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When all is said and is all that remains

Updated on February 19, 2015

What's in a name?

Pat and her daughter Sophia (Debbie)
Pat and her daughter Sophia (Debbie)

Just Like That

Life is really funny sometimes and often full of surprises. I woke up in the morning, got into my routine and I almost made it through the day without incident. After the usual call to check in with the Mrs. before my trip home, I saw the text: "I'm at the er with mom...this is it...I'm with the chaplain now...she's can stop to say goodbye if you want to."

Yep, just like that...Bam! That's just one of the many, many ways life ends; just like that. One minute you're here, the next minute you're gone. I realize this isn't the first time you've heard it explained that way and it probably won't be the last. How life ends isn't what this hub is about. These words are intended to explore a little of the mystery, the mystery of the dash in between the date we're born and the date we cross over into eternity and maybe even what comes before and after those events.

Doing what we always did.

Sophia, Me and Mom at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC
Sophia, Me and Mom at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC

A Tribute

My mother-in-law, was a spry woman for most of her life and though this story was precipitated by her untimely yet expected passing it represents my questions about birth, death and the dash in between, the time expressed by the dash between the date of our birth and the date of our death. I have posted below a couple of links to poems and stories about that dash.

Before I go on with this hub I would like to pause to thank my mother-in-law for all she has done for me. She always provided humor...I think that was part of what kept her going. She loved to laugh and had a laugh with a snort that I will remember for a long time. Mom was also a bit of a gambler, she loved word puzzles, was captivated by the news and weather, and was an avid New England Patriot and Boston Celtic fan. She was also a really good bridge player as well as a woman who had had both a hard life and paradoxically an easy one.

These descriptions are, of course, just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. It isn't necessary to go into greater detail, but let me just say here that "I love you Mom," and you will be missed. I am grateful for the short time we had together. I know your suffering is gone and I hope you'll find a way to get word to us about how grand it is wherever you are!

The Lesson

I know it's cliché but, life goes on. There is a next day and there are always changes that we must accept and endure or resist and prolong. Standing in the emergency room with my wife whose mother's lifeless body lay next to us, I began to soak in the energetic change flowing through us. Just a few days before we had dinner together, a practice Mom insisted on as a way of having some fellowship. After all she was a widow and even though there were a couple hundred residents in the retirement community in which she lived, she was just...lonely.

I had chauffeured her to and from her weekly hair appointment and got her back safely home to her independent living facility which was home for the past couple of years. She was glad to be back there after a near fatal experience with a lung infection and subsequent stay at a nearby rehabilitation center. She was, well, on the road to recovery. Then came the call that put me into the ER with her daughter who, spectacularly and miraculously was as composed as I had ever seen her in the presence of death., not to mention the death of her mother.

It must have been very difficult to watch the administering of all the protocols that go on in an ER when a patient is dying, especially when that patient is your mother. I don't know how Sophia managed, except to note that as she arose in the morning she had made it a practice to ask the universe for a miracle. This may have been it, since miracles come in all forms, even nurses and chaplains, who understand the physical and emotional heartache associated with the grief of losing someone close to you. After the chaplain assured us that Mom's spirit had departed we began to say our goodbyes and reluctantly moved towards the difficult reality of physical separation. I had been with my wife and her mother for 12 sometimes tumultuous years, especially the last 3 or so since Mom's lungs had begun to fail her.

Well, this is where change steps in. As I walked away, the word protocol seemed to edge it's way into my mind. It began with the sequences performed by hospital staff based on each unique situation and morphed into the agreements we make with ourselves and others. As I further pondered life and death it occurred to me that the only protocols or agreements that actually exist are the one we conjure up from this human experience. In reality, there are no protocols about life. There is simply birth, which we have little or not say in, death which seems to have its own appointed time...and of course, the dash in between we call life and that we've been told is a dream or an illusion. I know, my mind is a dangerous place to be.

The Flow of Change

Photo by Sophia Phillips Noll
Photo by Sophia Phillips Noll

The Ride Home

The few minutes I spent in the car on the way home seemed as a passing millisecond. In that span of time, or so it felt, all logic escaped me, making way for imagination to unfold. When we're born we come into this existence naked bringing with us memories of the unknown mysteries of our connection with universe. Did we request this assignment? How? For what reason? I still do not know for certain what the answers are to these questions. Ironically, when we depart this planet, we carry with us nothing, short of the clothes on our backs, and re-enter the portal from whence we came. Perhaps we are carrying back our experiences here and if we are lucky, energy from some of the relationships as well. Maybe that's the real reason we are to be selective of the company we keep here on earth? Then again, maybe not!

The image of Patricia's lifeless body at rest peacefully on the hospital gurney reminded me of a stark contrast of the reality of this life; we're born, we live, we die. Now I understand Sophia's oft repeated question over the years...Why? Why go through all of this if there isn't a reason, or at least one that is greater than...because we're supposed to learn something! Is there a reason to choose to enter this human form, to struggle, suffer and depart for no good cause?

I'm of the persuasion that there is a grand design and subsequently some form of grand designer, but in what form, with what purpose. It truly is an indefinable, ineffable, unutterable mystery to me. Now, I know there are many religious beliefs and practices, each having its own conviction as to what happens pre and post life, but the proof of any theory seems in short enough supply as to be questioned, even by the most open individual, of which I feel I'm a subscriber.

Our Common Bond

For all of humanity, birth, life and death are common. Yet because of our unique and distinctive experiences which govern our perspective and ultimately our choices, the dash in between birth and death can be different for each of us. The paradox here for me is that what we have in common is subject to change only by changing our conditioning and ability to choose, otherwise that commonality is exactly the same for all of us. I am so grateful for this common bond and the for capacity to choose my view of it because it is this understanding that permits me live my life to the fullest!

Thanks Mom, thank you Sophia, for sharing your lives with me. May peace always reign in our matter where we are!

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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing your memories of your mother-in-law and your interesting thoughts about the mystery of existence. I'm sorry for your loss. Your final message is beautiful!

    • Born2care2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 

      3 years ago from Asheville NC

      Thank you Paula,

      Frankly, the writing was a lot easier than the living. Mom (my mother-in-law) had a really hard life. It started out tough and didn't get easier. It was also inspirational in a way as I got to see another example of the consequences of our decisions, as well as some of the downright nasty things that life throws at us for whatever reason. That's what keeps me writing. I only wish I did a better job of reaching our younger generations with my message of hope...I'm open to suggestions! Oh, and deeply grateful to witty, kind and experienced folks like you!

      Thank you my friend!


    • fpherj48 profile image


      3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Bruce.....Always enjoyable and inspiring to read your wonderful works....this lovely piece is no exception. As we grow older, we become so much more introspective, don't we...

      I could easily feel the love & gratitude felt for this special person in your I'm certain she always did. Wishing you Peace & many Blessings...UP++++Pinned & Tweeted. Paula


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