How I learned to embrace the experience of saying goodbye.
In recently watching “The Last Samurai”, with Tom Cruise, I began to contemplate the subject of death. I have come to realize that each culture deals with death in a unique manner. Samurai consider death to be sacred, an honor. In our culture, death is a subject that is so often avoided. We do not like to deal with death and dying, and do not seem to accept it as a valuable part of the life process. It is interesting to me that while the vast majority of our population professes to believe in a hereafter, the experience of dying is treated as something sad, and as a final goodbye.
Richard Bach says in his book, Illusions, “The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly.”
I have had seven recent experiences, and one in 1985, with people and pets dear to my heart making their transition from the physical world to the spiritual world. With each one, I have grown in my understanding of life, and of death. I will share with you what I learned during three of them as I journeyed from avoiding to embracing the experience of saying goodbye.
- All of life is change.
- Change is okay.
- It’s okay to let go of what was and make room for what is next.
- Those who have been near and dear to us will always live on in our heart.
- They are not gone, simply changed in form.
- If they are making their transition out of this physical world, you – and they – both got exactly whatever was needed and perfect.
- Their transitioning and your saying “see you later” is the next perfect step for you and for them in the Divine Plan.
- It is our judgments and attitudes that result in sadness, regret, longing, grief and sense of loss.
Bumble Bee Set Free and Christian’s Intuition
Bumble Bee was our old family dog. Bumbles, as we called her, had had a host of physical difficulties, and I had scheduled an appointment with the vet for that day.
My youngest son, Christian, came in for breakfast that morning and announced, “Mom, I don’t think I’m supposed to go to school today.”
“Yeah, right, Christian”, I said.
He replied firmly, “No, Mom. I am serious. I don’t think I am supposed to go to school today.”
I told him, “Okay. Go into the living room (we always did a lot of prayer and meditation there) and get really clear about it.”
He came out of the living room in about five minutes and said, ” I am clear that I am not supposed to go to school.”
Thank goodness I had the wherewithal at that hour of the morning to stay in integrity with not insisting that we live “in the box” and override his guidance by insisting that he go to school!
I totally did not put the vet appointment and his guidance together in my head, and later that morning proceeded to the vet’s with our old Bumbles. At the vet’s office, I listened to the long laundry list of what all was wrong with her body, the extent of treatment required, and the fact that her body was probably not up to undergoing that treatment. It became imminently clear that she was ready to go on to the next world and be free of her earthly pains. I was totally devastated. I was not prepared. Then Spirit gave me confirmation that my sense was correct, and that assisting her in exiting this physical life was exactly what needed to be done.
I literally “saw”, written in the air the quote from Burkus, “All earthly pain is due to our inability to set free that which needs to be free.”
At that point, I gave the vet the go ahead, knowing that doing so was obviously in Divine order. In my pool of tears, I found strength in my heart and soul knowing that I had been guided to do exactly what I had done. I waited in the car while the vet performed the euthanasia. I could not face her death.
I had a sense of her saying to me, “I tried to hold on for you, Dr. Joy.”
I knew then that she had been ready to go for some time, and that my attachment to her had kept her bound to this earth.
Driving home with her body in the trunk of the car, I thought, “You know, his staying home today will be perfect. I can console him and be there for him.” Boy did this turn out to be a joke. When I told him what happened at the vet’s office, it was me that fell apart, and it was Christian that stoically supported me while we finished saying goodbye to our well-loved dog. I was ready to prepare a burial place for her body in the back yard. Christian insisted that, true to some esoteric teachings that cremation actually helps the soul to be set free to go on to the next world, we have her body cremated. I knew that he was right. He was there to support me in my letting go of a wonderful friend that had served the boys and me so well.
I learned a couple of very valuable lessons that day.
- Honor others’ intuition!
- Don’t teach a child what to know; teach a child how to know.
Our New Pet and The Power Struggle to Let Go
About a year after Bumbles had made her transition, my youngest son acquired a puppy.
The night I met Possum, I was emphatically told, “Her name is Possum, and she is MY dog.”
