To let go is to release, to surrender, to trust the process..
My younger brother died last week. He was 8 years younger than me so I knew him before he was even born and I remember the day like it was yesterday even though it was over 60 years ago. I remember it as possibly the most exciting day of my life and I was able to tell him that in those last days when he was clearly slipping away. He had had a stroke …. An incredibly young and fit man who was healthy and strong and devoted to nature.
He was making an amazing recovery from the stroke and, as he did not have a wife or children, I became his next of kin and he was discharged to live with me to continue his rehabilitation. We had a wonderful two weeks and then he suddenly had a second stroke. This time a ruptured aneurysm, and it was massive. He was given two hours to live. He was blue lighted to the nearest high-tech ICU and defied all odds by regaining consciousness and coming through several procedures. We were warned that his physical strength along with a phenomenal spirit may well keep him alive but that the damage to his brain would most likely leave him severely impaired both physically and intellectually.
Although he was wired up to more tubes than should have been possible, he was never on actual ‘life support’ so there was never an opportunity to make the life/death decision for him and so he kept on coming through and proving that his mental function was much greater than could have been anticipated. And, while greatly impaired, it was clear that with time and intensive rehab, his physical function was also very promising. One by one the tubes were removed and the return to health continued, albeit with the highs and lows of a roller coaster. He was not for letting go and as his communication improved so too did his chances and he was given a place in a highly sought after brain rehab unit. This had taken three months but finally we got there… only for him to get a brain infection and be swiftly moved back to acute neurology. The following three weeks were a blur of antibiotics and Donald coarsing his way through infection after infection. He pulled through again and was on his way back into rehab but it was not to be. Another infection, more brutal than the last, got hold of him again and his strong, lithe little body just could not sustain this one. It was decided to put him onto palliative care and let him go.
This last stage came about so suddenly and was brutal. He knew what was happening (I told him gently and carefully – he had to know) and he was scared. I was not alone in this mission, I had the unconditional support and strength of my dear and trusted friend, Martin, who held me energetically, physically and emotionally so I could do the same for Donald. We took turns at sleeping through the night and holding him, reassuring him and encouraging him to let go. It was a heartbreaking gift and a sacred experience. On the final morning he had relaxed and was in a peaceful and deep sleep. It was beautiful. But the most beautiful part was when he suddenly opened his eyes, looked directly at me. (his eyes hadn’t opened for four days), turned and looked directly at Martin, then looked up to a spot on the ceiling, staring wide eyed for 10-15 seconds. I remember jumping out of my chair and saying ,excitedly, “who has come for you Donald?” He closed his eyes, put his head back on the pillow and was gone. He had finally let go. And he was at peace.
I am relating this story as it is still raw and real and the message is so profound that I believe it merits sharing. We are all going to die and, regardless of how accepting we are of this fact, or what our beliefs are, death is unknown and it is the biggest, and most important letting go we will ever do. And we have no choice.
There are many letting go’s throughout our lifetimes and they all carry pain and freedom. We hold onto the familiar, even when it no longer serves us, because it is known. We hold on to jobs, relationships, houses, friendships…. The list is endless. Of course, it is important to work through difficulties and challenges before moving on or else we just reel them in again until the lesson is learned. Sometimes letting go can be running away which is not going to work either. So, we must be careful to not run away prematurely and neither to hold on to what has already gone.
Having helped my baby brother with his biggest letting go, I am acutely aware of taking on board the reassurance and encouragement that Martin and I were able to give him, that it was safe for him to let go. To witness the childlike beauty with which he was able to trust us and to let go so gracefully is something I feel I have been trusted with, allowed to hold and must continue to hold and share for reasons that will surely become clear as the future unfolds. Trust the process, it is safe to let go and you are enough.
Kate Mchardy MA(Hons) PGCE MSPH. Spiritual coach, teacher and healer.
The University of Light Group
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