on the dock

I just returned from spending three days with my 87 year old mother in Chicago. She is dying of cancer and under Hospice care. Given the circumstances, I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. So I considered this visit as possibly our last. Maybe that’s why it was so enjoyable. There was a gentleness and tenderness in the room with us. There was more listening. There was very little arguing. There was more gratitude and less criticism.

These are the visitors who might stop by when you treat any visit as the last visit. Of course I usually don’t think about my encounters with other people this way. I generally assume that I’ll see them again. Usually I am right. In my Mom’s case, I will be happy if I’m wrong.

When we treat our time with someone as our last encounter, it doesn’t mean we should be morbid. In fact, the opposite is true. I brought my Mom gifts – beautiful flowers, and a chocolate sweetened with Vermont maple syrup. We watched a few minutes of an old Frank Sinatra movie. We shared some Chicago stuffed pizza (delicious!). Meghan, the music therapist from Hospice, came by and we spent hours singing together while she played guitar.

If you plan on seeing someone again, you can spend much of the time complaining or talking about the weather. But if it’s your last visit, you may open up your heart to the other person and thank them for what they’ve given to you, even from a long time ago. You may say “I love you” more than once. Your hug might be a little firmer, and last a little longer.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our encounters could have these qualities? If we could touch each other with a bit more love and a slightly less hurriedness.

During the days I sat in my Mother’s room, I had nowhere else to go – nothing else to do. I rarely had to look at my watch. This may not be possible with everyone, all the time. But my visit with my Mom gave me a glimpse of what it can be like to connect to a human being without the burden of rushing, resentments, complaints, criticism, anger and self-preoccupation. What happened to all those irritating accessories? I must have left them in my luggage.

Thanks, mom.

 Gregg Krech will be leading the online course A Natural Aproach to Mental Wellness starting on September 16, 2015, based on his book on Japanese Psychology.

Author Bio

Gregg Krech

Gregg Krech Author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (2002)| Author, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness (2004, 2011)| Author, A Finger Pointing to the Moon (2000)| Editor, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living (1993-Present)| Director, ToDo Institute (Vermont) (1992-Pr......

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3 Comments

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  1. Joan 2 years ago

    Once again you have touched my heart deeply, Gregg. Since being introduced to Naikan, I have focused on this process. It’s similar to a dance between me and the other person, soul to soul. Some days are better than others. My mom is 93, and each day is a gift for both of us. Thank you for your timely reminder. Namaste.

  2. Jennifer 2 years ago

    Beautiful Gregg. Thank you for sharing. I recently learning my Dad has prostate cancer. I have a strained relationship with my family and his diagnoses has left me wondering what is really important. When talking to my husband about trying to repair my family relationship I said to him, “All I want is for Dad to be happy”. My husband replied, “Why don’t you wan’t the same for me?”. You see we’ve had a strained marriage for years and I’ve taken your relationship course twice. My first reaction was anger. How could he compare our relationship to my father having a terminal illness? Then I read this post. Ah Ha moment for sure. Thank you.

    • Author
      Gregg Krech 2 years ago

      Hi Jennifer,
      I’m sorry to hear about your Dad’s cancer. Hopefully it is treatable and he’ll be around for many years to come. Your husband obviously feels he would like the same level of compassion. Though you may be frustrated with his response, do something loving for him. In the long run, that’s always the best choice. Good luck!

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© 2017 The ToDo Institute serves as a meeting place between east and west. By blending Japanese approaches to mental health, known as Morita and Naikan, we provide an approach to living well that bridges the gap between the spiritual, the psychological and the practical. | All Rights Reserved.

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