She was a beloved part of our family for 14 years. When he left home for college, she developed some lumps around her mammary glands. In time, they had to be removed, and she recovered nicely. We went through a few years of Christian moving in and moving out while he attended college. I once told him that I was getting whiplash watching him move in and out of the house. Then the day came that he packed up all his childhood belongings, and moved his bed to his new apartment. I knew that he was gone for good. Possum knew this as well. I believe that Possum’s purpose was to be with him, and when he was gone, she was finished with what she came here to do. Within a short time, she developed a malignancy that was aggressive and inoperable.
I believe that all things can be healed through a shift in consciousness. I also believe that we have spiritual support in all areas of our lives, including correcting physical imbalances. With great conviction, I proceeded to lay hands on the dog. I pumped her full of every possible vitamin and herbal supplement that was reported to help with cancer.
In a few weeks, I took Possum back to the vet. He was totally shocked when he walked into the room. He kept asking what I had done because she looked so good. I hate to admit this, but I was full of spiritual pride. The healing was a success.
Within a few days, everything changed. I had a very valuable lesson to learn. Sometimes, people and pets are ready to go. It is their choice.
Every time I got on the floor by the dog and proceeded to lay hands on her, she would literally get up and walk away. I would follow her. She would walk away again. It became a power struggle to get her to eat, and I was spending a couple of hours a day trying to find something – anything – that she was willing to swallow.
Then I moved into acceptance. I realized that she was ready to go. My son accepted it long before I did.
I watched him move from young man into adult man that day as he dug the hole for his beloved childhood friend. The last part of his childhood was leaving this physical life.
We found a vet that came to our home for the euthanasia. We wanted her last moments to be in her yard. I was busy supervising the vet, and busy seeing that my son was okay.
He looked at me and said, “Mom, touch her!”
Wow. I was going to have to take a step at dealing more closely with death!
My son, allowing himself to fully feel his emotions and his love, kept his heart open and his hands on her as she made her transition.
I grieved for a long time the loss of my son’s dog. I grieved for his loss. I grieved for my loss. I wished that my heart had been more open to have loved her more. Regrets. Always there seem to be regrets after a transition of a pet or a loved one. Something you wished you had done or said, and like Pete says in the movie, “Always” with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter, “It is the love that you hold back that causes you pain.” I finally finished my grieving process when I realized that my inner child needed to say goodbye to Possum. When that piece was completed, I finally came to peace. It took a year.
Uncle Harold and The Gift of Goodbye
This all prepared me for what was to come with my beloved Uncle Harold. In the fall of 2002, he was given two months to live. When he called me with the news, I didn’t believe it. The great thing is that he didn’t either! He continued to write his books and stay entertained with various projects at the nice age of 85. His first book was published that year.
I went through an immense healing of the layers and walls around my heart in spring of 2003 when I reconnected with the daughter that I had given up for adoption when I was fifteen. I had already done a lot of work around the experience, and finding her brought up the final layers. I had walled off my heart in big ways during the pregnancy, knowing that I could not keep her. During the signing of the adoption papers, and the brief moments that I was allowed to hold her, I learned to avoid, and to go numb during goodbyes. I had to do this to survive. No wonder I avoided dealing with deaths around me. It was a form of goodbye.
Now that my heart was more open than it had been in almost forty years, I cooked a batch of cornbread and went to see my Uncle Harold on Memorial Day, 2003. We had a wonderful visit, as always, and yet somehow this one was different. I was letting him love me.
Over the next many months, I visited him more than I had in the last several years. I was willing to have the experience of our closeness of the heart. I helped him edit his book, and made many country-cooking meals for him with love and joy. We talked about any and everything. I mentioned to him one day a regret that I had. He interrupted me exclaiming, “Regrets! G__D___ regrets!!!” I knew that he had been doing his “life review,” something that people often do before they go.
Looking back, I can see that he was doing everything that he could to be certain that I was going to be okay when he left. He managed to get me a mink jacket and an ocelot cape. He introduced me to some of his colleagues that might benefit me in my career. He gave me advice about picking a husband.
Perhaps the greatest gift that he gave me came one afternoon in his office while editing his book. We had spoken of my dysfunctional family, and he indicated that he knew that many of my needs had not been met in that family.
He said to me, “Doll, did you every wonder what it would have been like growing up here with us? We would have taken good care of you.”
