Through the years I have been drawn into the death walk of a few people; women who have reached the end of their lives and are waiting only on that last breath. Sitting close to them and holding their hands, resting with them in companionship and support, waiting with them for that final journey, I have come to recognize the landscape. Sometimes it is dark and frightening and I can sense the fear of the unknown that permeates the aura. More than once I have encountered the dying patients’ desire to wait, usually for a loved one to come near. My own personal experience of this are images and sensations of a quiet beach at sunset, a small boat waiting nearby, a peaceful soul resting and waiting. If I ever question what I am experiencing I remember a dear friends’ mother who finally let go only an hour after her son arrived from out of town.
This morning I heard that my son’s father has come to that place. He is now in the hospital and the doctors are urgently trying to discover what happened before his wife found him after she arrived home from work. The pain and grief of my son and his mother is palpable, of course, as they wait by the bedside of their loved one, not understanding, maybe not even accepting the fact that this man’s journey is almost done. Caught in fear, they are unable to do more than frantically wait for someone in authority to find an answer. It is the season of harvest, and I am reminded of what that truly means.
Harvest season is a joyful time for many. Farmers rejoice as the labor of the spring and summer finally begin to pay off. I, myself, look forward to gathering herbs, freezing corn, canning beans and making jelly from the local markets’ fresh fruit. The evenings become crisp and cool, the autumn colors enrich us as the afternoon sun sets the leaves on fire with red and gold tones and we pull out those sweatshirts and sweaters and go to the Friday night football games. And most people view Halloween as the prelude to the holiday season.
But there is an undercurrent to the autumn season that gets covered up with those joyful things that we experience during August, September and October. It is a time of death and dying. The colors of the leaves are signal that their time is coming to an end. The ears of corn that will taste of summer during the winter months are the culmination of the plants’ life. And when the last of the leaves fall to blanket mother earth and prepare Her for that time of resting, the bare limbs that are stark against the winter sky are the symbolic skeletons, the bare bones, that are exposed as life recedes.
So it is with humans. We have a certain amount of time here, this lifetime. No one knows for sure how long it lasts. It is up to us how we live, what seeds we plant in our own springtime. When our season comes to an end and we begin to withdraw from life, we can realize that just as the seeds fall to the earth and go within to rest, it is only a step in the process of living, whether you believe you go to Heaven, or wait in the Summerland to reincarnate, it is not the end.
I am entering into the autumn of my own life. It has been full of goodness and difficulty. I have realized that part of my journey entails walking with those to the edge of the Sunless Sea, in support and companionship. This realization has reminded me that while the better half of this life is over, I have much to harvest from it. I want to live each day fully and joyfully as a crone with an attitude. And when I can hold the hand and assist with another’s final journey, I am harvesting from my own life the blessings and gratitude of receiving the gift of companionship and assistance from fellow travelers.
Live life fully. Go for the gusto and inhale deeply the essence of who you are and what your own gifts are. Give back. Pay it forward. And remember that when a loved one passes on, it is not the end, but another beginning.