Lately, I’ve been reading a book titled “On Living” by hospice chaplain Kerry Egan.
When I like a book, I really, really like it.
(If I have it on loan from a friend or the library, sometimes I also consider not giving it back. Ever.)
In the case of “On Living,” keeping it with me as long as possible feels kind of the same as keeping my fear of death at bay.
You see, the moment I passed the ripe old age of 40, I began to develop what I can only realistically call “death anxiety.”
Basically, I am anxious about having to at some point in the future do something I have never done before and be able to do it well (very well, ideally).
For this reason, I find myself quite drawn to reading books about dying people, and people who work with dying people, and people who have had near-death experiences.
In lieu of any chance to actually practice death, I can at least read about it and learn all I can to try and prepare for the inevitable.
As it turns out, one of the most valuable bits of preparatory advice popped up right in the opening chapter of “On Living.”
A patient with advanced Alzheimer’s was having a rare lucid day, and she shared some advice that was clearly far too precious to be permitted to pass with her:
Whatever bad things have happened to you in your life, whatever hard things you’ve gone through, you have to do three things:
- You have to accept it.
- You have to be kind to it.
- You have to let it be kind to you.
Egan wrote that she returned to visit that patient many times, always hoping to learn more about how to let her “hard thing” be kind to her.
But the patient was never again lucid or conscious, and a few short months later she passed quietly in the night.
Like Egan, I am still pondering how to let my hard thing – my several hard things – be kind to me.
But also like Egan, I know that hidden within these three simple-sounding steps is a mentor with wisdom beyond any number of well-lived years.
In other words, I always have options.
For example, I can choose acceptance or non-acceptance.
I can choose whether to be kind or unkind to myself and to others.
And I can choose the company I keep – unkind company that drags me down or kind company that lifts me up and shows me my own potential and worth.
I can choose to accept my life, to be kind to it, to let it be kind to me.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you have a “hard thing” that you just can’t seem to make peace with no matter what you try? Do you think it might ever be possible to let that thing be kind to you? What might that feel like?