What do you most value? And how do you prepare for its loss?
My lovely, intelligent, kind sister is a health care professional, a doctor of acupuncture. Before going to acupuncture school in Chicago, she trained for and was a hospice worker. During her hospice training, she recounted this exercise to experience loss. All the participants wrote down the things most important to them. Children, health, lucidity, faith, pets, independence, a sense of humor, whatever was personally meaningful. Then after 5 minutes or so of lecturing, the participants had to choose one of these things to lose. To tear it off of the page and drop it to the floor. Another 5 minutes and another item to lose. And again. Now the choices were getting harder. Some people were quietly crying. Of course in the end, everything had to be given up. Because that is what faces the hospice patient, and that’s what the workers need to understand. To understand and face up to sickness and loss and death.
Is there an inverse to the scale of loss? My mother tells this story about her mother. When my mother was a young adult, granny’s house burnt down. She lived in Appalachia, the houses were wooden, and no one had any kind of insurance. My mother came to see the charred remains and told granny how sorry she was that her house and all her possessions were gone. To which granny responded,”Don’t be sorry, I feel free as a bird.”
Is freedom and loss intimately connected? If I lose my house (a distinct possibility), will I feel free as a bird? When I put my sick beloved pet to sleep, can I focus on the freedom not the loss? The very best I can do is walk with one on my right side and one on my left. Freedom and loss.