My mother was dying. There, I said it out loud. Her doctor was a compassionate man, but he needed to be blunt. He told her that her life was “circling the drain.” He wanted her to accept the importance of the decisions she would now need to make. Mom didn’t like to focus on illness, medications, or treatments, but she had only 10 percent of her heart functioning; it was time for hospice.
The first step in hospice care is to sign a document stating you no longer want to go to the hospital for further treatment. By signing this document, she was saying, “Do not resuscitate.” It was a declaration of being willing to die. Now did my Mother want to die? No, but she was beginning to accept the time was coming.
Accepting what is present within us and in front of us right now creates a space for possibilities. Saying yes to what is, whether it is an emotion, circumstance, relationship, or physical condition, allows us to breathe, observe, and break free. Our minds automatically want to judge, analyze, and limit a situation we find disagreeable, but there is a way above that immediate reaction—to observe, allow, and be fully present to what is.
My mom loved life. She wanted to drink it down to the very last drop, and now the drops were becoming bitter and painful. As a Unity minister, my mother Paula McClellan was filled with wisdom, confidence, courage, and unshakable faith in God as Life, and in Life as beautiful, good, and joyful. She was an inspirational speaker, wonderful counselor, and dynamic teacher.
In the teachings of Unity, Mom found a way of living life that had deep meaning and relevance to her. No matter what life offered, the teachings lifted her thoughts and feelings to a greater understanding of God’s presence. Practicing the principles allowed her to move through all things with grace and generosity of spirit.
She loved sharing the good news that God is everywhere present and we are one with God, Abundant Life. She loved to laugh, pray, meditate, and be in the silence of knowing Oneness.
Now the call was to die to this way of living. She faced leaving her children, grandchildren, many friends, and her beloved Unity to enter into the unknown.
Was she afraid? Yes, she was, and she felt guilty for that fear. But what is important is that she faced the fear and named it. She was afraid of the pain of dying, and as she found the courage and vulnerability to share this, I could assure her I could manage her pain. She set goals that were meaningful and rich for her. She saw her granddaughter Heather act in a play and graduate from college. She attended my ordination as a Unity minister and came to my church for two Sunday services during the last six weeks of her life.
She prayed and meditated daily, sometimes with other ministers and often with her cherished caregiver Patti. She consciously lived her dying.
Mom chose the day she passed. She could no longer walk, and I realized I would no longer be able to care for her at home. Surrounded by her family, she had time to love them up one more time. She reminded me there were brownies in the freezer, the very last thing she baked for us, and paper plates in the dining room.
She died May 19. The date was significant for her, because six years earlier my dad died on the 19th of the month. It was her belief that if they died around the same time of the month, there was a greater chance of reconnecting. True? I don’t know, but it brought her great comfort. I also found it reassuring after she was gone.
Mom died peacefully, her children by her side. She died the way she lived—filled with light, love, and laughter.