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.
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.Tags: japan compassion Kindness Relationships Thirty Thousand Days