This is the second anniversary of my brother-in-law Jonathan’s death. His story continues to bring me a deeper awareness of the healing power of acceptance and how we can all benefit when we trust and embrace the power of the present moment.
Most of us live so much of our lives striving to find ways to create a better future and/or lamenting the foibles of our past that we ignore WHAT IS – RIGHT NOW.
We live in a “fix me” culture where viewing ourselves as broken, flawed and never good enough sets the stage for the onset of chronic emotional and physical health issues. We are so distracted in our quest for self-improvement that we miss the simple beauties that surround us…the smile of a loved one, the sound of laughter, the touch of air on our skin.
Yet sometimes life throws us a gift in disguise – a situation that defies improvement and cannot be fixed.
Jonathan’s story brings us face to face with the mystery of the unseen power that lives within each of us – the life force that delivers peace and healing in the final stages of our lives.
Jonathan had always lived alone with many social challenges. There was something “different” about him, and many believed he had mental health issues. However, he was never diagnosed with mental illness and was actually very bright. My husband and I were his only support.
The last two years of Jonathan’s life were defined by a slow, steady decline in his health. I know that at one point all I wanted to do was to help find the “solution” for Jonathan’s plight.
We tried to find the “best” housing, health care and practitioners. These efforts proved to be somewhat helpful. But as time passed it was apparent that my intense effort to “improve” things brought me great frustration and emotional discomfort and mattered very little to Jonathan.
In retrospect, I see these circumstances as a message to stop, pause, and simply notice WHAT IS… not what we wish for or need to acquire, but what is occurring in the present moment.
The last two years of Jonathan’s life were defined by a slow, steady decline in his health.
His bouts of aspiration pneumonia became more frequent and severe leading to recurring invasive medical treatments. He was thrown into a downward spiral that ultimately led to complete helplessness and dependence on others.
Yet Jonathan remained alive and alert for well over a year despite the fact that he received all nourishment through a tube, was bed bound, and could barely speak.
For months we encouraged him to “work” with the physical and speech therapists believing that he needed to “improve” his quality of life.
But Jonathan ignored our encouragement. It was a challenge and disappointment for us; but we finally accepted, and eventually honored, his lack of interest in improving the “quality” of his life.
Jonathan’s experiences often caused us great
concern. Multiple visits to the ER and many hospital stays involving
invasive life saving measures did not threaten his will to live. Time
after time he survived against all odds.
Jonathan remained alert day after day and month after month. He made peace with his circumstances, and we watched as he surrendered and grew in unseen ways.
Our need to “make things better” for him waned as we followed his lead and trusted his path.
I came to realize that life is not really about one’s ability
to be anything or do anything.
The comfort of food and drink were gone. Conversation was not possible, and communication was based on facial expressions, body language and felt perception.
As the days and months passed, Jonathan re-connected with friends and family. He savored these moments.
A new bond was forged between Jonathan and his brother. Sitting together day after day in silence, they shared the gift of presence. The small, darkened room became a sacred space where there was nothing that needed to be said, done, or accomplished.
As his body failed, Jonathan’s heart, mind and spirit were filled with healing energy. His quiet fortitude was far from passive idleness. It was this life force that lit his path until the end.
Jonathan’s legacy is a reminder that the gift of life is our birthright, and it is our connection to one another that awakens our hearts to the peace and love that are always within us.