June 25, 2014

Death And Letting Go

Letting go now prepares us for the next stage of our existence.
"Only by letting go of our grip on all that we ordinarily find most precious--our achievements, our plans, our loved ones, our very selves--can we find, ultimately, the most profound freedom."
- Philip Simmons (1957-2002)

I have spent the last 17 days talking to my mom about life, and death. More than ever before she shared stories of her childhood and early life, her desires, dreams, and dead ends. I could sense that she was getting more serious about letting go of it all.

Mom is approaching 80 years of age, and has 2 inoperable brain tumours. She wanted her wishes to be noted while she is in control of her faculties, and made it clear that she is "ready".

In fact, mom is so serious about detaching from this material plane that she spoke of entering a serious de-cluttering phase. I was excited about her willingness and encouraged her to cut the crap out of her remaining days as soon as possible.

In way of starting her project, she offered me all manner of things to take with us on our journey. It was very generous, but I told her that there was no way her crap was going to become my crap.

I told her we were also on a crap-less diet, and although Linda and I may not pass on soon, we are looking for the same kind of freedom she is seeking. All I could offer is moral support and to let her know that we need to stick together on these difficult preparations.

As a reader noted in a recent comment on my post about our culture's compulsive busyness, "My theory is all this busyness is just avoidance. Avoidance of reality and mortality."

That's it. We distract ourselves with stuff, crap, and constant go, go, go. But not me, or Linda, and not my mom. We are trying to face reality, and engage the process of letting go. We want to live better, and eventually, die free.


  1. A few years ago, our pastor gave a message in which he slowly emptied his pockets onto the podium, removing his wallet, keys, watch, etc., and he spoke of how all these things we have in our possession are meaningless when we pass on. It was powerful.

    My mom-in-law is well, but she is going through the same de-cluttering of her life. How wise your mom is to do the same, and how wise are you to do it early!

    1. Deb,

      A lot of our possessions are meaningless BEFORE we pass on.

      Happy to hear your mom is in good health and is letting go of the clutter. It can be a difficult process at any stage of life, but is so worthwhile.

  2. i'm very sad about your mum, but i appreciate your saying about living with less and eventually die free..my best wishes

    1. katia,

      It is not so sad since I believe my mom is doing better now than at any other time of her life. Her preparations for her final years are paying off, and she is calmer and more centred than I have ever seen her.

      Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. Your herniated disc really was perfect timing. Isn't it strange how often things that seem awful at first work out for the best?

    1. CharlotteP,

      The Universe does indeed work in mysterious ways. As it turns out I will cherish the 17 days Linda and I spent with my mom. Precious moments indeed.

  4. Anonymous6/26/2014

    Somehow facing your parents mortality causes you to think of your own. I think that was a wise comment about all busyness being avoidance of reality and mortality. It stirred thoughts since I read the comment a few days ago.

    To think of death, the end of life, causes me to think very differently about life. I've been thinking on this very mysterious subject off and on for the past couple of years. I surely don't put any religious meaning on it.

    My mom has just gone through a mass scale down of her belongings after my dad died a year and a half ago. She relocated twice since he died. Her scale-down was a very high pressure situation tangled up in a lot of grief. So different from my current mass scale down, but it has been a bonding experience to be going through it with my mom almost simultaneously.

    Amazing how generous people become when they are scaling down! People constantly give me their crap when they clean out some area of their home! And I have to admit, I am giving crap away in my scale down!

    However, I feel a guilty sometimes for putting my crap on other people. And my motivation for scaling down is very different than others who clean out areas seems to be. I am scaling down to live a simple crap-free life. Most those around me who clean out areas are only cleaning out to make room to move more crap back into their lives!

    Cheers to crap-free!

    1. Terri,

      The ultimate quest is coming to terms with death. It is amazing how we twist and turn away from it our whole lives even as we are constantly surrounded by its relentless grip.

      It is like you said about dealing with loss and grief (which are like mini-deaths) - better to face it up front and move on.

      Sorry to hear about your dad, but good to hear that your mom is moving on. Good also that you are joining her on this worthy journey.

  5. Anonymous6/26/2014

    This post is so profound and thought-provoking. As I age, I am re-learning the wisdom of quiet, silence, and thoughtfulness. Just sitting and meditating on life (and death) has proved liberating for me. My mother is 89 and is facing end-stage cardiac disease with courage and humor. Like your mother, she is frank about making her wishes and desires heard while she is still with her family on earth. It is hard to face the fact of our own mortality, but once having done so, that honesty and realism frees us to live life even more fully. Your comment about our current obsession with busyness is so truthful! Sometimes I think that sitting in silence and thinking is a lost art, but then I realize that there are actually many, many people who practice it daily. When your mother has passed on, you will be so grateful that you had this holy time with her to talk and strengthen your love. After all the decluttering of things, love proves to be the intangible "thing" that lasts forever.


    1. Sophie,

      Thank goodness for our moms and their unconditional love. They truly model how we should behave toward one another since in the end we are all family.

      The wisdom of quiet, silence and thoughtfulness is a hard sell these days, but I do think that it is the only thing that will save us from distraction and mindless busyness.

      And if contemplation leads to thoughts of death, so much the better. Is there anything more worthy of our time and energy than dealing with this inevitable fact?


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