The cruel beauty of life
by Christy Sillman
(Joyce, Jackson and Sarah December 2010)
In loving memory of Joyce Dalton who tragically passed away 9/5/11 from a kayaking accident on the American River. An inspirational teacher, talented artist, and loving Mother – she will be dearly missed.
“I’m so sorry, but your mom is about to die. We have two paths that ultimately end at the same spot. We either let them continue ‘coding’ her until they feel it’s time to stop, which will be in the next 20 minutes or so, and she would pass in a room full of doctors and nurses still working on her, or, we can go in there as a family, be there when they shut off the machines, surround your Mom and see her into the light with our love. It’s your choice. I want you both to feel like everything was done to save your Mom, but they really have done everything to try to save her, and now I think we have the opportunity to make her death as beautiful as possible.”
This was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say, and it’s even harder to write at this moment.
I’m wounded, not only because it was something I so dearly wish didn’t happen, but because I’m beyond devastated for my best friend and her brother. I can hardly bear to imagine what they must have been experiencing when I had to say this to them, and what they now feel in the aftermath of it all.
That night I watched my best friend, my soul sister, who I jokingly call “my wife,” straddle the line between life and death. She stood next to her dying mother while being pregnant with the life of her daughter — stretched between two generations, unable to bridge the gap between life and death and bring the two of them together. What a cruel contrast; a dichotomy in the circle of life.
Her pain is something unimaginable to me, and yet I’ve been watching it all week.
I imagine Sarah feels like Goldie Hawn’s character in “Death Becomes Her,” with a giant hole in her stomach, like she’s missing her core. But physically she’s the complete opposite of that picture with a wildly gorgeous pregnant belly. Empty yet full at the same time.
Devastating, sudden, traumatic, cruel loss combined with new life, new beginnings, and a new definition of self. I’ve meditated, I’ve prayed and I feel at loss as how to help her begin to go forward. And yet, I’m watching her take one step forward at a time. I’m a bystander to her grace, beauty and strength.
I realize that she won’t “heal” from this pain — she’s going to learn to live with the pain and she’s going to be different because of it. She’s redefining her life and finding her foothold in the roots of her mother’s love.
I grieve for her grief. I find sorrow in her sorrow. Mostly I draw strength, inspiration and peace in her strength. It’s a strength she learned from her mother. It’s a strength she will teach her daughter. It’s a strength that inspires me.
These are the lessons which spring all of us forward from this tragedy.
From the cruelty of life, we search for the glory. Embrace the glass as half full while recognizing its emptiness.
The finality of death is a reality to all of us, whether it is our own or our loved ones — the secret is to find a way to gulp life up in the meantime.
Toys, wealth, power, status, competition, even politics – all of this means nothing. What matters most in life is how you savor it, cherish it, and who you share it with.
I watch my friend take one step forward because her mom taught her how to LIVE.
Give life and live life, she will.