I spoke with my husband about how similar this all was and we distinguished the main difference is knowing how at birth there is so much to look forward to. People celebrate while the child is forced into this unknown, because, we as a society, know this little person has a full life (hopefully) ahead of them. As opposed to the end of life, where, we know (or think we know) it's all coming to an end, and therefore, it's sad. Heartbreaking for some...
Today my grandfather died.
He was a strong italian man, married to his wife for 67 years. Had three sons, two of which he buried already. He fought for his country, worked to support his family and eventually grew to live 92 years until he surrendered his life unto his God. I had the pleasure of spending time last week together, just he and I. I, unlike the most, don't view death as a horrible thing. Yes, it can be sad, especially when it comes too soon, but I have come to realize it is a part of life. We can't live forever, so the best we can hope for is a life we can be proud of. Did we love fully? Did we stay loyal? Did we believe in God? Did we believe in ourselves and those we love? And if we get the gift to live a long life, then hopefully we lived with gratitude.
When this old man asked me if he was dying, I think I may have been the only person to answer "yes." This may have come from my strong feeling that people need permission to let go. I know watching my father die that he needed that. He later told my mom how proud he was that I could talk with him about dying... so now, I consider it a gift that I can talk with people about leaving this life. My grandfather's eyes were scared, maybe even surprised I answered yes, as I smiled and told him that he has done everything he was meant to do - or at least that was how I saw it... His eyes filled with tears and fought me, "I'm not dying. Am I dying? Help me..." The only help I could think to offer was to validate his life. To share all the ways I saw his success... his family - his marriage, his ability to provide, love and protect those he loved.
What is so ironic about my having this discussion with him, is that I didn't grow up having a strong bond with this man. He didn't like me very much and I didn't like him either. After my parents divorced, he took my fathers side often saying things about my mother that I found offensive. I would fight with him, fight for my mom, as he would fight for my Dad. As I grew up, I dated men he disapproved of, based only on their skin color... I went to college away from home, another offense, and it seemed I consistently disappointed him. He disappointed me too.
But over the past 10 years, he and I would talk, and he would compliment me on my life -- my husband, my marriage, my success in my job, my "well-behaved" children. He would tell me after my own father passed away how impressed he was with the woman I am. I think he was surprised that he admired things about me, and in his ability to acknowledge me as a success, I learned to let him in. We found a common ground, and it was a love for family. We are both fiercely loyal, protective of those we love and fearless when it comes to taking care of family.
I never knew how much I did admire this man until I was validating his life for him. Staring in his old eyes, as I held the crown of his head, I whispered in his ear over and over how impressed I am with him, and his life.
As I consider all that I am taught from my yoga, my faith -- I realize that life really does go in a cyclic fashion. Karmatic. When I came into this world, my grandfather held me, I'm sure he smiled down on his eldest's son's daughter... maybe he even thought of all the ways I would have a full life. Despite the challenges he and I faced, the differences we had, at his end, I was there, smiling down on him, sharing all the ways he did have a full life.
It really does all come full circle, doesn't it?