"Losing a Loved One"
Wednesday, July 8, 1998
[The following article is reprinted by permission from VENTURE INWARD,
the magazine of the ASSOCIATION FOR RESEARCH & ENLIGHTENMENT (A.R.E.)
and EDGAR CAYCE FOUNDATION, P.O. Box 595, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.]
LOSING A LOVED ONE
By Marshall Kent
VENTURE INWARD, July/August 1998
One March morning my sweet wife was alive and happy. We were talking
in bed just before getting up, she to her bath and I to do exercises.
We were planning to go skiing that weekend. When I came back to the
bathroom to shave, I found her flailing around in the tub unable to
speak, eyes casting about things I could not see. After 47 years of
affectionate marriage, it appeared that my worst fear was now my reality.
Her eyes couldn't see me. I called, "Gail, talk to me, talk to
me, please." There was no answer or recognition. I knew it was
a stroke. I pulled her out of the tub onto the bed and called 911.
The paramedics were quick, efficient, kind. In the hospital emergency
room, after they had her hooked up to various monitors, I sat beside
her and held her hand. The look of bewilderment had left her face
and even though her eyes were closed she had a look of peace. It seemed
as if she needed rest, but something in me made me shake her awake
to try to communicate. She opened her eyes and I moved my face to
be in front of her vision. Her eyes softened beautifully in recognition.
We had previously discussed the probability that if one of us were
dying, and he/she would be unable to speak, it would be up to the
survivor to carry on both sides of the conversation. This I did.
"Gail, I know you can hear me. Squeeze my hand if you can."
I felt the squeeze.
"You look like you are at peace. Are you?" Again a squeeze
of the hand.
"Do you feel surrounded by the light of love?" Another squeeze.
"Is a Spiritual Being holding you by the hand?" A very hard
It was beautiful and felt holy.
The right side of her face was paralyzed but nonetheless she gave
me a lovely half smile and her eyes projected love such as I have
never seen. They said, "Thank you, I love you," and much
else. The word beatific comes to my mind when I think of her look.
I'm so glad I have that vision indelibly in my mind.
The look also said, "I know I am dying and am content. I want
you also to be content with my going and you can be." We had
often told each other that if we were to die tomorrow, we would feel
that we had lived a full and wonderful life and could therefore leave
contented. I knew she was leaving life contented, and I can't tell
you how much that means to me. Now it was up to me to be content with
my life without her and to carry on with my growth as in the past
but physically on my own.
I wish I could convey the immense beauty of watching my beloved friend
and companion with whom I had experienced so many adventures, so many
joys and difficulties, so much, much sharing and feel her finding
and sensing the peace of God. It was awesome -- the most tender experience
of my life.
The CAT scan showed that she had suffered a massive blood clot that
was blocking off large parts of the brain including the speech section.
The doctor said there would be a crisis Saturday night or Sunday morning
-- she only had a 50-50 chance of surviving -- and if she did survive
there would be no way of knowing the extent of the brain damage. At
best, she could probably understand very little, which would make
any kind of muscular rehabilitation very difficult. He asked me what
life support systems he should use, if any, to maintain life. I knew
she would want none and told him. He agreed with this decision.
I told one of my sons that she had already decided to leave and would
be going quickly. I knew she saw no reason for staying around. She
went into a coma before midnight and died 24 hours after her stroke.
"You did it your way," I told her. She had left of her own
accord before the crisis that was supposed to have occurred later.
Even though one thinks about it, how one will actually react to such
a crisis is beyond one's knowing. I often wondered as I got into my
60s whether I would want to go on living if she went first.
Now I was faced with that very cold fact. My reactions frankly astounded
me. It came to me that I could choose another way, a better way, to
react to her death than hopeless grief and depression. Deep grief
need not be the inevitable result of losing a loved one.
This other way was prepared by several convictions we shared.
First, we believed the purpose of life was to learn and that our Creator
was benevolent, even if we humans weren't.
Second, we believed that there was an afterlife, not necessarily like
those described by any religion, but an afterlife nonetheless.
Third, we had discussed death and how we would handle it. I knew what
her feelings were. I was not to be defeated by it and to regard it
as a great learning opportunity.
Fourth, we believed that communication was possible from mind to mind
without the use of physical means. Indeed, we had had frequent examples
of that between ourselves.
This way of coping with death has been of wondrous help to me. I have
felt little or no hopeless grief and depression. I have little difficulty
in seeing life as still beautiful. I look forward to each day and
activities to enjoy. No, I am not in a continuing state of shock nor
am I in denial. Before this sounds too unbelievable, let me say that,
yes, I do feel sad and that I would very much choose to have her back
with me. In fact, there are tears in my eyes as I write this, but
I would be hard pressed to identify what those tears are for. They
include sadness but also joy, and perhaps the strongest of all, the
feeling of the gracefulness of the whole thing. I can also choke up
particularly when I tell others of the beautiful way Gail died.
Hopeless deep grieving to me is that total feeling of loss without
any glimmer of light or feeling that it will ever be different: the
bottomless abyss. This I have not felt. Sadness is more a temporary
feeling that does not consume your entire feelings. This feeling I
do have. However, when I cry or choke up, it is only my body that
feels this while my inner self is serene and at peace.
