One day I showed up at Hospice to volunteer and brought gifts for one of my patients. I brought her a Build-A-Bear stuffed teddy bear that was dressed in a pink superhero shirt and my patient hugged the bear incessantly and kissed it as if it were her childhood playmate.
I also brought in a strand of Christmas lights to go around a bamboo tree she already had in her room. While she loved on the teddy bear, the way a child would, innocently and with a smile, I began to put up the lights around the tree. It was not Christmas; in fact, it not even near Christmas. It was July. Her bamboo tree looked bare, just shoots of bamboo coming out from a woven basket placed beside a cream-colored wall adjacent to her bed. As a visitor, one would think there was an attempt to liven up the hospital room with this plant, albeit, the plant just stuck out like a tall green pile of sticks.
I wondered how this made anyone feel comfort. This is the reason I brought the lights. To liven up the room a little bit. To enhance the quality of the end of her life. Just because one is dying doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have lights on their tree year-round, in fact, it is the one reason they most absolutely should!
I learned from my mother how to make beauty out of basic resources and that is what I was doing here in this hospital room with the Christmas lights. In the moment the plug connected with the power outlet, the lights instantly lit up, and an “ooohhhhh” was heard upon my ears. I turned around to see my patients face with glee. Her sunken eyes grew round with more life than I had ever seen since our initial introduction to one another. She became soothed as a result of this small action. Holding her bear, and her gaze, she relaxed further into her hospital bed and after a few minutes she fell asleep, peacefully; and then passed away shortly after.
Death happens in Hospice. It is a part of the parcel that comes with volunteering with those who are nearing the end of their life and it is always bittersweet. The Hospice Nurse and Pastor arrived in the room to announce the time of death and I left the room and exited the facility.
On my way out I saw a sign that reads, “Every day’s a gift.” It was in that moment, passing that sign, that usually had the impression of bringing a smile to my face that I broke down into tears.
Every day really is a gift.
There is nothing like a death to shake you into living your life again and this is what happened to me in that moment. I decided to sit on a bench out front of the facility as I had to collect myself before driving. I felt displaced, the way one does after getting pulled over by a police officer. Dying is such an isolated transition for most that if you have someone beside you, holding your hand at your last breath, you are one of the lucky ones.
It was there, from the bench that I made the wish that I would have the good fortune to have someone hold my hand with me in my final moments.
Years later I married a man who would verbally and emotionally abuse me. I found myself pleading with the bathroom mirror one night after saying to myself someone shouldn’t have to die in order to get out of this. A couple days later, I would choose to hike a mountain instead of taking my life and it was there, at the peak of the mountain, I would meet a life coach, and a lawyer, who would help me leave the marriage I found myself in with a stranger I had only met four months prior.
I realized during that event that I was following a path in life that others expected of me. I checked off all the boxes to please others and their expectations of me, go to college, get a job, get married; but I did not have any goals for myself and I had no boundaries to ensure those goals would ever be met.
When I had this epiphany and shared it with my new friend and life coach he said, "remember, Lauren, suffering is optional. There is always going to be pain. Pain transforms us, and suffering is a choice. We can choose to change the sitting in suffering. We don’t have to exist there."
So what changed? Honestly, it was gratitude. Having gratitude for my heart beating for me throughout the night into the morning. Gratitude for movement. Gratitude for mindfulness. Gratitude for valuing myself, and learning to love the self I see, and furthermore, releasing the notion that my worth depended on someone else’s value of me.
The greatest contribution we can make is to sit in the stillness within our mind and ease the suffering of the inner child that is yearning to be heard because perhaps somewhere along the way they never were. If you can be open to healing the parts of you that you don't understand, and if you can sit in that space where the unknown meets discomfort, and have gratitude for the breath that resides within, you will find that you have all the power will ever need to transform your experience here.
Live to write and tell your story so that others may learn how to follow their passion too and perhaps your story will become the blueprint from someone else’s survival. My wish for you is that you find gratitude in all that you do so that at the end of your life, you won’t need someone to hold your hand to confirm to you that you lived while you were here.
There is much work to be done when it comes to self-love. Create a bond with the silence in your mind, whisper to yourself that you are safe, you are protected, you are heard. You are here to break generational habits that no longer serve your authentic being. You are here to create magic, you have purpose, you matter.
Stillness is not a punishment but a method to choose awareness over ignorance. Once you acknowledge that voice within that is fighting to be heard, you will naturally fall into alignment with your power.
For me, my experience here in this world as a human being comes down to this; why help one person, when I am here to help many?
Choose stillness today and put the chaos in your mind aside. Value your existence. Fall in love with yourself. Now is the time.