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Suffering at the End of Life

In order to die well, we must have lived well

The three main issues that I observed the last weeks of my father’s life that caused him great suffering were:

  1. His monkey mind – wild with thoughts.
  2. Inability to produce or to be productive, which for him was tied directly to his self-esteem.
  3. In ability to accept what life was offering.

Perhaps I am mistaken, yet these are my observations.

 

We all have busy minds.  In Eastern traditions, the busy mind is referred to as the monkey mind.  Never still.  Always moving.  Swinging from one thought to the next.  Many of us never notice how busy our minds are, or what we are really feeling, until we can’t distract ourselves.  The typical way we distract ourselves is by keeping ourselves physically busy. We hear this all the time, especially from those in acute grief – “I’m ok, as long as I keep busy.”  Other ways are through the many types of addictions from shopping to eating to illicit substances.

Many of us have some degree of our self-worth and self-esteem tied to our jobs, our ability to produce, or our ability to accomplish.  When such ability is lost somehow, and we have never had any realization that we are not our jobs or job titles, our ability to produce, or our ability to accomplish, we suffer.

The ability to accept what is happening now is often a point of suffering for all of us all the time, but especially during dying.  Accepting does not require us to like what is happening, but it does require faith, trust and surrender as demonstrated by Jesus’ willingness to die on the cross.

It is only through the experiences of life that may the soul be honored.

As best as I can surmise at this time, meditation, heartfelt prayer, and contemplation are remedies to suffering not only at the end of life, but now.  As I sat with my father in his last morning, I realized what a great blessing I have had in realizing at least little that my mind races and can bamboozle me; that I am so much more than any one or combination of roles I play; and that I can trust life’s offering to me without knowing why.

These insights only came through long hours of meditation, contemplation and heartfelt prayer.

It is said in the Celtic tradition that in order to die well, we must have lived well.  The phrase often spoken is “Bas sona,” which literally translates into “Have a happy death.”  Living well involves nourishing our spirits daily with heartfelt prayer, meditation and contemplation.  Wishing you Bas sona!

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