As I walked into his room, he was quiet for a moment, with raspy heavy breathing, lying there on the bed. All of a sudden, he started reaching up to the ceiling as if to pick apples from a tree, one by one, and bring them to earth (or in this case his bed). Apple picking—that is what the Hospice nurse said he was doing.
They say that at the end of life, many times people will reach up and pull down something from thin air that they seem to be able to see. As I watched my friend seriously focused on pulling down whatever he was able to see in his mind’s eye, it was an amazing moment of clarity for me to stop and think about what I would be reaching for at the end of my life. What exactly would I see in the blank space above me that would compel me to expend what little energy I assume I’ll have left to reach up for…well, actually, I don’t know…what he was reaching for.
In the quiet of that room, for those of us who were gathered around to say our goodbyes and watch the finality of a life well-lived drift away, it was a quiet peaceful moment of watching him reaching up and bringing down, and reaching up again and again and again…
After I said my goodbyes to the family and was driving home, the image of his reaching up, so focused, so direct; so deliberately would not leave my mind, and I have continued to wonder about what I would reach for at the very end?
I am not here today to bring sadness, although the loss of this dear friend has left a hole in our hearts that only time and wonderful memories will heal. In looking back on that moment with him, I have become very curious as to what the Hospice worker said about the meaning of “apple picking” and what does one see at the end in that moment of time.
I searched the Internet for some clarity, but nothing particular to that action showed up. There were plenty of articles that mentioned the motion of Reaching Upward. Hands passionately reaching upward to some unseen force is witnessed in many deathbed encounters. The dying seem to always be reaching upward. That was about it for information.
So let me restate my intention for today. It is not about death that will come soon enough for all of us, but in thinking about that, I want to encourage you to live your life to the fullest now. No more waiting for the right time, right person, right place…because, friend, the right time is now! There has never been a better time than today to make the changes or start to make the changes you want in your life. Also the reality is you. Really, you are the right person. You are. So, today let’s focus on your life. You can deal with others later, but today is about you. And when I speak of the right place, believe it or not, where you are (no matter where you are in your life’s journey) is the right place today. You’re just going to have to believe it, because all your roads have brought you to where you are at this moment in time. Not saying you can’t set off on another road, but for today…you’re here, so let’s accept it…for today.
Some of you may be saying, “Well, Deb, I wish it were different, I wish I was different, I wish the situation was different, ” and if that is the way you feel, then you need to get moving, because only you can make that change. But for many that’s not an option, in fact, your life is ticking away, and while you’re standing there wasting time wishing and wondering, time, people and the places are all going to pass you by so quickly, and you’ll not even know it until it is too late to do something about it. So today, and every day, let’s commit to living life to the fullest.
And not to be unkind, but, friend, you don’t have many other worthy options. Living half a life, or existing or just getting by is hard on you and everyone around you, and if that is the place you find yourself today, please consider making some changes—the hard choices—to live differently.
I am serious in my exhortation to you to find your light and let it shine… so, today, while you’re on this earth, breathing in the fresh air and basically having the freedom to do whatever you want to do, I want you to consider (instead of raising your hand to ‘Pick Apples’ that will come soon enough) how about raising your hand to life—to living the life you were designed to live for the rest of your days, however short or long they may be, to living without regret for actions in the past and, most importantly, to living with joy.
You know, I speak often about getting out of your own way to live the life you were designed to live for the rest of your days. And you know what I think is fascinating is that only you really know what it is you want to accomplish in this life, only you know what is hidden deep inside your heart that if you actually were to do it, accomplish it; complete it in your lifetime you’d leave this earth satisfied.
