Words by Jane Faulkner
The past month has been huge for me, my Dad died, and it’s been illuminating, clarifying, painful and deeply healing. My dad had been struggling with illness for a long time and we were all expecting him to pass away. In fact we had gathered around his bedside many times to say goodbye, so I thought I was prepared and I thought I had done all of the grieving and letting go that I needed to do. When we got the phone call that he had died, I was OK, in fact a little relieved, Dad was no longer suffering. However, when I went in to see him and his body no longer had life running through it, it was like something huge inside me let go. I felt gutted and wretched, how could I go on without this man who had created me, given me life and opportunity and had been such a strong and steady presence throughout my existence. I ached inside like I have never ached inside before, I physically felt the loss and as we sat in the funeral parlor, numb and kind of in a weird between world place, my mind started to ponder: How did people cope when their loved one was young, vibrant and healthy?
I knew that my Dad was ready to go he had beautifully given us all the blessing of saying goodbye. Dad’s final words provided a sense of closure and healing and helped prepare me in some way for his departure.
Dad’s death brought my family of origin in tight. It reminded us all of what Dad’s emphasis on family, caring for one another and having high morals and values gives. In Dad’s death, we realized all of the gifts he had bestowed upon us. The discipline he enforced the firmness, the fairness, the family holidays, the work ethic, the importance of love, family and relationship.
Dad’s death brought a real clarity to my life, it reminded me of what is important and of how much makes up a life and yet how quickly, a life is gone.
I wanted to share my Dads passing with you because I don’t think we talk about death enough in our culture. Death reminds us all of how vulnerable we are and we don’t seem to like to acknowledge that. In pondering death we can’t help but ponder life and the big questions, what is life all about? Who am I and what am I here for? And what will matter most when I am dying?
When someone dies, I think it’s a beautiful reminder to the rest of us to live- really live; to step out of our comfort zones and say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. To create and live the life you want to live- we may not get another one. I think we forget and live like this is a dress rehearsal; I can work on myself later, I can spend time with my family when I’m retired, I will be with the kids on the holidays. We take the gift of our life for granted, we also think that tomorrow will come and yet, we don’t know that to be true.
In many culture’s death is embraced, families keen and wail for their loved ones and in many spiritual teachings, including yoga, embracing death is part of the practice. The philosophy being that when you fully embrace death and uncertainty, you fully embrace life and the gift and beauty that life is. When you live as if death could come at any moment, which is a reality for us all, you no longer take the life you have been blessed with for granted. When you are with your loved ones you really look at them, you soak them in and in some way fill yourself with the wonder of their being and the beauty of the world.
For me when I embrace the fragility of my life, I am moved towards gratitude, courage and wonder in this life I have been given and I am inspired to make it great. Dad’s death has encouraged me to step fully into my life and live.
Amanda Bennett and her husband were passionate and full of life all throughout their lives together – and up until the final days, too. Bennett gives a sweet yet powerful talk on why, for the loved ones of the dying, having hope for a happy ending shouldn’t warrant a diagnosis of “denial.” She calls for a more heroic narrative for death – to match the ones we have in life.
Check out her moving TED Talk below…
How would you live if you knew you could die at any moment? Where would your priorities lie? What would you have the courage to do, say and be?
Jane is a mum, partner, psychotherapist in private practice, yoga teacher, group facilitator at Gwinganna Health Retreat and nurse. To connect with Jane, visit her website.
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