine through the car windows. Outside it was chilly and windy, but inside, we were cozy and serenaded by music that didn’t require a lot from us.
Another day I was in a neighborhood grocery and noticed the impatience of the clerk, waiting for me to sort through my jumble of coins in my purse as I paid for some produce. I looked into his eyes and saw myself, and felt patience for him and for myself. I’m not sure if he picked up on the patience coming from me. That’s ok. I was glad I didn’t have to react to his impatience.
I think one of the people who touched me very deeply was a woman who was in the bed next to Mom’s in the hospital. She seemed to have some dementia and would fight with some of the nurses. She didn’t have any visitors that I could see.
I would joke with her on occasion and see her beautiful smile and in those moments of connection I experienced a deeper awareness of my mortality. I saw that this woman could be me, or any one of us, given certain circumstances.
The lesson of the mirror is also about people reflecting back to us the beauty within us that we sometimes forget we have. We all have someone who sees our light, and I don’t mean just God.
Rejoice that they see past our weaknesses, our small and large transgressions, and are able to bring out the best in us. Thank God for these angels of light, reflection and refraction. We all have so much to teach each other. And the
more we can embrace the light and the shadow in ourselves, the more we will be able to reflect our beauty and light to others.
Where is “the mirror” happening in your life right now? What challenges are before you, whether they are people or circumstances? What are you seeing that is about you, not them?
Remember, if you are having an issue with another person, the quality you don’t like in the other person is also something you don’t want to acknowledge and own as part of yourself.
Learn to Witness
Watching this woman in the bed next to Mom gave me a different sense of being in what I call the “witness” role. That’s where you step back a bit from a situation and look at it from a less-attached perspective. When I have a client
in my office, I often have them stand up and physically step backwards from whatever situation they are focused on. I want them to see it from the “outside.”
I practiced this during my 2 weeks in New York. I wanted to see situations from a softer, more compassionate place, and doing this helped me accomplish that. There was another roommate in a different room on the second floor where Mom was transferred in the hospital. This one seemed to have a more advanced dementia than the other.
She was very quiet compared to the other one. She sat on the edge of her bed, picking at the sheets. There was a moment when I caught her gaze and I felt I was looking into her soul.
There was some recognition in that moment, just one soul to another. I don’t think I would have had that moment with her if I had been in my usual role.
Learning to witness not only deepens your compassion for others and for yourself, but it also allows you to see your choices in situations. Sometimes when we are too “close” to a situation, we don’t see all our options. We need to step back, take a breath and intentionally soften our focus and see our situation from a new and less attached position.
Is there a situation in your life that you could benefit from viewing from a different perspective? Try stepping back with the intention of stepping into “the witness.”
Ask God, your guides, or angels to help you see your life from a new perspective.
Learn to Focus with Gratitude for Small Steps
I certainly teach my clients about the “baby steps” theory–that you can get a lot accomplished, and complete very overwhelming tasks by just taking one step at a time. I found that while I was in the “crisis” and “care giving” modes on this trip that it was just natural to put one foot in front of the other and to stay focused and present.
I think that’s something I’ve noticed over the years with clients who are in the care giving role. They learn to focus well because it’s required. In my case, my job was to ensure that Mom got the best care possible while in the hospital, to advocate for less testing and then to facilitate a discharge back home and get her some hospice home care. Certainly dealing with hospital bureaucracy tested my patience at times. I also really trusted the process that was
unfolding. I knew her end days were happening, and I wanted to assist however I was called.
Watching her eat, really her last meals, was enlightening too. She hadn’t been eating all that well at home, fixing herself very simple meals and towards the end, less nutritious and balanced. Even though I wasn’t happy that she
had to spend a week in the hospital, I did see that there was a silver lining in that “cloud” for her. She had some really good meals. Now, we don’t usually think of hospital food as something to get excited about. But Mom was a good eater and she enjoyed eating. And to her, these meals were a joy, at least many of them.
She looked forward to seeing what was under the covers as I revealed the contents of the plates beneath. Although she was unable to eat the portions that were served, she did get a good taste of everything on the plates. She really had to focus on each bite, and take “baby bites,” smaller that she was used to. And, for those of you who have made meals for your families or yourself for years and years, you know what a joy it is to be “served” and to not have to cook or do dishes! I’m glad she got to be treated like a “queen” in this way.
I learned from watching her eat those last meals the power of focus and appreciation. Would it be helpful for you to create a baby-step focus right now? Can you appreciate fully the little successes you have and not worry so much on the desired larger goal? Might you enjoy the journey more that way?
Learn to Appreciate
There was a man who cleaned the floors in the hospital every day. They were so clean looking yet didn’t have an antiseptic smell. It was really refreshing and more pleasant to be there.
This was in great contrast to another floor in the same hospital, where not only were the floors less clean, but it had that hospital smell you might expect.
I told the man cleaning the floors how much I appreciated the good work he was doing. He looked startled but pleased. Such a small thing and yet so necessary. I wanted to let him know that he was valued, and that someone noticed what he was doing. So often, we just overlook the people who are doing work that is “expected.”
We can overlook our own “expected” work too.
I learned to appreciate myself more. I saw that even though I was in a very stressful situation, I was making choices to keep myself physically strong–washing my hands at the hospital, taking my supplements including ones that were
specifically immune-supporting, eating well, taking walks, and getting rest. Although I was truly exhausted each day, I also felt supported by God and by my trust in the process.
