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Hang out with people who are capable of making a commitment to you and your life, and who require that you make a commitment to theirs. Hang out with people who care about you, with people who need you to develop and who say so. Make such a commitment and don’t break that bond until you and all beings are perfect.

~~Reb Anderson, “In It Together”

To my two oldest and dearest friends,

I know you don’t want to talk about Advanced Directives and dying;  I get it and I love you for willing to be my surrogates once my parents die and for making that kind of commitment to me.

But I felt like I needed to put this out to the universe because more and more of us aren’t having kids, aren’t marrying, are married to their work, travel all the times, etc.  So here goes.

My time being with you was oh so short but you left a mark on my heart, like you were a sharpie.  I cannot think of two kinder people.  Nor do I know anyone who would continue making a scared contact with me for lifetimes.

As I look back, at mid-life, I have stood on the shoulders of so many who were there to catapult me into different lessons I had to learn, or as Ondrea Levine has said, “the healing I took birth for”.  From first or second grade, I’ve lost a lot of people:

Grandma Stevens

Grace

Aunt Ida, her brother Harold, (the spitting image of my grandpa), Cora, & Marge (I was closest to Aunt Ida by proximity)

Grandma & Grandpa  Martin

Harris & Barb

Grandpa Stevens

Mike

Tommy & his partner

Mike

Mike from CARES

Keith (Lois’ friend from CARES)

Amy’s mom Franny

Lois

And those are people with whom I’m close, not to mention all of the people who I counseled through hospice and other places I’ve worked.

Most people would see a list of losses and not have a clue what to say.  But I do, at least from my POV and previous experiences.  And what do I say?  one people where they are at, even if you don’t agree with it.  Let these folks live on until you re-commit to doing this all over again and begin anew.

I heard, during hospice orientation, a wonderful nurse Mosier said, “It’s a privilege and an honor to work with our patients and their families.”  And oh my god, did I get it once I started having clients.  And why did I love the work?  Because people who are dying go for bullshit; most don’t play games.  They are themselves and either take to you in and love you or drop you like a hot potato.  Who has time for drama and for squabbles when there is so much to do.  And this idea and feeling got me through some of the roughest times.

So I hope you get that we all have some control over how we leave this world.  Tibetan masters used to pick out the day of their deaths so has not to leave an energy gap for his sangha.  Now thats’s crazy mad skills (which I do not possess.” But I want my say too.  This hospitalization for my migraines shown me that I don’t want to wait until the end of life as it’s no longer his/her dying, it’s The Dying or my dying.  I want to tell you I love you every time we are in contact.  I wish I could hug you each day for the rest of our lives, but I cannot in person, so I do it in my dreams.

I am so honored to be able to call each of you my friend; two of the very best as a matter of fact.  Each of you came into my life when I needed help, a boost, a friend and I’ve never been more grateful for anything.

My Advanced Directives are not macabre; they are life-affirming.  They are not going to make me die sooner nor are they a statement about how I feel about my life.  They are to tell you, the two I love the most, after my folks what the heck I want when I can’t speak for myself.  That’s a pretty intimate thing and I don’t take it lightly, but I also don’t take my friendships with you for granted.

It’s like handing you the flashlight to my heart, so that you can see what’s there.  I do not want to suffer and if I can’t be conscious of the love that surrounds me in this world, then  don’t want to be a part of it.  I want to be surrounded by love and peace.  I want to go out of this world, to wait for our next incarnation together.  I don’t want to live in fear of dying and I don’t want to suffer the way Mike did for years.  If I cannot see the beauty in the world, then it’s time.

I wish we all could have as much love and attention to those who are being born into dying as we do being born into this world.  I’ve seen magic happen.  Lois’ last year or 2 were amazing.  She lived her dying like the spiritual warrior and Earth Mother that she was and surrounded by little pink lights (that’s another story).

I think the greatest good in this world be companioning someone who is dying.  And if my folks are gone, I pray that I will have one or both of you to be there and we keep are commitments to each other.

And to those who read this blog, think about where you stand, and then for goodness’ sake, tell someone.  Get it in writing.  Because when its too late, it truly is too late.  And thank you for witnessing.   Invite the ones you love to the conversation and then love them every day.

Addendum:  I decided to publish this because more and more people aren’t getting married, having kids, whatever… they need to have the conversation with those who will be there in the end.  Don’t wait to be a golden girl to have THE TALK.

Blessings, Jen

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Thich Nhat Hanh, in 2001, wrote a book called Anger.  This is one of my favorite quotes:  If you can relieve a lot of his suffering.  Listen with only one purpose:  to allow the other person to express himself and find relief from his suffering.  Keep compassion alive during the whole time of listening.  Anger, TNH.

Okay, I have an awesome team of medical people helping me:  neurologist, PA, plenty of RNs and LPNs, LCSW, Psych, Biofeedback, PT, Acupuncturist, etc.  Most have been very sweet and kind to me during my stay to try to break up my migraine cycle.

But here’s the thing. . .  People come in and look at the computer screen and ask you how you are.  They ask a question but do not listen fully or mindfully.  Often times, one part of the team does not know what the other side is doing.  Showing up 5 minutes after I’ve woken up and having not even gotten to the bathroom, someone bubbly comes in and asks how my headache is.  Really?  Thich Nhat Hahn is right about people needing to share their story, their myth, etc so that they can free up the energy and emotions that keep them suffering.

I’m not knocking the staff.  Trust me, care here is way above just being cordial.  They are a great team.  It’s just sad that when you tell your doc that your advanced directives are done and you are my age, that he looks up with a question mark.  Hello?  I’m the one who has lived around dying, caregiving, and grief for 34 years and I know what I want and don’t want — my choice.  That’s why those of us in end-of-life care have worked tirelessly.  NO matter what age you are, you deserve to have the autonomy to chose; you have a right to decide how much suffering you are willing to put up with in situations like these.  Sorry, I get frustrated over end-of-life topics.  We need to start making all docs, nurses, etc take up communication classes and end-of-life classes.  It’s one smart.

But compassion and empathy are they places to start.  How do we teach those things?  Can they be taught?  Who is it in your life that affirms you and gives you their whole attention and mindfully listens to you with no corrections, advice, shaming, doubting, etc, I mean really just listens?  And who do you do that for?

Have you ever sat in and watched a class of children in the past 10 years?  Where I live, there is very little use of the word mindfulness and even when it is used, it is not what Thay, Salzburg, Brach, Pema Chodron, etc teach us.  Classes are too big and kids problems are too expansive.  Not enough time in the day for teachers to “fix” the kids in a classroom of 38, when they are teaching to the test.  Wow, what would happen if we gave kids 10 minutes a day to be listened to, heard, and empathetically listen to others?  I bet it would change an awful lot in this world.

 When we take turns compassionately listing and loving speech, we communicate with one another, not at one another.  It is there, in the space between the two communicating that true communication, true empathy, true love and grow!

(Aside, check out Thay’s books:  True Love, The Art of Communicating, Beginning Anew, Reconciliation, and the Miracle of Mindfulness.)

With Love and Gratitude,   Jenn

 

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