Saying Goodbye

Most people are curious about, and many are afraid of, what happens and where we go when we die. It’s generally not a topic of discussion at parties or over the dinner table! Unlike everything else in our world, we can’t simply Google the answer. Of course, Google does have answers, but has anyone checked their sources lately??? A fact check of signs and symptoms can be easily corroborated, but what about the rest of the person who was here? 

Depending on your cultures and beliefs, there are some different options, time periods of waiting, rituals, etc. However, I’m pretty sure nobody can cite evidence since, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has come back to tell us exactly what happened next…Some people believe that when you draw your last breath and your life is over, it’s just over. End of story. However, many people believe that this is NOT the end of the story. Whatever happens afterwards, what we do know is that we have to say goodbye to a loved one who is dying. They are no longer going to be with us in this physical world.

I wanted to share a story with you, which I have titled “Saying Goodbye”. I was told a version of this story by Jennifer Mallmes from the End of Life Doula Association of Canada. Late that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about it (or fall asleep), so I got out of bed and wrote my own version of it. My grandmother really was the first person I ever held vigil for. This is for you, Granny x

Saying Goodbye

I slip through the half-open door in my stockinged feet. The room is dim and smells of disinfectant, thinly disguised by the scent of candles. The small shape in the hospital bed is breathing rapidly, then stops for a few long seconds, then starts again. She is my grandmother.

Around the bed are picture frames with photos of family groups, happy holidays, and her beloved pet dog. The noise of her breathing changes pattern and gets louder.

I become aware that the shapes in the room, the bed, the dresser, the armchair seem to be changing, becoming blurred and out of focus. I realize that the coarse carpet under my feet has changed to sand, and in the distance I can hear waves lapping on a shore.

Without thinking, I begin to walk towards the sound of the waves. The light changes and I realize I’m walking in the moonlight now. Around me there there are many other sets of footprints, all heading towards the water.

When I reach the river, I feel in awe of it’s beauty and power. It is very wide and flowing strongly. On the banks I can see there are long, graceful pieces of wood, waiting to be built into a canoe. It seems to make sense that there are other members of my family here too and, without speaking, we work together to build a beautiful, perfect canoe, with graceful ribs around the inside and polished wood on the outside.

As soon as we are finished, the canoe seems to light up from the inside. It is not a bright light, but rather a gentle, peaceful light, which fills the whole vessel. Together, we use our love and strength to push the canoe out into the river. We understand that it needs to get all the way across. Now I can see dim figures, lots of them, making their way down to the distant shore and wading into the river. They are dancing. I understand that they are coming out to collect the canoe from us so they can pull it to the other side, to take her home.

Back on the beach it seems easy to find my grandmother’s room again. My heart is full of mixed emotions. When I get there, her bed is empty and the new sheets are drawn tight.

Please reach out to me any time for more information.