I also noticed so many small things I would usually take for granted. Many of those things were people or events that made me smile or laugh. Whether it was the little boy in the hospital who was singing a nonsensical but hilarious song about bees in the winter trees (actually this would make a nice title for a song!), or the absurdity of some hospital regulations and red tape, I made it a priority to notice the humor around me.
Are you needing to slow down a little more to more fully appreciate your life?
Who might you choose to appreciate for the tasks they do daily that you take for granted? Have
you been giving yourself appreciation for the positive choices you make for your overall
Learn to Listen
One of my great lessons this past year has been to learn to listen better to that “still, small voice within,” and to give myself time to be still, time to sit with God. So often we are “talking to” God, and we leave little room for receiving guidance.
When a loved one is dying, especially when they are going in and out of consciousness, it can be challenging to hear what their needs are. You have to pay attention to body cues, and you can also get a lot of information by taking that
still, quiet time. That said, there were still times when I was unsure what Mom needed, whether she was in pain, and what the next best step would be. I would stop at those times, take a deep breath, and reassure myself that everything
was in “Divine Order” and to trust the process. I also took advantage of the support offered by hospital and hospice personnel and asked lots of questions.
When someone is dying, one thing I’ve learned is that they can usually hear everything you say to them, even if they may not respond in usual ways.
The night Mom died, I knew her transition was close. I was listening carefully to her breathing, for the signs of her impending journey. I sensed that she was engaged in cycles of coming and going between this world and the next.
Both of Mom’s sons were on their way, but neither were going to make it before her final journey.
As she lie there, I knew she needed to hear messages from them and from her granddaughter, a final gift of love. I whispered in her ear loving words as well as the important message that it was ok for her to go, and that we would
all take care of each other. I wanted the last thing she heard from us to be words of appreciation. Her raised eyebrow showed me that she had heard and appreciated this meaningful message.
Are you taking time to listen to God? Do you feel like the “Lone Ranger” and you have to just keep going and “doing” to make sure it all gets done? If you opened some time and your heart to guidance, might your burden lighten? Are there other areas where you could be a better listener?
Learn to Die
This was the best lesson of all. I watched Mom as she took her last breaths that day. For a good part of the time, she was doing cycles of chain stoking, a kind of breath that the dying do. This is where you hear that raspy, rapid breathing, and then you’ll have seconds where there is no breath at all.
As she went through these cycles, she was also going through another kind of letting go. She would have these active phases where she was reaching out to what I imagine were loved ones in spirit. It appeared she was working very hard.
She was not fully conscious and had her eyes closed. Then, after a couple of minutes of this more active physical state, she would let go, release and her breathing would become more still, just as her body would relax. It reminded me of those waves of pain and release that happen when you have menstrual cramps. It looked exactly like that cycling, and each time she went into the release and relax mode, I found myself relaxing along with her.
I then thought about when I gave birth to my daughter. Ah yes, of course, just like contractions. They come in those waves and then you have a rest period until the next one. It appeared that she was going through a similar process. I remembered from my hospice days that I was truly acting as a midwife for Mom. I was helping her to make her transition out of her body, into spirit, just as a midwife or doctor helped her into her life and out of her mother’s body 95 years before.
What a beautiful mystery, this letting go. I think if we can all consciously learn “to die” we would be so much better off. Not just to physically die so much as to allow outdated and limiting baggage within us to go, to die and be released. We can consciously learn to surrender to the force of change, and to trust that God is always with us, supporting us through it all. Letting go makes space for new life, for new
beginnings and for something more supportive and more life-enhancing to occur within us.
I’m sure I went through a death of sorts myself on that trip. I surrendered to my love for Mom, releasing judgments about her and others, and experiencing the necessary oneness that comes from choosing to awaken and live life from the heart. I came home and felt utterly changed. As I drove from the airport to my house I felt like I was on another planet. Six months later, I can see that my planet is the same one I have lived on all these years, yet the beauty I see daily is more vivid, and my gratitude for life’s lessons grows daily.
Where do you need to relax and let go? What part of you is “dying” and transforming into something
more supportive and empowered? Are you fighting the upsets and changes in your life? Are you frozen by fear about what is coming next?
Sometimes relaxing into what “is” is the first step to creating something different and better. Could
you learn how to use the energy of change to your benefit, instead of resisting it and creating more
tension and disease?
Effective Tools to Help with Your Changes and Challenges
I’ve talked to a lot of people who have had some fears about the future lately. (and me too!) How about you?
Are you anxious with the changes in your life? Do you have trouble sleeping because of the rolling thoughts in your head? Do you feel indecisive and confused about the steps to take on your life path?
Maybe you just need some fresh tools and a little guidance to help you move forward with more ease and confidence.
There are as many ways to get some support and tools as there are people in the world. You have to choose what works for you. Many people have benefited from the books, music and courses that I teach.
If you haven’t already, take a look at the “Catch the Breeze” Telecourse.
Perhaps you can’t commit to a 7-week course at this time. Intentional music is one of the most effective tools for dealing with change. It helps you to easily change negative thinking to positive. If you haven’t already seen my super summer special, take a look now. I’ve got 3 for the price of 1! (includes 2 books and 3 intentional music CD’s).
Effective tools for change and living your best life are at:
This offer ends September 1, 2008
Whatever you decide to do for yourself right now, be sure to create joy and love in your life.
This will help immensely to diminish the fears and anxiety you carry within.
Many blessings to you,
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!