Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “Death”

Smile

Smile

I just wrote a whole blog on death, compassion, self-acceptance and love. Then it got deleted. Then I couldn’t manage to recover it despite auto save. Then I decided my message should be… SMILE! and leave it at that. So… just do it! You’ll feel better!

My goal is to get back to blogging now that my art class has wrapped up. Maybe I’ll expose you to some of my attempts at art in future blog posts. Stay tuned!

Love, laughter, self-compassion, and light to you all! ~Rashel

Planning for the Unexpected

I’m involved in a new project at work. I’ve been having conversations with healthy adults about deciding what they would want if they were in an accident or had a sudden injury, like a stroke, and couldn’t speak for themselves. It makes for interesting conversation. In addition to exploring what they would want, we also talk about choosing a good healthcare agent to speak for them and how to have a conversation with that person about taking on the role.

So far, the people I’ve talked to have been pretty clear about what they want. Some have actually talked to the person they want to have speak for them. Many haven’t actually had that conversation, although they agree that it would be a “good idea”.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
~Benjamin Franklin

What’s interesting to me is that we call this process ‘planning for the unexpected’ despite the fact that dying is one of the few things that is guaranteed to happen. You will die and you should expect that this will happen to you… no getting out of it!

The problem is, we avoid having the conversation because… well… who wants to talk about dying? And even if we’re comfortable with it, it’s not really something you bring up casually in conversation. “Yes, a double mocha, please and oh, by the way, have I filled you in on how I want to die?”

The thing is, when we don’t take the time to have the conversation, we put our loved ones in an awful spot. Besides potentially not having our wishes followed (since we didn’t bother to tell anyone what those wishes were), we also force our loved ones to make decisions when they may not feel confident in their choices. That’s a lot of pressure and often times can lead to guilt and anxiety if they’re uncertain of, or not everyone weighing-in agrees on, what you would have wanted.

I know we’d all like to think that we have plenty of time and that life will be the standard 80+ years for everyone… but I’m going to encourage you not to wait for the ‘unexpected’ — go ahead and have that conversation now!

Thanks for letting me diverge slightly from my usual topics to share my passion about this work! Wishing you love and laughter… and the death you always imagined when the ‘unexpected’ happens! ~Rashel

Love, Laughter and Tears…

I was planning to blog about my intentions for 2013. I was planning to share my three words for the year. I was definitely going to say Happy New Year and start my blog for this year, having taken some much-needed time off from work and hobbies, with all my ideas of the amazing year that lies ahead. Then I got a phone call…

My best friend’s husband died. He was 39 years old. They have two kids under the age of 8. Her entire life just got knocked upside down. Where do plans and intentions fit in a world that is so unpredictable and chaotic? It’s true that we will never know our exact path… but does that mean we shouldn’t plan and intend? Is the process of planning still important, even if life throws you a curveball, or in this case drops a bomb on your head, and changes everything? Part of me is wondering if we have any control at all… (reminds me of a saying “You want to know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!”), and the other part is insisting that we do and demanding that I step up, be courageous and leave a legacy.

It might be too soon to have realizations, but something struck me last night when I was talking to my friend. She was describing the juxtaposition of the unbearable pain, grief and disbelief she’s holding in her heart… with the gratitude of love and support that is flowing from every nook and cranny, from family, friends and strangers, to hold her up in this difficult time. There’s a part of me… the small, little part that isn’t totally pissed off that life could be so cruel… that realizes this outpouring of love IS what life is all about. People move through grief, tragedy and all sorts of terrible situations and inevitably they come out on the other side. I’m not sure people would make it through if it weren’t for the love.

There is so much pain in my heart when I think of my friend and her children. When life delivers such a leveling blow… how in the world do you recover? There are so few answers… and so many questions. I won’t pretend to have advice. I will listen. I will provide a shoulder. I will love. I will make my friend laugh as much as I can… for I believe laughter to be an amazing healer. And though I have questions myself, through all of this, I will hold tightly to the belief that there are greater reasons beyond our ability to understand. That there is love. That it will be enough to get us through.

This Saturday I’m going to an Intentions Event. I will sit in a room with 50 or so other amazing women and chart my plan for the next year. I will think big dreams and set my intentions. The part of me that feels compelled to step up, be courageous and ‘leave a legacy’ will win. And for this, I am thankful. Pay attention to the love… the love that can be spoken… the love that can be acted upon… the love in your heart that you give to yourself and to others… that is what truly gets us through each day.

