What Next?

No matter how prepared you try to be, you never are. All of the education – explaining about how the body will change, what medications will be used and how each symptom will be managed – prepares only minimally. But, we still put so much effort into the preparation of -the- moment.

The progression towards death, particularly the last stretch, is very much like the march towards birth. You can take the classes and buy the books, you can watch the videos and make a plan, but, when it happens, it’s more often than not, a complete shock. Plans get tossed aside and predictions made are invalidated. For anyone that has been through labor, some echoed reminders occur in the labor towards the end.

She had been sick on and off with cancer for many years. Each round of chemo was going to be the cure. When the chemo and radiation just got to be too much, she knew it was time to labor towards her forever. Her transition was peaceful and calm. The room so quiet that it was like you could hear the soul leaving her body – like that warm breeze that is so calming on a hot day. Her son, not much older than my own, looked up and asked, “ Now what…. where has she gone?”

It’s Valhalla… it’s Heaven… it’s the great gathering spot of all the souls… so many believe in so many different things. In order to try and wrap our minds around the unfathomable, we have all thought of what happens when we are no longer of this world. Will my departed loved ones appear only to my eyes in those last moments and help me transition to that next space? Will there be angels who guide my being up a staircase? Will there be that moment when I am dead, like in the movie Ghost, when I am yelling at the mortal, not believing I am quite dead, but, they cannot hear me? The truth is, my friends, I just don’t know.

It’s hard for me to accept that our souls only get one go around. Maybe they are redeposited into unborn babies and that act of labor into this world erases our memories of a past life to make way for new memories. Those strong feelings that we get of deja vu, where we remember an experience or a face, but don’t know when and where… maybe those are memories that have leaked through. I don’t know… the only thing I am not sure of is that I can guide you towards that great end, but, I don’t know what lies on the other side.

I grew up in a very religious Greek Orthodox household with firm beliefs in Heaven and Hell. Been a good person? Heaven’s gates open up inviting you in. Been not so good? Well, things might just get a bit hot for you. As I have had years and experiences pass, I can’t imagine that’s exactly what it’s like. If it is, then I will certainly be surprised. I think you will meet up with that being that you deem as God…. whether it be Jesus or Allah or Buddha. Maybe that’s when you can get the answers that plague you all of your life. Maybe that’s when we will all have that amazing “Aha” moment when it all will make sense.

What’s lacking for me in all of the “traditional” views of the afterlife is the idea that once one dies, they are just gone. I can’t accept that. When someone is dying, we tell families to keep talking to them because hearing is the last sense to go. But, no one knows when it goes. Can they still hear us? Years later? Does my mom hear me when I mutter about how she never wrote her recipes down or the fact that she passed down forehead wrinkles (We used to call them the Naw, girl wrinkles because they are the ones you make when you say that). I know she does. I have no doubt.

I have been thinking about my mom a lot the past few days. Been sort of having a one way internal dialogue with her. She passed almost 6 years ago. But, the past few days, I felt lost and hungry for advice so I kept returning to that on going internal chat. Eager to just chit chat, I called a friend to just take my mind off of things. She is pregnant with her second girl and bemoaning how she feels bigger with this baby than with her first. I asked if they decided on a name… and I almost dropped the phone… She is naming this baby my mom’s name. My friend didn’t know my mom or her name. Nor is the name a common name at all. I hung up the phone and cried. As I was wiping up my tears, this beautiful green and blue butterfly landed on my driver’s side mirror. Blue and green were my mom’s favorite colors. That’s no coincidence. They still feel and hear us.

I am not sure how you feel, but, it brings me such comfort to know that this destination we are all headed to isn’t the final stop. Whatever you might believe and however your beliefs drive you, we can all agree that our loved ones might disappear from our eyes but never from our lives. They are all around us – leaving little messages for us to find when we need them the most. It takes away some of the bitterness of their deaths and helps me fear death less. Keep your hearts and eyes open, friends. You never know who just might be sending you a message.

By Helen Haddick BSN RN CHPN

RN who has just left critical care in the hospital for hospice. Join me for my journey Please feel free to leave comments and like if you enjoy this

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