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Lessons from the Dying

Dan called me to his room. He looked perplexed and asked "who are all these people Barbara?"

I looked around the room. On the walls there were posters of various people and events. On his dresser were pictures of his mother, late partner and various friends who were no longer alive. The sun was shining through the windows, and there was gentle music playing in the background. It seemed to anyone looking at the scene that Dan and I were alone. But were we? I looked at Dan, smiled, and said "Dan, these are your guides." He smiled and relaxed back on the pillows, closing his eyes. "Oh good. I thought they would never get here. It's almost time isn't it?" "Yes it is. Are you ready?" "'s been a long time." I looked out the window into the court yard. Dan had been living at the hospice for longer that I had been there. When I arrived 3 years earlier, he had filled me in on what it was like to have AIDS. He taught me about the culture, what it was like to watch all of your friends die and wonder when your turn was coming. Dan's question was not unusual. I had heard various renditions of the same question over the years prior and since Dan's death. By the time I met Dan, death was not a stranger to me...professionally and personally. I had seen and experienced things that science cannot explain and indeed many just dismiss. Living creatures are made up of energy. It's our Spirit or Soul I suppose. We can feel it. Often times we can see it. We know when it's there, and we know when it's gone. Occasionally, we are blessed to see it leave. Dan. Greg. Paul. Shelly. Claudia. Michael. Steve. John. Mitch. These are just some of the countless names of men and women who taught me how to live while dying. Years previous to this, I was introduced to Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. This poem touched me deeply as I still had unfinished business around my fathers death when I was 16. I still carry this poem with me today. Peace, my heart, let the time for parting be sweet. Let it not be a death, but completeness. Let love melt into memory and pain into songs. Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest. Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night. Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence. I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way. Rabindranath Tagore, poem 61, published 1914 in "The Gardener". A week later, I watched Dan smile and then saw his Spirit leave his body and move on to what is next. His guides gently leading the way. Thank you Dan.

(c)2005 Barbara C. Phillips, NP is a board certified Geriatric and Family Nurse Practitioner with more than a few decades of experience. She is the founder of OlderWiserWomen™ where women are inspired to the freedom, magic, and wisdom of successful aging. Visit for your copy of “Celebrating You: 50 Tips for Vibrant Living.

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Mimi Rothschild

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder and CEO of the Global Grief Institute which provides Certification training programs forGrief Coach, Trauma Coach, End of Life Coach, and Children's Grief Coach. She is a survivor who has buried 3 of her children and her husband of 33 years. She is available for speaking engagements and comments to the press on any issue surrounding thriving after catastrophic loss. MEDIA INQUIRIES:

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