“You just kinda stand there staring right? As your mind races for words, your mouth forms the beginning of a syllable and nothing falls out. You stand staring and helpless. You could bake cookies, you could go shopping. You could do a thousand things that distract you into believing you are helpful. But when it comes right down to it, you are helpless. There is absolutely nothing you can do to change the outcome. Helpless is the most painful feeling in the world. And….. it is the most needed.” Tania Thomas
“I am dying”
If you haven’t yet experienced the swell of helplessness as it rises into your chest wall….you one day will. It is an unfortunate side effect of choosing to live this lifetime. The painful downside to loving, to giving, to affecting and to being. Unlike scrapes and near misses, we can’t fix this with peanut butter cookies and kisses to make it all go away. It is an ending that will be happening no matter how hard we try to change it.
It simply is, and there is no greater lesson in trust and in releasing the need to control than in the lesson of letting someone go.
Our first response as the listener of these awful words is the EGO kickback. We recoil immediately and feel as if we have been verbally attacked personally. We want to rush in to offer something that will change the way the words sound. To argue that the words are incorrect. And the next words will inevitably follow.
“There is nothing else they can do”
And boom we go right back to the spine stiffening and the anger that accompanies our feeling that there IS something else that we can do. Because everything in this world is repairable right? But no. Now there is nothing you can do to stop the train that is bearing down as you struggle to release your feet from the tracks of which they have suddenly become tied to.
This will happen, this is happening, and you can stand there with your plate of peanut butter cookies and tears begging the engineer to stop the wheels. And ultimately you will find yourself pulled down into the ending with nothing but crumbs to help you find your way back.
Receiving news of the impending death of someone we love is the worst possible news we ever want to hear. The pain of hearing the words can far outweigh the difficulty of saying the words. Those sharing these words with us have had some moments in between then and now, in between the doctors downcast eyes and difficult conversations, the dying have already reached a place of being able to utter the words without feeling the need to make them anything less than final. They have, in fact, somehow managed to feel the helpless themselves and have turned it into the knowing that there is nothing left to do now but to live until they don’t.
I’ve heard this a thousand times over “Oh no you did NOT just say that”
Oh yes they did just say that. And your disbelief of what you just heard doesn’t make it any less real for them…or for you. We don’t want to hear these words. We can’t accept hearing these words because it means that there is nothing we can do to change them.
We can’t fix something for the first time in our entire existence. The human life does not come with warranties and we have become accustomed to warranties on everything. If we can’t fix it we can replace it. If there is a way we will find one. If we can’t fix it we can refund it.
Death doesn’t work this way and it’s the biggest struggle of our lives to come to that understanding.
There is nothing we can do. We are utterly helpless. We feel guilty because we are angry at the universe, at the doctors and sometimes at the dying, because they are giving us nothing to work with. We run about baking cookies to feel normal, we shop for their favorite things hoping that they might try harder to stay. We pour over memories of vacations and make plans for the next vacation and we include them because we are terrified to let them believe for one moment that we can’t fix this. We use hope as our band-aids and dreams as our kisses.
And that’s where you are helping. Even when you don’t recognize it yourself, your hopes and your dreams are what help the dying to understand what love looks like. Love looks like not wanting to let go of something that has created your world. Not wanting to release someone that made you laugh, made you think or made you learn something new every single day.
We love our hardest when we have nothing else to offer. And this is a gift, not a curse, not a karma, not a punishment. It’s a gift. To be present, to be wholly involved in the process of not fixing. To be fully immersed in the simple act of loving is not helpless at all. It is beautiful and it is needed.
And one day…..
You will see this through the eyes of those you can’t help at all.
“On the day my loved one died, I moved him to his final sleeping space. He sat on the edge and he gazed at me and begged me to not leave him there. And I promised him that I would not leave him there. And my heart ached because this was the only help I could give. Twelve hours later he left that space. And I kept my promise. I had nothing else to offer but to love enough to let go”
Let go in love.
No regrets over what you believe you couldn’t do. Because LOVE is all you could do.
In love…in light…in band aids and kiss it betters…..