With love, laughter and tears   ~Rashel

A way to contribute

The Power of Stories…

I had two very different experiences this week that had a common theme… stories. I’ve been reading Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind. It’s really interesting, in that it details the shift of focus from the left brain to the right brain… logical, systematic thinking to big-picture, design. Pink insists that as we move forward, the people who are valued and appreciated will not be those who systematically figure out the details, but those who are able to interpret those details into a compelling story.

So, I guess that’s where this story begins. Stories, and the ability to tell them well, have been on my mind. I’ve always been impressed, and a little bit fascinated, with my Dad’s ability to tell a really good story. At first, I took for granted that a good story would be heard and appreciated. Then I tried re-telling one of my Dad’s stories. Not only did I kill the punchline, but halfway through I looked around and saw people’s eyes glazing over. Oops… definitely had an impact and drove home the reality that story telling is not automatic… it takes skill and practice.

Anyway, back to the story at hand (I guess, truth be told, I still tend to get a bit off track now and then!). I went to a conference for work earlier this week. The conference was on shared decision-making, but for all intents and purposes, it could have been any topic. There were multiple speakers, enough credentials to fill multiple pages, data up the wazoo and plenty of research both completed and in progress to be shared. At the end of the day, when I thought about the take aways, what I realized stood out to me more than anything were the stories. A couple of the presenters told stories as a way to share their message. Also, there were patients in attendance, who had a chance to tell their stories. The studies, the data, the facts and the figures had their place… but the compelling portion of the day… the messages that stuck with me, were told through stories. I walked away from that conference vowing to use a lot less powerpoint and a lot more story in any presentation I give!

Fast-forward to the weekend. I was attending a celebration of a dear family friend lost at too early an age to cancer. Instead of the usual ceremony, the “service” was really a group of family and friends getting together to remember and give thanks for the life of this man. There came a time in the evening when one close friend stood up and invited stories. Through the telling of stories… a tradition that has been passed down from ancient generations… the life and love of this great man was celebrated and brought forth for all to experience. There is something about the telling of stories that engenders emotion… more so than words or data can do alone. Often we can experience a similar feeling from pictures… but mostly because they invoke in us a story, or a remembering of events or feelings of a particular time.

So, on a very superficial level, I closed the week with two intentions… to tell more stories when I’m presenting and to make well-known to all that I want people to tell stories when I’ve passed. On a more profound level… I walked away with somewhat of a commitment to myself… I want to create stories… I want to share experiences with friends and family that create lasting memories of joy and laughter… because at the end of the day… or life… that is what matters most. Connection. Joy. Love. Family. Friends. Passion. Leaving a legacy of stories.

In humble and heartfelt appreciation of the many stories that have been shared with me… and the many stories and memories I get to help create… may the journey be filled with laughter, joy and gratitude. Love and laughter to you all.  ~Rashel

Death Sucks… but only for the living

A family friend passed away recently. Even though we hadn’t hung out regularly in recent years, this is a man I grew up with and treasured dearly. A cranky, burly, intimidating man with a heart the size of a grizzly bear! I loved him dearly.

The thing about death is that it’s hard to know how to do it right. As the grieving friends, and especially family, are you allowed to laugh and remember the good times? How soon? In public… or only in private? Are you required to be miserable for a set period of time? And on the other hand, are you expected to pretend that all is well after a certain amount of grieving… even if the true fact is that you are still devastated?

What do you say to someone who’s grieving? I wanted to reach out to the family right away… but I found myself at a loss for words. A simple, “I’m sorry” or an attempt at reassurance, “At least he’s not in pain anymore.” Or maybe it doesn’t matter what you say… just that you call. But then I tried to imagine that phone conversation… “Hello”… then what? Certainly not, “how are you?” or “how’s it going?” Loss is hard. It hurts a lot. There aren’t words to make it better.

Whatever you happen to believe about death… about what happens to people after they die… whether you believe they go to Heaven… or come back around… or if you just believe that they return to a greater source – the fact is, they’re good – it’s the living who are left behind that suffer. So I guess the best thing we can do is remember the good times as much as possible. Tell each other stories of the joy and laughter that was shared. I know for myself, reflecting on the happy memories makes me happier.

But that doesn’t make the hurt go away. It would be a very simplistic view to say that one should just think of the happy times and all would be well. There seems to be a hole in your heart when someone close to you passes. But since I believe that souls who’ve passed-on would want to see us happy, I will do my best to remember joyfully, smile often of the good times, and send a bouquet of love to my friend every time I think of him. Eventually, maybe our loved ones who’ve passed can help us fill that hole with love… cause love is really all that can ever truly fill us.

Love and laughter to those who have passed… and especially to those who are still hanging around. ~Rashel

 

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