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Letting Go

I sit alone in the middle of the night in the living room of my parents’ house that is also the house where I grew up. I did my homework here, watched snow fall here, I ate meals, took baths, danced, and slept here. This house still smells of childhood, of woods fires and sea air. My parents will never come back to this house. I sit in my mother’s blue chair as if I might absorb a lingering presence of her body, but she is not here. She has been increasingly restless in her blue chair for the past two years as her dementia confused her, then sad and frenzied after Dad’s stroke.

Last week she sat in her chair and waited for him to come sit in his even though she knew, then forgot over and over, that he couldn’t ever sit there again. I bent to hug her and felt her dry, birdlike kisses rustle against my face. She fretted about this house and the bills and the housework, her husband gone. She rattled around in here. I took her to see an Assisted Living spot, a lovely B&B-type place. Her face lit up. She’ll like this, I thought, but I worried about taking her out of her home—until I went through the stacks of papers squirreled everywhere, important bills unpaid and tucked into magazines, a chaos so profound it hurt my heart. It has all been far too much for her for far too long. Now she relaxes at her new B&B home and, in relaxing, looks closer to death. She has no ambition. No plans. A peacefulness settles on her. I suppose she may fight at some point, but I sense that she is going along with this, flowing along with the tide.


ArabesqueNot in the Same Boat
Letting go is a big concept and an active pursuit in spiritual path. Until now it has been an exercise for me. Right now, this time of decline into death that my parents inhabit taking with them my childhood and the familiarity of family and context, leaving me alone as the end of no other relationship so thoroughly does, right now I am putting letting go into practice. I have to let go. They pry themselves away from earth. I have never stayed in the Moment—a non-shimmering, non-ecstatic moment after moment—the way I have been doing these past three weeks. Everything else steps to the side. Their dilemmas and needs come at me like snow at the windshield. I labor to create order and clarity in their affairs. I research humane and graceful solutions. I see to it that they are surrounded with safety and kindness, sorting their details into loving hands that catch them as they fall. I am there with them, and there has been no question for me about this. I let go of my life and enter theirs. It is a very intense time for each. They each step onto a little boat and push away from the pier. They float gently out into the water. They are not in the same boat. And this is interesting. They are not in the same boat….


ArabesqueHolding that Treasure
I feel I have given them each so much of myself and it is wonderful. I have helped. Finally I have helped, and though they can’t thank me, I know they each trust me and that I am worthy of that trust. I don’t suppose I have ever been so trustworthy before. I am not anticipating the time after now nor holding back this time. I am here. Showing up. It is amazing. It is very very good. It is not holy. It is tiring. It is a place of no doubt. It is a spiritual matter to help people leave their life, and there are so few times in which any of us have the opportunity and the right and the responsibility to be part of anyone else’s passage. The privilege of holding that treasure.


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    1. Beautifully written, so many could benefit from this story. It is truly an incredible journey. Much love to you my dear friend. I love you!!!!

      April 22, 2013
    2. Kate #

      Thank you for the gift of these words, and the gift of you.

      April 22, 2013
    3. karleen #

      Beautiful……..I wish I felt spiritual around my Mother’s continued long passing….I only feel weary………….Karleen

      April 22, 2013
    4. Karleen, I don’t know that I feel spiritual either. But perhaps this weariness is one flavor of ‘spiritual’. No excitement or shine or peace, but patience, endurance. Small ebbs and flows. I don’t know. Your words are straight on. I had a visit with my father the other day that was draining. His condition is so compromised. Finding bits of him, of connection, was difficult and I was so tired. My mother is that way for me too. Draining.

      They have to go on their own time. What I am learning, in my case, which may not be as protracted as yours, is that I am letting go of myself as well. It is painful. I want to be on the other side. My karma is to have this amount of time to let go of who I was. They are each in the grip of their karma. Together we each give one another a new experience, a naked intensity of having the old relationship ripped away.

      April 22, 2013
    5. Kathy Hamilton #

      It is holy, Dunya. Their faith in you, the trust between you. It is much of how we partake of the divine. You are so sweet. I cry as I read. Your heart is right here/there/everywhere. I love you.

      April 22, 2013
    6. Kathy, thank you. I love you too.

      April 23, 2013
    7. Anastasia Blaisdell #

      Kathy, you spoke it right…I am here crying too, Dunya, for your love….your devotion…. your honesty…. your strength,….your willingness to share… this time of your life… with us…it is a true gift and I am learning a lot as I read as my mom withers into the same sphere as your mother…it is beautiful…your sharings…deep…
      I am thankful.

      April 23, 2013
    8. Deda #

      Dear Dunya,

      Beautifully written, and yes, the weariness is another “flavor” of the Divine, I think. It puts us in a different state of witnessing and contemplation, and experience of service to another that we don’t often get in our other daily tasks.

      I don’t know if you remember Leigh Wise from Austin. She was a dancer and singer – in the Djembabes and Inkululeiko. She was a beautiful and vibrant woman, and last week just passed from a 6-year dance with cancer. I forwarded this post to her family because I think you touch on so much that any of us who have done end of life care can relate to.

      Much love,


      April 26, 2013
    9. Thank you, Deda. And thanks for sending it on. It really helps to hear others’ experiences. Love you ~

      April 26, 2013
    10. Edie #

      They are not in the same boat, but they have the gift of your amazing help and your conscious and careful decisions to help them let go. May we all be so blessed.

      April 29, 2013
    11. Edie, thank you. I’d love to a talk with you at some point…

      April 29, 2013

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