How losing my family became the biggest gift
27 years ago I lost my mother. She died of cancer after a 15-year transformational process with many ups and downs. After her death, my father lived a solitary and quiet life until he passed away 5 years ago in the respectful age of 92. My sister, having been diagnosed with a very rare variant of Addison, died just 3 years ago. The loss of pretty much all of my closest relatives is both a carve in my heart as well as it deepened my life. At times I feel the pain of being left alive in my life, no longer witnessed by the mirrors that knew me from when I was a baby. Other times I experience profound freedom that this cut with my past brought me. Either way, I need to deal with loss in my life, without a compass and from an early age. Sometimes I wonder how others manage loss, as it still seems to be a taboo because it is so close to death itself.
Death, loss and birthday parties
When I walk through a busy street in town, I sometimes realise that of the people I see, many must have lost friends, family, lovers and other close kin. I can’t see this from the outside. Maybe the man with the white hat with the small poodle remarried to stylish older women holding a bag of groceries and walking beside him. Maybe the alternative looking teen girl swinging her head on the music of her headphones while eating icecream lost her brother when he was 2. Maybe the man with grey hair behind the counter of the Tabacco store, caressing a big white cat on his counter just recently lost his sister in a car crash. So many hidden stories of loss. On the outside, untraceable. How do we, all the people that lost dear people in our lives, cope with our losses? It’s not the most favourite topic on birthday parties. When people ask me if I have brothers, sisters, parents, and I answer negative, most people change the subject after saying sorry.
A good healing roadmap for loss is mourning with other relatives or friends that knew the deceased well. For 27 years I could mourn with my father and sister over the death of our mother. For 2 years I could mourn with my sister and her husband over the death of our father. After his death, I also was able to mourn with some close aunts and nephews and nieces. Since my father did not have any family left in Holland, there was not much to share about his life apart from some members of the family of my mother that knew him well. Sadly, the contact with the ex-husband of my sister was not maintained, also due to the fact that I already had moved to Ibiza years prior to her death. So here I am, sort of alone like an orphan with the piano of my father in my living room, and some photos and small things from my parental house where I grew up, and more importantly: memories.
The living proof of my history is gone, I could make up pretty much any story of my past in Holland. Only the couple of very food friends I still have in Holland, and that actually met my parents and sister are the only reference I have to that past. But they kind of fade away as years go past and our roads are going our own and very unique ways.
Freedom and expectations
I must admit I like the freedom of this radical cut with the past. Family can be the nr. 1 safe haven and support, a nourishing harbour of shared lives from experiences that later become stories to share on family gatherings. Family dynamics or patterns, on the other hand, can become chains that sometimes take pretty much people’s complete life to unravel, undo and let go of. Apart from being a dark pool of trauma and abuse in the more serious fucked-up families, family patterns have often to do with expectations from both children and parents. Sometimes this is blended with financial ties and interests. A mix that so often can lead to painful, shameful and harmful dances around heritages and last wills. For some people family is the best thing ever and their most important thing in life, for others, it can be the false start that they try to overcome the rest of their lives.
Concerning my own expectations. Due to my mother's cancer, her process initiated becoming much more honest with each other in a very accelerated way. We never knew if she was given yet another year, or sometimes a month.
Conversations, emotions and experiences crystallized much faster to truth. Meaning that there was simply not much time for bullshit left.
I can imagine that people who have lost relatives due to cancer maybe recognize this process. A great transformative book regarding how to deal with love, death and cancer is Ken Wilber’s Grace and Grit. It supported me all along the way from the moment I discovered this masterpiece.
When i speak the word freedom or write it down in this article as a consequence of the very dear people in my life ‘leaving me’, I feel a brief moment of guilt. Society tells me to be merely thankful for my parents. They raised me and took all that pain and effort. Apart from that, it was not all that bad to hang around with them for the most part of my life and share so many good things and just a few bad things. They where great parents, in fact, the best I have ever could wish for. So where does arise the feeling of freedom?
At the same token, they carried their expectations and worries that we would be alright in life. For this, they used their reference that came from a complete other generation, the generation that experienced the second world war. My father grew up and started working in the restoration period of a post-war country. Nobody would complain, nobody was working on him or herself, you worked for the country. This led to a lifelong struggle for him to understand my need for personal growth and to dedicate much time for this. I follow my own vision and create most of my work independently taking quite some risks sometimes. He hated risk so sometimes we were miles apart. He became much milder at the end of his life, as we had massively grown towards each other. But his death clearly initiated the start of deeper freedom in me, after and within the periods of mourning. Now, I am completely responsible for my life, I am my own leader, father and son in one. I forgot to mention that I have no children. I did start men’s groups recently and get more and more insights how important those father and mother expectations are in fact, and the relevancy to let them go in order to become freer and owning more of our shit.
Death as a gift
I believe that death beholds a gift, and this gift is death itself. At some point in time, we all have to face death, and mostly when we get older some people we love will die. This is part of life and the pain it brings can only be avoided by not loving anybody. But then you are already dead I would like to argue.
But with some ‘lucky’ people, ‘death’ happens only when they are over 50. Before that, the creepy figure wearing a black hoody and dress tossing a big sword around was not talked about and avoided at best. For me, death knocked on my door when I was 18, after biking back from school under a black-blue sky of coming thunder and rain. At home, sitting at the dinner table, my mother had the courage to tell me about the latest diagnose of her doctor. The blue sky turned immediate into black and rain started to pour down in my soul. I did close off some of my young heart, just out of fear. This crack was felt by both of us that day. It was the result of the crack in both our trust in life, that presented our family very suddenly a shady and uncertain roadmap. My mother must have felt guilty and I felt coming isolation. But the 3 months turned into 6 months, turned into a year and that year turned into 15 years. All a big gift, all that extra time, as life is the biggest gift itself, each and every moment and day. This consciousness surely intensified in me, beyond the pain of loss and mourning. Exactly that is the gift of death, the deepened awareness of life.
Ken Wilder’s wife Treia writes about the apparent paradox every dying person must face — how to accept the fact of dying without giving up the fight for life:
I want to get as much time out of this as I can, and so I need to work at that with complete focus and dedication and clarity and concentration and right effort, and yet at the same time be completely unattached to the results either way. Pain is not punishment, death is not failure, life is not a reward
My father, my mother, my sister, with their deaths they left me an unimaginable unchangeable gift. The awareness of death has deepened my awareness of life so much. Illness swept my mother and my sister from her feet, but not after years of transformation that I was apart of. Their sickness became mine in a way. Their deaths were also the liberation from suffering, mostly physically. This is another part of the freedom that I mention above. Since their process was so much part of my life, the ending of their suffering ended much of mine too. Downside of this was that most of the attention and love in the family went to the ones that where sick, ergo my mother and later my sister. It made me much better in giving while receiving still can be a big challenge for me.
Through the sometimes deep pain and tears of the loss of these dear people that knew me so well, I carry their gift as the most precious thing in my life. Apart from the gift of life itself, it was their gift of death that set me further free on my path. I pray in silence for their peace and know they are proud and joyful for my humble efforts on this amazing journey and abundant earth.
Lucien Lecarme, Ibiza 2nd of October 2019
Lucien Lecarme (1967, Ibiza) is the author of The Wisdom Keeper, a future novel about transformation and the need to fall in love with earth again. Available on Amazon in November 2019.