From the heart- a 15 day journal exercise Part 13: The Act of Dying

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.


Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

Part 5: Renewing Evolution

Part 6: Famous Last Words

Part 7: Fear of Fear

Part 8- Noticing

Part 9: A Commitment to Life

Part 10: Fear of Dying

Part 11: Fear of Death

Part 12: The Moment of Death

Part 13: The Act of Dying

1. I return to a journal entry October 26, 2012:

In keeping with Dad’s wishes, I documented our last day together.

I came up early in the morning yesterday and spent some hours by myself with Dad before the rest of the family arrived for our daily vigil.

I set up the space  I had an intense need to offer some kind of guidance for him.

I played the Tibetan Book of the Dead audio for Dad.  We were not interrupted and it was very powerful.

My father’s feet showed signs of mottling, so I had a lovely gentle conversation with the nurse and we inspected him and nodded silently to each other.  Dad continued his rhythmic breathing. interrupted here and there with some abrupt harsh intakes of breath.  His heart beat on, but there were arrhythmic moments and his pulse was weak.

His senses were shutting down.  Hearing though may be one of the last things to go.

I felt he needed to hear more gentle guidance, so I played him Swedish lullabies into his left ear, sung by his favorite actor, Allan Edwall:

The family arrived and we spent another beautiful day together.

My friend, Darcy, dropped off Sunshine Cake:

We played some of Dad’s favorite Swedish comedy and some of his favorite Disney movies:

The artist’s hand lies still.

Staff came in regularly to tend him and to check in.  The doctor felt Dad could hang on another two weeks.  I was confused as it did not feel right intuitively, and felt a panic well up.  I did not want Dad to suffer any more.

We had a lot of family discussions and then we packed up around 8:00/8:30 PM and turned off the lights except for the Christmas lights and diffuser.  Dad was peaceful and apparently painfree.  I sensed he needed time to concentrate and to complete the journey on his own.

15 minutes after we left, care aide Kim went in and checked on him and he was still breathing.  Then care aide Mike went in and discovered that Dad had stopped breathing.  I received the call as my son and I bit into our dinner at Burgoo.

We quickly headed up and when we walked into the room, Dad was surrounded by his beloved caregivers.  They had tended him so beautifully.

My son Julian, my brother Fredrik, my brother Anders and my sister-in-law Charmaine and I sat for an hour talking, laughing, sighing, breathing, planning, sharing shots of Dad’s whiskey in his honor.  Dad’s “baby,” Tobey, lay on Dad’s legs as we awaited the transfer of Dad’s body.

Today we will be sorting his room.  I am filled with joy, relief, love, sadness and all the beautiful emotions a daughter can feel losing her beloved father.  I have also lost my best friend and I sense that once the numbness wears off, I will experience intense loss in this regard, but I accept and welcome it for I am so lucky to have had such a friendship.

Much love to all of you.

I feel my Dad doing his signature thumbs up!

You can read the book I created with my father (PDF file):

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

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This is how it is to die:

A sense of lightening, an expanding, a floating free…

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3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

(“The Sheltering Sky” – Paul Bowles)

[Thank you, Emma Varley]

4. Today’s angel card(s):

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When I draw a blank angel card, I smile, as I take it as my mom and dad telling me: YOU GOT THIS.  It is up to you.  Trust.  Stay in the “don’t know mind.”

Check out:

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