This is my paraphrasing of what Sharon went through when someone she cared deeply for was dying. It reflects what I slowly learned during the twelve years Gregory and I walked the Dementia// Alzheimer's path. It reflects what I finally knew to be true and held my faith in during the four days during which Gregory was preparing to die.
If we absolutely insist that things work out only as we want them to, our hopes become strategies to avoid facing what is, then we have nothing on which to base either effective action or real peace of mind. We're in the hope/fear dilemma.
What one really wants is that the person dying not feel alone, that he feel sheltered and held, that benevolence surrounds him, that he feel loved. This has nothing to do with demanding a specific outcome.
The person is going into the unknown, into a realm none of us can control. That is hard to accept. We cannot go there with him and we cannot really find out what that realm is all about. We feel fear for the person and we feel fear for ourselves.
When one sits side by side with fear and acknowledges it, one can befriend oneself despite the fear and one's heart begins to open.
One is able to meet the unknown without a plan for controlling something that is not within one's power to control. With fear no longer dominating the mind, love can rise freely.
The power of love doesn't shatter in the face of change or disintigrate in the face of ones's own terror of lack of control. One is able to enter into the mystery.
One can hold onto one's faith in oneself, and faith in the person leaving. Faith allows one to relax into the vast space of not knowing.
One feels sorrow but one remembers that life is bigger than its constantly, sometimes drastically, changing circumstances. This is the power of letting go in the face of unexpected changes and doing so with love and peace of mind.
Faith enables us, despite our fear, to get as close as possible to the truth of the present moment, so that we can offer our hearts fully to it, with integrity.
We might hope and plan and arrange and try, but faith enables us to be fully engaged while also realizing that we are not in control, and that no strategy can ever put us in control, of the unfolding of events.
Faith gives us a willingness to engage life, which means the unknown, and not to shrink back from it.
To have courage, just as to have faith, is to be full of heart. With courage we openly acknowledge what we can't control, make wise choices about what we can affect, and move forward into the uncultivated terrain of the next moment.
Experiencing Gregory's death with faith instead of fear meant experiencing him fully as he was and as he continued to change and when he finally left me. It meant that even though there was little I could do, I could continue loving him and to stay connected to him.
For many years I continued to love him in ways not based on language skills, mobility, or even his staying alive. The closeness, the understanding, the devotion of love did not diminish in my letting go of expectations.
By revealing the grace of connection with qualifications, no matter what is happening, love releases us from our efforts to control life and strengthens our ability to just love and to be loved.