Dash

“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “point.” Open a book on your lap, close your eyes, and put your finger on the page. Whatever you land on, whether it be a word, a phrase, or a sentence, write about it. Enjoy!”

 

With my eyes closed, I reach for the bookshelf. Grab a book and open it. I point at the unknown page before me. The left hand side, as I am left-handed. I open my eyes.

The book is Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser.  The chapter: Practising Death, page 224. My finger is on the following sentence:“It is helpful for all of us to understand that one’s point of view about death is only that – a point of view – and that the truth is much larger than anything we can conceive.”

Kapow! The sentence has our prompt word.  Twice!

What memories bubble up from a place I keep locked away.

No, not fear of death. Not at all.

Death introduced himself to me at home, sitting  on the floor leaning against the ottoman where my dad rested his smelly feet. We were watching Nadia Comaneci of Romania score a perfect ten. The 1976 Olympics.

He suffers a heart attack while she somersaulted her way into history. Gone. He was laughing when he died. Deaths’ visit was sudden, life-changing. It was my last year in high school, final exams looming ahead. I recall numbness and a robotic one foot before the other daze.

Three years later Death came calling again. This time it was a bloody affair. My mother shot herself. I had just completed my degree and was home for the holidays.  Numbness was replaced by a devastating anger which would define me for many years. It took a future I was excited about away from me. It took my carefree youth with my mother.

Years later I work as manager for the local cancer society. Unique to the position was to also manage a six-bed hospitium or hospice as it is generally known. Death walked the passages every day. Our constant companion. Our motto: You have the right to live until the moment you die. The nurses and staff the only constant. Every room occupied by patients and distraught families, coming and going once Death had his way.

We experienced many things. The anxiety, the anger, the calmness of people at peace,. We experienced grace. We experienced life in the shadow of death.

Death soon became as commonplace as drinking coffee. We were numb. I realised we were so busy taking care of the dying and supporting the bereaved, that we burnt out any personal emotion or feeling about our own mortality. People treated us as if we were angels. We gladly accepted the role. It was the only way to survive to be able to do it again and again.

With this realisation, the  head nurse and I decided that we needed to confront the numbness which comes with keeping constant company with Death. We were not immortal and this was not normal living. We had to claim back our lives and focus on living. This is how I came upon this gem of a book by Elizabeth lesser. Broken Open is subtitled “How difficult times help us grow.

What we learnt is to acknowledge death as part of living, that each person will experience death uniquely, individually. We were not there to change the outcome, we were there to walk someone home, and to be there for those left behind. We all walk this road, it is not negotiable. So we might as well live full out whilst on this journey!

The hospitium changed into a place of living for more than 25 years. It to came to its end. The angels who worked there are old, some have had their date with Death. Their lives testimony of grace and kindness. I salute them all.

The chapter our #SoCS prompt made me point to, opens with these wise words of Michel de Montaigne:”We do not  know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”

So what is my point of view on Death?

We die from the moment we are born, better make every moment count. As to when Death comes calling I do not know, and I fear not.  I believe fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Cannot be afraid of things I do not know.

I have seen Death, experienced his presence intimately.  His personal date with me is a blind date. I do not know when or how, but until then I have been set free to live my dash.

THE DASH

by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

 

PS. To learn more about #SoCS and to participate visit

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