Crossing Life’s Canyons:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive…so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” (Joseph Campbell)
As a new PRN interfaith hospital chaplain in South Austin, I’ve felt the “rapture of being alive” most often while holding the hand of someone through suffering or even death. We are, in that short moment, connecting on the deepest level of the human heart, where actions instead of words move us heart-fully together.
Having these chaplain experiences in the past year inspired me to have a conversation about what I would want in regard to end-of-life care with my college age daughter. Our conversations have now gracefully opened up a new way of relating to one another in deep humanness beyond just our mother and daughter relationship.
We have been able to talk openly about what my daughter wanted as well for her end-of-life care and we’ve promised one another that we would do what the other wishes. We’ve also filled out all the necessary directives in order to buoy our wishes legally.
The sacred can happen at any time and I’ve felt this sacred handholding both in my job as a chaplain and as a mother who wants to guide her children into all the aspects of life and death without fear and in full knowledge of how both life and death are precious and necessary and bring us peace.
As Frederick Buechner wrote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things happen. Don’t be afraid,” so does the conversation about our wishes, between my daughter and I feel beautiful and fearless and rooted in our deep love for one another.
This is what the conversation can bring forth with our loved ones; it leaves us with a sigh of relief, and an understanding hand to hold through a difficult but necessary discussion. My daughter and I have given one another the knowledge that no matter what, we can cross the canyon from life to death together in full spirit.
This canyon of life and death that we cross, to whatever is beyond, reminds of the Grand Canyon and the first trip I took as a single mom with my two kids to see the Grand Canyon in person. We hiked together at daybreak often holding hands and at dusk we traveled back into the dark toward the light at the end of the trail.
With our conversation, as we are hiking through our years, we know just like the canyons, we cannot always see what is on the other side, but we will trust one another on the route by speaking our truths and listening to what the other needs us to do when we reach the end of our lives.