Tag Archives: death

MORE TIME

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

In the few months before my father’s death I had an unusual experience with time. My wristwatches and I didn’t seem to be getting along. I would put one watch on only to have it fall off my wrist later in the day. As I moved into different time zones another watch seemed to reset on its own volition. One watch simply stopped working all together.

After I had enough of these experiences I finally stopped to think and consider what was happening. “I’m running out of time!” This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I immediately changed my plans. I re-prioritized my calendar and immediately went to my parent’s home for an extended vacation. 

And I changed my thoughts and words. “I have all the time in the world.”

waitingwomanI realized I wasn’t running out of time, but I was running out of the immediate opportunities to spend with my beloved father. Although he is no longer in this earthly plain, my strong relationship with my father continues. And yet, I’m so grateful that I paid attention and changed my focus and my energies of how and where I spent my time during the days and weeks of my father’s life. I don’t know if I was running out of time, but I did have all the time in the world because I made this happen.

How is your relationship with time? Do you spend energy trying to manage your time? How is that going?

The reality is that of course you can’t manage your time. You can only manage how you spend your focus and energy in the time we are all given. Time is the great equalizer because all of us, no matter our nationality, religion, color, gender, age, sexual orientation have the same amount of time. And time marches on.

Here is a different idea. How about if you change how you think and talk about time. Try your own experiment to see what effect changing your relationship with time has on your Mental Health & Happiness.

Here’s how you start. Listen and note your out loud thoughts, what you say, about time. Here are some possibilities:

            I’m running out of time.

            There isn’t enough time.

            We are going to be late. If we want to be on time we need to leave now!

            This traffic is going to make us miss our train.

            Our days are numbered. 

This is just a sampling. Perhaps you have your own unique thoughts or experiences as you rush through your day to try and squeeze in all you must during this day (another measurement of time).

Now make a list of how you think and talk about time. Instead of referring to time as a scarce and limited resource change to an abundant point of view.

There is more than enough time

            I have all the time in the world

            The world is filled with more time, more love and more peace.

            I can always make time for what is important.

            I arrive on time with joy and grace.

            This traffic gives me a chance to be grateful for all the time I have this day.

            I will make the most of all the days in my life.

Add your own thoughts, ideas and statements about time as an abundant resource.

The next time you hear yourself thinking or speaking about the scarcity of time switch to a statement from your list of time as an abundant resource. Now notice what effect this change has on your Mental Health & Happiness.

The Relationship that Keeps on Giving

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

My relationship with death has been most interesting in the fact that is has uncovered one of the great paradoxes of life: the more you think about dying, the more you think about living. Death is what gives life its significance. If we lived forever, we would never have to answer the important questions about “What do we want our life to mean?” Or “Am I proud of the person I am becoming?” or “Am I living the life I want to live or have I copped out and given into fear and inertia?” The fact that we are going to die is the great motivator of these questions.

I remember one question that was asked of me was, “If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?” That question incited several phone calls, mostly to make sure that certain people knew I loved and appreciated them, and also persuaded me to keep that list current in case anything happened?

canstockphoto14643549Thinking about dying helped me realize the importance of my saying “I love you” as the last words my wife and kids heard from me every day before I left for work. I had decided that if something happened to me that day, I wanted to make sure that my kids could say that the last words they heard from their father were “I love you,” not something like “Make sure to clean up your room” or “Adam, didn’t I tell you to get your damn bike out of the driveway?” My looking at my own death helped me make that decision.

My partnership with death has been a motivator in my creating a notebook which sits on my desk and is entitled, ”The Journey Continues: When I Die” which contains everything my kids would need to make sense of my estate if I died suddenly. Many people make books like these in the very last years of their life (although many think they will get to it and never do). I have had that book ready for my for 20 years; I count it as a gift to them that if I had died unexpectedly, that they would have some reasonable tasks to perform rather than the ungodly mess that many people leave to their kids.

Death is a friend who keeps asking, “Ok, what do you really want to do and when are you going to do it? Death is a friend who keeps us honest. Death is the final recovery from the great American addiction: “Just keeping doing what you’re doing; you can get away with it!” With Death, we can’t get away with it.

Many years ago I decided I wanted Death to be my friend rather than my enemy or adversary. I can honestly say that nothing in my life has ever been made worse by that decision, and that overall, my life has been much richer and more significant because of that relationship. We all have that choice.

“If you were sure something important, significant and life-changing were going to happen to you in the future, would you want to know more about how you might have it become an opportunity rather than a disaster?”

“If you knew you were going to die in a week, who would you call, what would you say, and what are you waiting for?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Crucial Relationship

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation (www.alohafoundation.org)

When I was 26 years old, I began an intentional relationship which has been one of the most important I have ever had. It gets more significant every day. I was teaching a college class and the issue of death came up. I decided to create a short thoughtful experience for my students, so I asked them to write down the answer to the question, “How do you feel about death?” on an index card.  On the other side I asked them to answer the question: “How would you like to feel about death?”