Let me spend a minute on you living the life you were designed to live for the rest of your days. Ah, friend, do you know what that means? Really, what do you think deep in your heart is your life’s purpose? Now, only you know. Only you know what you have set aside to get by or to do the “right thing,” and, no doubt, many of you have been honorable in your actions and you’ve been faithful in your job and providing for those you care about. But time has moved on, the kids are gone, for some, the parents have passed away and now you’re kicking around the house without a plan. I know the world changes quickly, jobs come and go, friends move away and you may just be tired, but please hear me, if there is still a flicker of desire or life or hope for some adventure, and you have it in you health wise… it is never too late to start. In this age, it really doesn’t matter the judgment of others and what they say about you. Goodness, they’ve been talking about you for years, so maybe now you should give them something to really talk about and enjoy your new-found passion and fun in life. The old saying is true, everything you want is on the other side of fear. At this age and stage in life, what is holding you back from taking that trip, making that call, forgiving that person or simply resting in the peace that you are still with your spouse through thick and thin? Please tell me you’ll at least think about it.
I want to touch on the idea of living without regret for actions in your past. I say it a lot—you don’t need the forgiveness of others if you’ve honestly done your part in asking for forgiveness—you’re now free to go. Their refusal is not your issue anymore. Walk away and free yourself from their negative energy. They are not going to change and that’s too bad, but it’s not your problem.
I receive emails quite often from folks who finally come to an understanding. Some people, no matter how many times you ask for forgiveness to perhaps restore a friendship, so you can go to dinner or the movies or a business partner, so you can once again enjoy the friendship that brought you two together in the beginning or whatever the relationship was including a broken marriage, friend, you need to emotionally, mentally, physically and in any other way safely remove yourself from the pain, because, if you are still hurting, then you are still allowing the pain of regret to cause you harm in the present from actions in the past.
We all make mistakes we’re sorry for, but after a few years (and for some it takes years) you have the right to make peace with yourself. I was speaking with a friend recently who is still hurt from a job situation where he was fired, and it was unfair. He did nothing wrong, but the lies of the others in the company caused a break in the trust of the business partners, and still today he feels pain and simply wants an answer or an apology, but as I told him, due to the dishonesty of the firing, no one is going to admit the error.
So, if it still hurts, then, (as I like to say) success is the best revenge. Go and do great things, and the more good you do, the less that the pain of the hurt will sting, because your life will now be full, and you won’t have the time or energy to worry about the past pain of a dishonest situation. And I’ll add, if a past hurt is taking up space in your head, then it is taking valuable space in your heart, and that is not fair to your loved ones, because, every moment you waste regretting your past, you’re using a moment in time that you’re not giving your best self to your present situation. That’s a hard lesson to learn, no doubt.
Finally, learn to live with joy. Come on, no one likes a person who is always snarky or down or bitter or angry. That’s no way to live, and, if that’s your life, then you have a real problem that you need to get help for. Your days are coming to a close and, for goodness sake, let’s hope someone comes to your funeral for reflection and not just to make sure you’re really dead. So what does living with joy look like? I am able to see it in the faces of those who are happy, and I also see it in those who are older. I believe a life of joy shows in the lines on your face—the network you still have and the people who love you and will truly miss you when you’re gone.
Live with joy! Live with peace that you’ve accomplished your dreams, and live with hope that you still can go and do what you’d like. I now live with joy. I have made it a habit to be grateful for the clients I have, the work I do, the places I go, my family and friends, the books I read, the fish I catch, the beaches I walk, the amazing treasures I find with my metal detector and the sunsets that take my breath away. I used to live fast, wanting to do everything and get everything done without really enjoying the moment—getting the next engagement or taking on extra work just for the money, and missing out on family and friends. I don’t do that anymore for a lot of reasons—my health, my energy, my two new knees don’t like to go like I used to and my friends and family are getting older, so slowing down and paying attention has, in a great sense, brought me joy I really didn’t expect or understand… but I can say today that, because I live with joy in my life, my life is better; it meets my needs and has allowed me to experience my life in a different way…and it is good.
I don’t know what I will reach for at the end of my days—Hands passionately reaching upward to some unseen force—maybe I’ll reach for apples, or diamonds or the hands of those who have gone before, but I do know this: that I will have lived the life I was designed to live for the rest of my days, and I will live my life to the fullest with no regret…and I will do it with joy. How about you?
This show is in memory of Lloyd Benedict~