I wrote about Little Deaths in my book “It’s All About Love”. It’s about the losses we experience all during our lives before our final physical death, when our spirit is set free to go home. I thought about the gradual loss of someone we love, while they’re alive, as they slowly (or quickly) progress in their transition out of this earthly life, which can take years.
Artist Vincent Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo in 1888:“. . . to look at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots of a map representing towns and villages. Why, I ask myself, should the shining dots of the sky not be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? If we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. One thing undoubtedly true in this reasoning is this: that while we are alive we cannot get to a star, any more than when we are dead we can take the train.
So it doesn’t seem impossible to me that cholera, gravel, pleurisy & cancer are the means of celestial locomotion, just as steam-boats, omnibuses and railways are the terrestrial means. To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.”
I always paraphrase this quote as, some people pack their bags slowly, some people pack their bags quickly. When a person we love is packing their bags slowly, we bear witness to the gradual loss of so much, little by little. We look back and realize the changes started long ago, while we were still resisting, denying and complaining about them, not realizing why they were changing and what was happening. Not realizing it wasn’t possible for that person to be how they were. They were losing their mind and body as they knew it. We lose our person as we knew them. They are dying quietly, step by step. How they were disappears, bit by bit. As we become more and more their caregiver and they are able to do less and less for themselves, we realize that underneath all we thought we have lost, their true self is still there and we still love.
It may be difficult to be compassionate, to be patient, to be understanding. It may be difficult to be loving and then hard to forgive ourselves for not being loving. It’s challenging to be kind to ourselves when the demands increase and the situation requires more and more of our attention.
When it is all going and so little is left, we tap the deepest recesses of our heart. And lo and behold, there is still love. When it’s hard to see someone’s essence, that beingness we loved, we still love. We remember that they are Love, as are we. We Love, as they used to do also, and maybe can even do more purely now. As our loss seems unbearable, and we surrender our expectations, we receive boundless Love from All of the Universe. And a space opens to receive our loved one, and their journey to the stars is at last complete.