My answer to the second question was  “I’d like to be as unafraid of where I am going after my death as I am of where I came from before my birth.” I was actually quite happy with my answer, but the more profound thing that happened at that moment was that I realized at a deeper level that I should start interacting with the thoughts and emotions and realities of death quite early in my life, for as the saying goes, “There are only two sure things in life, Death and Taxes.

Over the years I have gotten a wide variety of reactions to my desire to incorporate my relationship with death into my everyday life, but now that I am 70, I am so very grateful that I did. I am well ahead of so many people my age who have been pushing this relationship away for years.  I feel like my relationship with death has gone through the ups and downs of any long term relationship. I have been angry, sad, scared, denying, accepting and serene. My long-term relationship with death has given me the opportunity to work out many of my fears and questions, some which take years to resolve, and I am left at this time of my life with a sense of serenity and acceptance which I know could not have been created in a short-term last minute relationship.

I have envisioned my own death, I have written several obituaries as though I had died in that particular year, and I have  imagined my own memorial service (who will come? who will stay? who will I be glad is there? who will I wish had stayed home? What will be said? What would I like to be said?). I have talked with my children about my death until they are much more easy talking about it, and I have asked others what their thoughts are about probably the most important issue of our lives over 70, the process of aging and death.

 

Imagine the edge you would have if you took any of life’s issues and explored it thoughtfully and emotionally for 45 years. This is no different, it just involves a subject most people are unwilling to talk about: it America’s great taboo. The results of my relationship with death over the year are reaping great rewards in this time of my life, but it has also been a blessing all along the way.

 

 

Emotionally Bankrupt

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Have you ever had the experience of being completely and utterly emotionally depleted?  It would be pretty amazing and unusual if this weren’t true for you as it is true for almost all people.

Three years following my father’s diagnosis of terminal lung cancer he died. His passing was not a surprise nor a shock and still it was devastating for his immediate family including me. I was privileged in that I was able to spend two of the last three weeks of his life with him and my mother.

My mother and father had celebrated more than 50 years of marriage only weeks before my father’s death. My mother was devastated following Dad’s passing. As she predicted, Mom  lived another ten years after my father died. However, she was never the same, never really happy again.

Once Dad died the family all assembled in North Carolina for the memorial service with the fellowship to begin our mourning and healing. Then it was decided that Mom would visit each daughter’s home for awhile before she would return to her own home to begin her life without Dad.

Six weeks after Dad died my mother had a heart attack. I had just returned home after accompanying her back to her home to help her begin this post-Dad part of her life.

canstockphoto0527001I was lying on the couch in my living room when I received the call about my mother’s health. I was told she had a minor heart attack and was stable. My mother told me that her heart was broken.

My sisters and I needed to decide what we were going to do. At this point I couldn’t even get off of the couch. How could I possibly get on a plane and return to my mother’s side?

This was my first experience of being emotionally bankrupt. Sadly, it has not been my last.

There was a “letter” circulating on Facebook recently where an old man explained grief, mourning and loss to a younger person. He described these kinds of life moments as being ship wrecked. Being overwhelmed by all of the sadness, devastation, grief and varying aspects of loss comes upon us as waves. And when the ship is first wrecked all we can do is hang on and stay afloat. Sometimes we hang onto another person, or a thought, a prayer, our faith or a possession.

Eventually these overwhelming feelings are not present 100% of the time. Eventually we have some moments of relief. How soon? There is no way of predicting. And for each person with each loss and each wrecked ship the timing and waves vary.

Eventually the waves become less and less frequent. Eventually we are not devastated by the wave. Eventually our memories become sweet and a source of comfort.

While we are waiting for the waves to lesson, and calm without taking us under, we must be kind, gentle, loving and supportive of ourselves. We must care for ourselves in ways that might normally feel like indulgences:

Take an afternoon sitting on a park bench, under a tree, or on the beach, and do nothing.

Take a hot bath daily, as a ritual.

Be quiet, still, and if needed alone. Let nature be your companion as nature is one of the strongest healers available to us all.

Stop working, at least for an afternoon or morning.

Stop doing for, caring and helping others, at least for an afternoon or morning.

If you have a pet, hug, love and pet him/her. Let your pet soothe and comfort you as you pet and love him/her. If you don’t have a pet, ask to borrow one.

Ask a friend to help you focus on fun, funny and wonderful memories.

Ask a friend to distract you and tell you stories that are completely unrelated to your  present experience.

Spend time holding, hugging, playing and cuddling a baby.

A word of caution about any and all of the above ideas. If you discover that this emotional soothing and regenerating is not working, is in fact contributing to you feeling worse STOP. You can return and try out any or all of these ideas in the future. For now, be gentle, quite and still with yourself.  Concentrate on breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out with no other expectation or goal.

Honoring your need for rejuvenation during the emotionally bankrupt and tsunami  times of our lives is important and essential for our Mental Health & Happiness.