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Natural Awakenings Boston

Embracing the Gift of Life

Jan 31, 2017 01:25AM

Our feature story exploring the theme of Conscious Dying reminds me what a contrarian blessing a terminal illness can sometimes be for those losing a loved one. Although I was completely in the dark, spiritually speaking, when my Dad passed in 1985, he saw it coming several months ahead and made it easier for us all to appreciate the gifts that can show up knowing the end of life here is near.

This consummate family man and patriarch, who was universally respected and adored by his family and most everyone he touched, took the news of a terminal diagnosis with dignity and grace. His biggest concerns related to his loved ones being okay without him and wanting to ensure his family would be with him at the time of his transition.

Though not deeply religious, Dad was a quietly spiritual man comfortable with whatever he thought was ahead for him in the afterlife. I was the youngest of seven children and one of two still living at home then, so I volunteered to take the night shift of his round-the-clock care during the last few weeks of our time together. Big, true blessings arrived in my life as a result.

Being given the opportunity to sit and talk, in the still of the night, about his life, listening to stories of his youth is the greatest gift I could have hoped to receive. A favorite story related how Dad grew up hating school from day one, a passion that had him already sitting on the front steps at home awaiting his sister when she returned home from just having dropped him off at kindergarten. He liked racing through neighbor’s yards to beat her home, even knowing he’d immediately be dragged back to school.

Other stories afforded glimpses of why he was over-the-top protective of his loved ones; like the one of losing his brother as a teenager to a drowning accident. His time in World War II remains a mystery and I was somewhat satisfied with the little he was willing to share.

I deeply appreciate the rare opportunity to have had this precious time with my father. An equally wonderful blessing was the peace he communicated and bestowed through his lack of fear and ability to embrace what comes next. He moved on as he lived, surrounded by his wife of 40 years, his children and his spiritual leader, voicing his final lasting gift, “I love you.”

I appreciate how Linda Sechrist’s feature article, “Sacred Passage: Conscious Dying as a Transformative Healing Journey,” tenderly explores the many ways the end-of-life transition can be beautified by compassion and dignity when thoughtfully approached. We all deserve the best.

To embracing the gift of life,

Maisie Raftery

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