Learning From Death: A Mother’s Greatest Teacher

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Learning From Death | WillowEOL.com

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Twenty-five years ago, Akasha learned about life from her dying eleven-year-old daughter, Sarah. In a recent conversation Akasha described Sarah’s death as a “beautiful experience that profoundly changed who I am and the way I live my life.”

I can’t imagine losing my daughter nor seeing the gifts that might bring. And, truth be told, when I first heard Akasha’s story I wondered if her attitude was a defence mechanism against the pain of losing her child. However, Akasha helped me understand how beauty and mystery emerged from the heartbreak and sorrow of her daughter’s death.

Akasha credits Sarah’s illness and death as a source of deep healing for both of them. Sarah’s acceptance of death was one of Akasha’s greatest challenges but in the end, offered many gifts.

“Through her dying, Sarah called me to change. In order to be with her I had to be the one who changed. I couldn’t change her. I knew that before, but this was profound. I got it on a totally different level.”

Akasha witnessed her daughter being her true self and eliciting that in others. Akasha told me that if it weren’t for that witnessing, she wouldn’t accept her own wisdom in the way she does today.

Constantly letting go yields gratitude and wisdom.

This mother learned how to listen to her sick daughter’s needs and wants, even though they often were contrary to her own. Akasha learned to let go—over and over again—and to be present to her daughter’s journey without having to fix or change anything. With less than a twenty-percent chance of survival with treatment of her brain tumour, Sarah didn’t want more interventions and the expected consequences. For Akasha, “It meant that I had to let go of wanting her to live. I had to constantly let go.”

She explained, “What was difficult for me was to let go of my desire for her to grow up to see who she would become. I still grieve that I’ll never have a grown daughter, be able to give her the things I didn’t get as a daughter, and have the relationship with an adult daughter different than the one I had with my mother.”

Akasha told me that in the end she was grateful for Sarah making the choices she did. “She taught me so much! It changed the way I look at my life and my son’s life. I have a much deeper appreciation for having a family and being present on this earth.”

Honouring Life’s Great Teacher: Death

It seems Akasha can’t get enough of exploring the reality of her own mortality and as she says, “honouring death.” She attended numerous WILLOW workshops including Departure Directions three times! She’s been at most of our Reality of our Mortality Learning Circles to offer her wisdom and learn and listen to others which in turn supports her own self discovery.

Akasha perceives the gifts from her daughter’s death as a form of “resourcing wisdom from within.” These gifts fuel her journey which she describes as “a quest to wake up to life in a way that enables me to die at peace.”

I wonder if it’s time we all give death it’s rightful designation, as life’s great teacher.

What about you?

How has a profound loss also been a gift for you?

In what way has death been your teacher?


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  • Lorraine Robinson May 16, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    The courses you are offering are seem valuable for some people. That is a good thing. Death can be a teacher if one chooses to learn from the experience. Some remain bitter for years or forever. There is a difference in Sudden Death and gradual death, hence the teachings are different. My experiences offered deaths from our major causes, Suicide, Drunk Driver, Cancer, Heart Attack and Heart Failure. (daughter, grandson, brother, husband, 2nd husband) All but the last were sudden. There is no preparation in advance. Death was still not a popular subject to discuss. However there have been leaps in a positive open direction. Many years of personal search has gifted me with understanding and acceptance. For that I am truly thankful. All my relations.

    • Oy, what a whole lot of loss Lorraine. Thank you for highlighting the distinctions between sudden and anticipated deaths and the layers of difference that come with our individual circumstances and each unique death. It’s inspiring to hear that your personal search has made a difference for you.

      • Lorraine Robinson May 17, 2018 at 3:12 pm

        Thank you. I highly recommend any courses you offer when or if one searches for: every cloud has a silver lining as often told to me… knowing now that really, no one knew what to say, if one lives long enough there might be! all but one of those deaths I experienced happened in less than a two year frame. Viva Victor Frankl! his book a godsend then.

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