Episode 75 When They Are Gone

June 23, 2023

Good morning from Vineyard. So here’s what’s on my mind. This morning I stumbled upon a beautiful post by Teri Turner whose blog is called No Crumbs Left. She’s a middle-aged woman who does a lot of cooking stuff, and she’s very candid and charming and she talks about real life stuff.  One of her followers had written in and said that they were fearing being with someone who was dying, and I loved her response. Of course, the responses are very quick on Instagram stories, but she said a lot of the things that I would have said, too.

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I think especially in the American culture, we have a fear of death and dying. It makes us nervous. We don’t have a lot of traditions around it, and as I’ve said before, we get all up on our head, when really it’s a very sacred moment. It’s a privilege to be with someone at the end of their life. Our job is to bear witness and basically to do everything we can to be fully present, and that’s exactly what Teri was saying.

It doesn’t happen very often in life when we are with someone at the very end of their life. Indeed, it is uncomfortable. There is no playbook for it. Every single circumstance is different, and a lot of things are out of our control. But what we can control is how we show up – the energy we bring, our ability to be thoughtful. By presence I mean calm and reassuring and quiet because when you’re in that space, you can hear the unspoken. You can sense what’s needed. When we’re all up in our head about what we are going to say or what if I don’t know what to do, we fall out of presence. And what happens when you’re with someone is that you instinctively know. It’s like a parent caring for a child, you simply know what to do. The answers come to you, your intuition kicks in.

I think the reason this struck me today is because I went to the memorial of one of my dear, dear friends Michelle Hatch yesterday. It was the fourth time I had been with someone at the end of their life. It was uncomfortable and there were moments when I felt nervous, but I was always aware of the privilege of being with her in that sacred moment. I somehow found my big girl pants. I knew it was my job to be brave and to bear witness.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about her a lot this weekend and I stumbled upon something the day before the memorial that I actually shared as we were gathered on the beach in Sag Harbor to spread her ashes. It’s a quote and it says be the things that you most loved about the people who are gone. I think that’s such a sweet thought. Let me say that again. Be the things you most loved about the people who are gone.

So, take a minute and think about people who you loved who are no longer here. It might even be someone who you had a fraught relationship with. Maybe you can conjure up something about them that you loved, that you perhaps hope to emulate in your life.

There are so many things I could say about my friend Michelle. She was an optimist. She was loyal and adventurous and fun and resourceful and loving.At the end of her life, when she was telling me stories, one day we were sitting on her couch and she was showing me old photos. She loved to sing and she was in the plays at school in high school, and she used to make costumes for everyone. Michelle was a very creative person. She told me the story about a man who came up to her, I don’t remember who he was, and said to her, you should study fashion design. She had no idea even what that was. She was probably 14 or 15 in the middle of Pennsylvania.

That man’s words completely changed her life, and that’s exactly what she went and did, and it’s something that she always did in her life, especially with her nieces. She wanted them to dream big. She wanted them to believe that they could be whatever they wanted, and she really tried to show the way. She took them to visit universities. She took them to Europe .She just took them on so many adventures. She was the best aunt ever. It’s something I really admired about her. She was a master encourager.

I’ve reflected on many things about my friend Michelle, and one of the things I have to say that I most miss about her is this sense of adventure and fun that she brought to absolutely everything she did, including going to the grocery store. We always, always had fun together.

Be the things you most loved about the people who are gone. I just love that. That’s all for now. Until next time, from my heart to yours.

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dear Listeners,

Friends say I live my life out loud. That’s because I’m a curious, adventurous person and, as an appreciator, I simply love to share what lights me up. Consider this is your invitation into my fun, multi-faceted world.

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