“Life is not separate from death.
It only looks that way.”
It happened on November 4th. My Father passed away, at age 93. Over the rainbow bridge. Off to another world, where he will probably catch up with all the dogs in his life, without any suffering and free from pain.
The last time I have seen him alive was on Sunday, Nov 1. The nursing home brought him to the hospital because he couldn’t swallow well enough and he suffered from severe seizures in his legs. On that Sunday, he was already very weak. He could only speak a few words, no longer full sentences. My purpose for this day was to be with him, to hold his hand and to reassure him that everything would be all right.
Reflecting my Father’s life and our relationship
When I was driving home, already knowing that he would pass away soon, I was reflecting a lot: his life, his impact on my life, our father/daughter relationship that wasn’t an easy one. But in the middle of this difficult, sad and somehow irrevocable situation, I was also happy about myself. After many years of my adult life, I could now simply love him as my Father, with no further negative emotions and attachments. I have worked on that for a couple of years in many iterations to forgive all the difficult situations I experienced with him, and all the situations in which I thought he didn’t treat me the right way. Today, I know that he always did his best. From his perspective, of course.
Do you know what the most difficult step was for me? It was to forgive myself, that I didn’t realize earlier in my life how difficult and horrible it was for him to grow up in Nazi Germany with a Half-Jewish mother who was kept in a secret place. For him, there was never a light-hearted youth. Not a single day. Whatever he said to somebody, had to be well thought through. If not, it could mean the death of his Mother. Imagine this for a moment. So, he became an expert in not saying anything, and not discussing things. Instead, he became an expert in talking only to his dog, Mohrle. As I know from the very few things he shared from his youth, Mohrle was the most important living being for him when he was growing up. Today, living with two beautiful tom cats, I exactly know what that means.
This horrible experience determined his future behavior on so many levels. As an example, he always used the third person when he was talking about himself. In fact, he never talked about himself, it was “one” not “I”. The way he had to grow up also determined how he behaved in his marriage and how he raised us children. I was born when he was already 45, as the third child of the family. His main focus was to raise us as young adults. We didn’t have a light-hearted, playful childhood. Being children, doing childish things; that didn’t exist in his world. He was focused on our education, pushed us to performance, performance and performance. And he wanted us to fit in the system, to have a safe life.
As a young child, I was forced to hike, every single day of our vacation, year after year. Whenever I fell and ended up with a bloody knee, he simply took my hand and said, “nothing happened, keep going”. You can imagine how I was feeling as a child. Today, I also know that these early experiences impacted my staying power, my “keep going” attitude, whatever happens. Just an example.
Letting things go
Driving home this Sunday, Nov 1, feeling that the death already entered the space, all past problems were no longer relevant. Those past issues became meaningless. I had no attachments to any past issues: not to the fact that he never told me that he loved me, and not the fact that he almost never hugged me, or never called me except the one time when I was around thirty, and my life was a complete disaster. Now, it was all good. I know that he always loved me, he simply could not articulate it. Instead, he showed his emotions via the dogs; he had later in his life, Teddy, Fido and Altan. And that was the way how we connected again. Deeply. Via the dogs.
But to feel this way, I had to do my homework. I had to forgive everything that was painful in the past. I had to let things go, to put the father/daughter relationship on another level, a more spiritual level. That was a long process for me. The last piece of forgiveness work was done this summer in Scotland, at Lendrick Lodge, as part of a spiritual leadership program.
For me, it was the only way to help him in this situation, to help him to pass away in peace. My mental and energetic focus over the next few days was to help him to let things go, to find peace, to leave his physical existence as peaceful as possible.
His passing away – slowly and then suddenly
This Sunday was the last time that I have seen him alive. The doctors in the hospital called me on Monday afternoon to tell me that he was suffering from a remarkable brain tumour. This tumour was already destroying his body functions.
I was supposed to meet my Father and the doctors on Nov 4 to discuss the next steps regarding a pain therapy. When I arrived at the hospital, I couldn’t go into his room. I asked a nurse what was going on. She didn’t tell me anything, talked to a doctor instead. Then, she came back and told me that he had just passed away, a few moments before. He simply stopped breathing. Something I have expected. Of course. But not at this moment. I asked her if I could see him. She said yes, and then she had concerns that I would crash right here in the hospital because she has seen tears in my eyes. Of course, she didn’t know me. The very few people who had the gift to experience my vulnerable, and sensitive soul, know this situation and that there is nothing to worry about for them. Whenever something or someone is really touching my heart, I have tears in my eyes. Often, this is simply a sign of a moment that’s deeply touching my soul, my heart, my body and my mind. And that happened here. I said, “no worries, I won’t crash.”
He made it. He was now already free from pain, from suffering, and the tumour couldn’t hurt him anymore. He was already in transition, and being with him during this phase was a gift for me, definitely not a reason to crash.
The moments I could spend with him during his transition were a real gift. I have held his hands that became colder with every moment, and I reassured him again that he was forgiven, cleansed and free. Free to fly as high as possible in his new world.
The funeral was two weeks later, family, friends, and neighbours. A procedure that was totally against his thoughts and beliefs, on the one hand. But, on the other hand, he insisted on it. A situation that showed his multifaceted character.
Whenever you would have had a chance to chat with him, he would have described himself as an atheist. The death as the end of his physical existence was for him the end of everything. “Then, I will only see the radish from the bottom of my grave” was his way to describe his viewpoint. There is nothing right or wrong. It was his viewpoint. But he never managed it to leave the church and to stop supporting an institution he didn’t like. In Germany, you pay an additional tax to support the church if you are a member of the church. Something I have stopped doing more than twenty years ago, simply because I don’t believe in any specific religion. I’m more a spiritual person rather than a religious person. Leaving the church was something my Father never did. His reason was always “who will take care of my funeral when I’m no longer in the church?”
He got his funeral. I tried to integrate something in the ceremony he would have loved. The last piece of music at the funeral was “Echo of a star”, a beautiful song of singer and songwriter Pratibha Ma, a dear friend of mine. She had written this song when her Mother died. So, it was perfect for my Father’s funeral. And Pratibha was more than happy when I asked her if we could integrate her song in his funeral ceremony.
I hope my Father will find the peace he deserves wherever he is now. I hope that he could already catch up with his dogs, with Mohrle, Teddy, Fido and Altan, beautiful souls who passed away earlier, waiting for him. I also hope that he could meet Legend, a beautiful, older horse that passed away in the same week at the animal paradise, at Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary.
I will have to define that I don’t want a funeral “event” like this. Definitely not. I want my dead body to be burned. My ashes should be spread at my spiritual home in Scotland. The people there will always know what to do with my ashes.