Death is in the room – powerful conversations

Once you accept that you will die soon, the “knots” of life loosen up. I say this, as I saw it happening to my dad. When he signed the notice of termination of his flat, I knew that he accepted that there is no way back (home). After that symbolic moment, letting go everything else of his life became much easier.

I was very moved when he signed the notice of termination. Rationally speaking, I knew that there was a clear reason why he so easily had got a bed in that palliative care hospice. His body was getting weaker week after week, because of his advanced cancer and the fact that since months his was hardly eating anything.

But when you see a person you love, day-by-day, this rational judgment is not evident. One day I walked in the room and he was reading a newspaper in the armchair. I sat down and we chatted for hours. Another day I came in and he couldn’t stand up from his bed without my help.

In moments like this, every day is a surprise: ups and downs follow each other and after each low, you just hope that things will anyhow become better. During these visits I felt as if I was on an emotional roller coaster, quickly moving up and then down. Even if, despite the oscillations, I noticed how things were moving downwards along this trajectory I could not foresee.

After the signature of the termination letter of the flat, I started organizing the cleanup. I did the administrative issues, paid his bills and put all his clothing in bags to give to charity. Doing something concrete felt good, but at the same time, it was a very strange process to go through all the stuff he had accumulated during his lifetime.

I was entering his very private sphere, and I felt a bit uncomfortable about it (as if suddenly you could enter into the mind of someone and hear his thoughts…), meanwhile, every object made me reflect. What is the story of this hand made walking stick? Why did he buy so much cheap crap? When did he paint that sketch?

I loved his bookshelf. It was a mirror showing the interests of his life: there were a lot of books about the history of antique cultures and their symbols. There were books about languages, religions, philosophy, paintings, and arts, but also many about the natural environment and sacred-energetic places of the planet. His big passions about geomantic, the Celtic culture, anthroposophy, and labyrinths stood out. All topics I knew so little about.

When I went to visit him, after these box-packing mornings, I had a lot of questions to ask him. After some warm up time, during which he came back from his being half asleep and half awake state, he started answering and telling me the stories of his life.

Usually, I’m not very good at dealing with things, when they are slow and when discussions don’t get to the point. But this time it was different, I felt as if time did not matter and I did not feel it flow.

Every moment, every story, every conversation was unique. It was as if the awareness of his impending death changed my way of looking at things: it was as if suddenly, I was looking at life with a telescope that sharply focussed on the truly important things but could not focus on the normal things of the everyday life.

I did not only had this feeling when I was in my dad’s room but also when I walked around in town. I felt extremely disconnected from the people strolling on the lakeside during these Sunday afternoons while licking ice-creams and talking about football. Instead, I felt connected to the moon appearing in the sky, the geometrical patterns the waves drew on the water surface of the lake or to the striking green trees of the park.

So many times while listening to the stories of my dad I was so moved. And he too. He told me the same stories I already knew about, but with a new level of depth. I knew for instance that he went traveling to Israel and Palestina when he was young without a cent in his pockets. But now, I discovered why he started traveling: he was looking for a humanity he could not find at home.

The relationship his father had with him and his siblings where everything else than based on love, respect, and support. He flew from that broken family, looking for a place where he could just be whoever he was. He was looking for a place where someone else did not try to put him in a mold, but where he could express himself freely.

Funny enough, he found places like this in countries where he could not speak the local language and nevertheless could connect with people by using his hands and facial expressions. He was welcomed into the homes of families and felt safe when sleeping on the beach under the stars in Palestina.

We had many of those conversations. For the first time, he told me about his feelings, about his hopes and personal challenges. This was so new for me. During most of his life, he had rather been introverted, avoiding talking about the difficult times and mostly just complaining and finger pointing when talking about unresolved conflicts.

Now it was as if by talking about his life, the great moments he had, his challenges and conflicts, he could understand himself better than before. I felt as if he was going through the process of accepting what happened during his life and by doing so he could let go his inner tensions and struggles. Leaving space for appreciating his uniqueness and his qualities.

At some point, he said: “I feel as if a lot of knots of my life, are loosing up.”

I was so moved by that sentence. I knew, that we were on the right way: I felt as if now we were swimming deep underwater, looking in the dark of the abyss and discovering colorful fishes and unknown algae that before looked like water monsters.