Every Loss Is a Mini-Death

Every Loss Is a Mini-Death

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Every Loss Is a Mini-Death

“I don’t want to die, but unless there is a miracle I guess it will be soon,” said my close friend. She was fifty-two years old and had been healthy until four months before.

The day she said this was the day I was leaving for a weekend family reunion at a cross-country ski resort. Our family had made plans months before for the only weekend we could all get together for our favorite sport. Normally, I would be anticipating the weekend with great joy. But today my heart was breaking. I said good-bye to my friend, wondering if I would ever see her again.

Although my friend’s death could be weeks away, it could also happen at any moment. With a close friendship that spanned twenty-five years and my background as a hospice social worker, I knew my friend wanted me to be there at the time of her death to provide emotional support for her and her family. How could I possibly enjoy myself skiing when I truly wanted to be with her at this crucial time? Torn between my friend and my family, I felt an irrational anger toward the person who had organized this trip. I drove the four hours to the resort in northern New England in tears. The peaceful, cozy ambiance of the old inn made me feel like an impostor for being there.

The next day as we began skiing, I could think of nothing but my deep sadness for my friend and her family. For hours we skied ever deeper into the dark woods, hiking steep grades, gliding down long, curving slopes, climbing still higher on the mountain. Suddenly the woods ended, and we were treated to a breathtaking view that commanded us to stop and absorb the majesty of nature. At just that moment the sun emerged from behind the clouds, turning the snow into a shimmering carpet of diamonds. Rolling hills sloped down to a forest of trees next to the doll house-sized inn. Below that was a lake ringed by mountains. We were enveloped in total stillness, broken only by a hawk soaring overhead.

Suddenly my eyes filled with tears, as I felt blessed with a deep sense of peace and certainty that this was where I was meant to be at that moment. I had a startling revelation that my ambivalent feelings about leaving my friend for the weekend were the same dynamics of going on the journey into death we will all travel—the not wanting to go, the tears and sadness at leaving, every bit of energy fighting the change and regretting what was being left behind. Yet finding a sense of peace and beauty, joy and love, and a deep sense of well-being when we arrived. It caused me to remember the words I’d heard at a spiritual retreat: “Every loss is a mini-death. Throughout life we experience many mini-deaths—all preparing us for the final one.” I knew then that even if my friend died while I was away, it was as it was meant to be.

When I returned home, I shared with my friend what I had learned from that day on the mountain. It was a sharing that confirmed what we both believed about the afterlife. A few days later I was privileged to spend the last day of my friend’s life on earth with her and with her family.

Carol O’Connor

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