I just received a call from a friend of mine whose life has taken him thousands of miles from his family home in Alaska. Like me, he is an eldest son, and though we are a generation apart, we value our friendship. I am also close to his father who is my age and with whom I have developed a warm friendship despite our different life journeys and cultural traditions.
My young friend was calling to let me know that his father, while visiting him, had fallen ill and was now in the hospital with an uncertain prognosis. Knowing that I am of the same age, and that The Reaper is yanking at my leg as well, and knowing that his dad has had a much tougher life than I have, I realized, as did he, that this may the time when life has caught up with a good man, and that this may be my friend’s last chance to visit with his father in a meaningful way.
We talked for a while about our lives. He, still in the early days of parenthood and an exciting career, had much more to offer than I. And that’s the way it should be.
But the spectre of his father, my peer, lying in a hospital bed miles from his home, haunted me. If he is to die, is it better that he is there with his eldest son and grandchildren, or would it be a better passing if he was back in his home on the Alaskan coast thousands of miles away? In the end, It is not really a question worth pondering, because we have no say over the answer. But it rose up inside of me, and I felt called to offer my thoughts.
Knowing both men, knowing their relationship, and being both a father and a son, I ended up telling my friend what I would want to happen if I were in his father’s situation and what I would hope my son would do if he were confronted with a similar circumstance. Here, slightly edited, is what I said.
You are your dad’s eldest son. That means something. Your dad is a deep thinker who measures his words and thoughts. I think while you have him there, you should go to him and ask him what he wants you to know. Tell him you want him to think about it and you’ll come back the next day to hear what he wants to say.
Maybe he’ll be around for years, but maybe this is the last time you’ll have good time with him. You need to know more than his wishes about how he wants to pass; you need to know what his life has taught him that he wants to pass on to you.
Keep in mind that as a man and your father, in some way he knows you better than anyone else on earth. He’s alive in you and you need to carry the best of him and his ancestors forward. It’s our burden and gift as eldest sons.
My friend took the words to heart. I knew he would; he is a man with a deep spiritual grounding and a willingness to face life’s difficult issues head on.
I hope my counsel ends up serving those two good friends of mine well, and I hope I am not betraying a trust by passing this story on. But there are moments in life that are universal, and it is sometimes good to share our thoughts on how to meet them. Because difficult though they may be, they are coming to us all.
7 thoughts on “Two lives, a Moment, and Some Inescapable Truths”
Many Blessings Kent, especially to your friend and his eldest son.
There’s no betrayal of their bond. Your words coincide with our dreams.
Our dreams remind us we’ll return to The Eternal Dream. Thoughts we have need to be understood.
Dreams can help with the origin or source of those thoughts, why we have them and how we might respond.
(Jung often asked, “Where is that thought from?” Plato knew the importance of understanding our thoughts.)
Jung empowered us to take time with all we feel and experience to have as much understanding as we can.
I pray your friend’s son will see his father and ask as you said while he can before his father has both feet in the spirit world.
Family who’ve passed on talk to me in my dreams now and then. But it’s not the same. When the door closes, that’s it. But I still talk to them.
Having children with children, I know they’ll learn more than me, same as with my parents. I encourage them to know their Spirit as my parents had with me.
Psalm 46:10 simply says: “Be still and know that I am God.” This is true with the Goddess, or Shekinah, and all the spirit elements in us.
The Judaic prophet and Christian Savior Jesus knew the spirit world, the Above and Below. He emphasized that prayer in private is more important.
Prayer is when we talk to God. Meditation is when we are still so God can talk to us, not always in words, mostly in images.
We see this in ancient drawings, paintings, rituals. The four horsemen riding out and back from the four directions is an example.
I once observed a young Native American standing perfectly still staring at a mountain, his legs apart as if riding a horse. Standing Meditation
I felt his Great Spirit was talking to him, same as they will with us, if we take the time. “Who makes life possible?” a voice once asked me?
As our Great Spirit helps us thru life, they help us in Death to the next life. It’s not unusual to dream of forebears asking us what we’ve learned.
Life is an Exodus and Test of Job, a hellish cross of existence. The Hero With A Thousand Faces is not realized, which Dr. Campbell learned from Jung.
From one who taught death and dying for year’s in a South Dakota university sociology department, I commend your simple and straight forward approach to the situation.
But I would have expected nothing less as I have read your approach to the elephant in the room as our life experiences come to a close.
You are a good person who has the ability and gift of insight to your follow man.
As I, the eldest daughter, begin to support my mother on her end of life path, I find your words timely. I will ask her this question. Thank you.
I am the matriarch of my family and they know of my wishes when my time comes. I am now 85 and cannot believe I have reach this age but am now experiencing all sorts of physical problems. I cannot grumble as I have had an amazing life and done great and not so great things. I know your words to your friend and family will be very profound and good. You are a wise man and I only know you from your writings. Thank You Kent.
Anne Murray UK
I am in the process of writing to my family in case when the time comes we cannot speak face to face before the final act. I found the words you said your friend and inspiring going along with some of the thoughts.
I thank you for those words as it will help in this difficult task. As is normal in your writings your words give way to thought and wisdom in their depth.
Thank you Ken.
Thank you, Kent, for sharing this wisdom. Although my parents are gone – and sadly I did not have the wisdom to ask those questions — i will keep those thoughts and those questions close at hand. Being an “elder” myself (though I refuse to be “old” or elderly” 🙂 ) i will keep them in my pocket for my family and friends and for myself to ponder and share one day.
May I say Wopila,
I think your passing on of this story is quite valuable. I don’t think Americans, in general, have a good handle on end-of-life. This is possibly due to our culture not being elder-based. If we were, this story you tell would be as natural as winter rain.