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In Passing

Death as Transition
Article by Tom Gilbert - © April 29, 2013

I've often wondered at the analogy some use about dying, that it is like the passing of a baton. We are carrying the "baton" of this life and when we die we pass it off. I must admit I like the image of our carrying something through life, be it our gift, our personality, or our essence, that is left behind as we pass over to the next life or plane of existence.

I fully recognize that some people don't believe there is something else after this life. I respect their viewpoint. But my life experience, particularly being around dying family members, tells me otherwise. I feel it in my heart that there is another place we go when we die. We leave this life and step into the next.

In passing - it's a phrase that is with me again. It accompanied me when my mom died and six years later when my dad passed away. Two days ago my aunt died. She was 88 and lived a good life, full of adventure, travel and a variety of experiences. She was modest and quiet, didn't like to talk about herself, but she knew a lot and loved to read books on history. She was passionate about the Egyptians. The last book I saw her working her way through a few weeks ago was about the early Hopi civilization.

During her final days as the pancreatic cancer took its toll she spent much of her time in bed or on her couch. She had twenty-four hour hospice care. Her daughter, Chip, my cousin, spent as much time with her as she could. Her other daughter, Judy, made it out from California this past weekend in time to say her goodbyes. Her two cats, Ramses and Isis, siamese felines with acute sensibilities, spent time with her, keeping watch and company. She loved them dearly and the feeling was clearly mutual.

Aunt Liz was my mother's older sister. Pancreatic cancer also took my mom's life in 2006 (Opening Death's Door). Everyone else in Liz's immediate family had already passed on. Her mother, whom we called Nana, died many years ago. And her father died when she was barely twenty. So I never knew him, but from what I've been told he was a kind and loving man. Liz grew up quick when he died too young. She helped handle family matters. Later she left her Boston home and planted herself in California. It was the beginning of her adventures that included visits to many countries and marriages to two good men who preceeded her in death.

In passing. Now she is gone and I am again contemplating our place in life. It is inevitable to do that. The older we get and as family and friends pass on we start considering our own mortality. And we (should) think about our legacy. Why are we here? What are we doing with our precious and sacred lives?

I am glad that my aunt was here in New Mexico the past four years so I could know her better and spend time with her. I do wish we'd documented more of her life. I preach the importance of that regularly from the pulpit of this website, but unfortunately I am not always practicing what I preach.

In  passing. Don't let the days go by without capturing time with loved ones. Get the stories, yes, but also spend the quality time. Each of us has a gift and it is that baton of our unique talents and personalities, given to us to share with others.


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