I tearily responded, “Only about a million times!”
Pondering, he said, “I wonder why I didn’t adopt you – didn’t think about it at the time, I guess.”
My dreams had come true. I had just been adopted by loving parents. It was not about ME that all that abuse happened. I was lovable, worthy of being wanted by sane, successful, fun and loving people.
He told me that he was dying. He asked, “Will you promise me that you will see to it that this book gets published if I die first?” I promised that I would.
That was in January. I didn’t see him for a month because I got the crud and had quite a time getting over it. When I went back in February, what I saw was so shocking and upsetting to me that I had to leave. He was going downhill and fast. I left to get a grip on what I was feeling, and to deal with the reality that he really was leaving and that it wouldn’t be long.
Something about this triggered my inner child feelings. I was totally out of any sense of control over what I was feeling. I knew that I was irrational, and knew that I needed to get a grip. I reached out to a very wise rock, my eldest son, Sunny Vanderbeck. He gave me some wisdom that helped me come back to the here and now and to my adult self.
He said, “What is it about Uncle Harold moving on that is hard for you?”
I replied, “He’s one person that totally loves me!”
Sunny responsed, “Well you don’t seem to be running out of those!”
He was right.
He also presented the perception: “If Uncle Harold had to go a long way away, say India, for an extended trip, could you deal with it?”
“Yes” was my response. Though I wouldn’t like it, I could accept it. I had a long talk with my inner child and helped her move the bond that she had with her Uncle Harold to bonding with the adult me. I opened my heart to her and knew that I would now give that tender feeling part of myself the unconditional love and support that had been his gift throughout the years. This saw me through.
When I returned, I had reached a greater level of acceptance that it was true; my beloved Uncle Harold wasn’t going to live forever. He was already fifteen months past his doctor’s prediction. I moved into gratitude for the moments past, the moment present and the moments yet to come that we still had.
A few weeks before he made his transition, he called me on the telephone and asked very seriously, “If I were dying, would you come hold my hand?”
I knew that this would be my next step at being totally present while someone that I loved left this physical earth life. I agreed, with love, and it was a commitment that I intended to keep.
One Thursday night, he had given me a ticket to Bass Performance Hall. He insisted that I come to his house before the performance instead of driving straight there. I was so mad I could have chewed nails. I don’t know why I bothered to argue with him; he always got his way; he always won. Driving out to his house, it suddenly dawned on me: the reason he wanted me to go to his house was that he wanted to see me. I opened my heart back up and felt his love.
When I arrived, I heard his voice coming from down at the end of the hall, “You come down the hall here right now and give your uncle a great big kiss!” Even from his wheelchair, he loved giving orders, and of course we all obeyed.
“Okay Uncle Harold; it’s bright red. Where do you want it?”
He pointed to his left cheek and I gave him a great big kiss. He said, endearingly, “You look mighty fetching tonight.” I was all decked out to go to Bass Hall, and I was loving it that he was proud. I felt his love, and paternal approval.
After the performance, I went back to the house and he was eager to hear all about my adventure. We sat and had hot tea and cake, and then I played his Steinway Parlor Grand for him. He grew tired, and it was time for me to go. I had already hugged him, kissed him, and told him that I loved him several times that night and had already said good-bye for the evening.
I approached the front door, and I got a clear intuitive signal that said, “You go back and tell him that you love him and hug him again. This time make sure that ALL of your heart is open.” I did.
I hugged him and kissed him and said, “Uncle Harold, I love you.”
His response, from deep in his heart, “Oh honey, not nearly as much as I love you!”
My heart overflowed. That was the last time that I saw Uncle Harold fully conscious.
When I returned that Sunday, he was foggy from medication. All the while that we were in his back yard, him in wheel chair, planning a spring garden, I knew in my heart that he was just about done here. I sat with him as he ate grits and bacon, his last meal. I knew that it was time to let him go. He was ready.
Early the next morning he complained of chest pains, hospice was put on 24-hour duty, and he became only barely conscious at rare moments.
I got reports that he seemed to be fighting some things unseen to others that were scary to him. Several of us sent light to him and called in angelic assistance to clear the air for only love and light to be in his room.
