Friday, July 31, 2009

The Cliff

The Cliff

I sit with hospice patient, Michael, who is dying of prostate cancer that metastasized to the spine.

I am here to be with people facing the certain finality of their earthly days.

A finality we all are facing, obviously.

But someone in hospice care is terminally ill by default, with a life expectancy of six months or less.

Michael doesn’t seem to understand that he has come close to the Cliff’s edge. He says he expects to be healed but it is a slow process, much slower than he would like.

I wonder how much closer he will need to get before the unlikelihood of remaining in this world becomes obvious.

And before the world beyond this world engages his serious attention.

Maybe it never will.

Maybe he will take that last step over the Cliff without ever having given a second thought to the vast mystery into which he falls.

I hope not.

I hope his heart will swell open to the fathomless, even as his spirit yearns for its liberation.

And I hope he will share with us some vision of the enfolding night and the radiant dawn as these overtake him.

For truly, I have a hidden agenda in being a hospice volunteer.

I want to draw near to that ultimate Cliff myself - but voluntarily, with eyes, heart and mind open.

And long before the old body, trembling, cannot help but tumble into it.

I want to welcome the enfolding night and radiant dawn when their moment comes.

I want to offer conscious thanks for these days and nights that have been mine,

With all the suffering mingled with joy that has infused my perfect life.

So I sit with hospice patient Michael,

And watch for that wondrous spark of recognition to illumine his face.


  1. I find it interesting that the dying experience can be as varied as the living experience. At the moment the last breath departed I did feel the unspeakable whirlwind of emotions translated by the gentle rain outside. The radiant light I did not see but I felt her above
    like the soaring of the Eagle. It was enough for me to feel that. No, I did not see the glorious in her eyes. My attention was drawn to the tag on the toe, her sweet toe.

    Hospice volunteers are beautiful beings, comforting the family as much as the patients sometimes. Like Earth Angels, they are.
    How beautiful...

    It is being a midwife of a different sort, offering assistance during a most precious transition...

    Thank you for speaking of this... part of life...

  2. My dad's been in the hospital 2 out of the previous 3 weeks. So, the picture in this posting really hit home. The words so true and beautiful. Thanks.
    I've been reading a piece of what Michael Brown says about intentional dying every day. Here's today's:

    Letting Go of Our Stories is Death

    As each of these death experiences pass through our awareness we become more available and sensitive to what life is.

    The more we practice dying daily to the past, the more our traditional fear of death subsides.

    Our traditional concept of death, the one we have been conditioned to run from, then recedes like an outgoing tide.

    Consequently, we no longer make decisions based on fighting it back or trying to evade or delay it.

  3. Really appreciate your heart CD and all that is shared. My Mom began as a volunteer with Hospice in the late 1980's when her best friend was with cancer. She is still with them to this day, at 77.
    How deeply blessed we are really, to be given the gift of perhaps truly realizing death and life in each breath, ever moving. Thank you.