I went to see him on Friday. His room felt light and airy and I was thankful that I had been called in to support him spiritually in moving to the next world in peace. It was time for me to honor the commitment that I had made to him. His wife, my Aunt Lou, was very concerned that he get rest, and wanted him to stay quiet. I went outside. I felt myself wanting to avoid the intimacy that I had promised him. A dear Osage Indian friend, Cherri, who had much experience with the elderly making their transition, “happened” to call me on the telephone. She encouraged me to follow through, and she was firm.
I bravely entered the room to complete my mission, my dear Uncle Harold almost in a coma. As Aunt Lou left the room, she instructed me to not talk to him and I agreed, having no intention of listening to her directives. She didn’t know what I knew, that this was the last time that I would see him alive in this physical world. I knew that I had things to say. I needed to tell him goodbye. The nurse sensed the preciousness of the moment and left the room. I held my uncle’s hand and told him how wonderful it was to have him in my life, and how much he had helped others and me along the way. I told him that recently he had reported to me that he had traveled to seventy-four countries, and been on twenty-two cruises.
“It is time now for you to go somewhere that you haven’t been in a very long time and have new adventures. You are loved very much. You can come and visit us in our dreams.” It is interesting that I said that, as it just kind of came out.
I suppose that I was guided.
I knew that he and I were complete with what we needed and were intended to share in this physical life. I embraced in my heart this final gift that my dear Uncle Harold had given me, the gift of a fully experienced goodbye. I was ready to let him go.
He passed on Sunday morning, in peace and in love. When I got the news, I remembered his saying many times, “Life is for the living.” His words of wisdom were like a torch burning brightly in my heart and soul. With some encouragement from my precious daughter-in-law, Tisha, I ate some chocolates and then went outside and planted a garden. I knew that he would have wanted me to keep moving forward with my life. I had to be grateful for all that we shared, and know that it was enough, perfect for us both, just what we needed.
Since his transition, he has come to me in my dreams many times. Always upon awakening, I feel my heart so full! I feel so loved, just as if I had seen him in the physical.
One night I dreamed that he had come back for a visit. I ran to greet him and give him a hug. I told him, “Uncle Harold, this world is different without you in it.”
He pondered for a moment, and said with his usual humor, “The other world is different now that I am there!”
I wrote the following in his honor:
I learned early on that any time spent with Harold Bell would always turn into an adventure. He always knew how to take a situation that may have seemed mundane to others, and turn it into something that we would all be talking about for years to come. My first memory of my dear Uncle Harold was when I was 5 years old. It was while visiting Lou, Harold and little tiny Robert in Houston that I lost my first tooth. His company car, complete with a Coca Cola sign on the side of it, made quite an impression on a five year-old little girl!
My relationship with him moved to a new level when I suddenly became a single parent of two small boys. We met frequently, and as I am sure you all remember, his first question was always, “How are you?” Then he always asked about my boys.
He had a huge heart and really did care. He always was interested in how my business was going, and how my personal life was progressing. Sometimes the report was great, sometimes not so great.
At the end of our meeting, regardless of how difficult things were, or how awesome things were, he always ended our time together by pointing his finger out in front of us as he said emphatically, “Well doll, straight ahead!!!!!!!!!”
I walked away from those visits with his words in my heart. Those words, and his belief in me and in the possibilities in my life gave me courage to face whatever was in front of me. And, I knew that I was loved.
He loved us all. He was there for us all through thick and thin, encouraging, scolding, having ideas, applauding, entertaining us, believing in us, loving us, and letting us love him. I watched him be a devoted husband and father, and patiently care for an elderly Mother for many years (and she was a challenge to all our patience!). His dedication to all those he loved was a great model to us all.
Though his voice and physical presence will be so greatly missed, his love, his wisdom, his sarcasm and laughter, and his belief in us and in the grand possibilities for all our lives will live on in all our hearts and his words that linger in our hearts will continue to be an inspiration to our dreams.
Harold Bell was finished with what he came here to this Earth to do.
As he goes onto his next adventure, we release him with love and with hearts overflowing with gratitude for his presence in our lives.
Now it is our turn to say to you: We thank you! We love you!
Well, Harold Bell – Straight Ahead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
His heart is free now ..and finally, so is mine.