When our friends call out of concern for me, their first question
is am I keeping busy. It is as though the best thing that could happen
to me is to be so busy that I have no time to think that Gail is now
dead. In other words, I am not capable of facing the truth and I must
attempt to keep truth's realization at bay by much activity. I have
always believed that you cannot solve any problem by either pretending
it isn't there or sugarcoating it into a different, less difficult
problem. Facing the ungarnished truth in my life experiences has always
been a successful technique, and I have no wish to abandon my trusted
tool in my greatest challenge.
Gail was dead. I had assumed that the first night after her death
would be pure hell of longing, grief, and crying, for she and I slept
together with great joy in cuddling together. Strangely I went right
to sleep and have essentially been doing that ever since. I didn't
realize at first how this could be, but had the common sense not to
question it and accept it gladly.
We have a small woods on our property where she and I used to go and
just sit and watch the birds and deer. After Gail died, I went there
often. It was far enough away from the house so that I could cry and
talk out loud with no fear of being overheard. The day after she died
I went there and started sobbing about her going. It was the closest
I came to deep grieving. During this sobbing I heard in my mind this
statement, "You are surrounded by God's love and my own. When
you are aware of being surrounded by our love, there is no room for
fear to enter. You need not fear being alone, or being without me
or anything else." At that moment I did feel surrounded by her
love and my crying dried up. It was as though love occupied a physical
space around me and fear of the future just couldn't force its way
in. I understood this intellectually, but best of all I felt it. She,
I sensed, was actively partaking in my response to her passing. Her
spirit had survived death and was continuing.
Some people will have difficulty with this. Believing in an afterlife
is hard enough without throwing in the communication with the deceased
person. A valid theory (not necessarily the correct one) is that whatever
is coming to me is just from my own inner self and that my conscious
mind likes the idea of ascribing it to her, so it builds the rationale
to make this the explanation. It doesn't matter whether it is coming
from her or not -- somehow I am using the emotional energy generated
by her passing to tap inner resources that were previously not easily
available to me. I believe it was Gail because when she was alive
we had been able to communicate mind to mind without words and we
had come to recognize each other's style of thinking. This same thing
was continuing now that she was gone. The only difference was that
I could no longer confirm it with her verbally.
We had long ago realized that even as we related to each other as
two egos, we also related as two spiritual selves. At times the ego
selves would buck heads and be difficult, but our spiritual selves
were slowly and steadily building a solid joining that death would
not sever. We were still joined spiritually even though she had laid
aside her body and ego. The spiritual joining we had while she was
alive and had grown accustomed to in our married life was still there
and thriving. In fact, in many ways I could feel it more clearly as
it was not obscured by our egos. Thoughts and understandings came
full blown into my mind that were comforting and they felt as if they
came from her. But it does not matter who the messenger was as the
message itself was the key.
It was not luck that allowed me to feel this way. We had planned it.
We had realized and discussed that when one of us died the other would
be in a high state of emotional energy. We also knew that when you
have such a state of high emotional energy, your mind is able to perceive
and penetrate things that normally are beyond you. Trances, altered
states of consciousness, meditation, hypnosis, and oracles are all
various words we use for getting perception beyond the confines of
our usual conscious state. Either she or I would have a golden opportunity
to use this high emotional state to learn a great deal that we had
previously been unable to tap. We could choose to dissipate this energy
into negative depression and grief or deliberately redirect it to
positive healing and learning. We should hold ourselves open to receive
whatever there was to receive from whatever source. So at her death,
contrary to the professional and customary view that I must let grief
run its course unhindered, I deliberately tried to focus this emotional
energy away from grieving and toward being open to various sensations
and thoughts that, I hoped, would crop up unbidden within me. They
came, a bonanza of insights and understandings. An appreciation of
our essential spiritual nature showered upon me. And this encouragement
made it much easier to turn away from grief with peace in my heart.
Some communications were eminently practical, too. Neither Gail nor
I wanted a public memorial service or a grave. We wanted to be returned
to the soil where our ashes might contribute to something living and
without a plaque or such. Just a simple recycling to the living. So
for our family memorial gathering on Easter Sunday after she died
I wanted to plant a tree and mix her ashes in the soil around the
When we bought our land, we planted a black oak tree which now, 40
years later, is a big lovely tree. We had talked about planting another
black oak but never got around to it. Now that seemed most appropriate.
Our local nursery said they had no black oaks and couldn't order one
be- cause it was the wrong time of year. I called other nurseries
for 100 miles around, with negative results. I reluctantly concluded
that we would have to plant a redwood.
We already had a number of redwoods on our hill and one more didn't
seem quite what I wanted. However, I had tried my best. I went down
to the nursery to select a redwood.
Shopping and I do not mix well. I prefer to walk straight to what
I want, buy it, and leave. Gail, when shopping, liked to browse around.
While I was walking into the nursery to buy the redwood tree and be
gone, a thought came to my mind: "Don't be so silly. What makes
you think they know what they have in their own inventory? Walk around."
I immediately knew that this was Gail's thinking; it was how her mind
Committed to being open, I changed course and headed up an aisle of
plants. At the very end against the fence were three black oaks, one
of which had an outstanding shape. I would have picked it out of 100
trees as her tree. It had wonderful character. I laughed out loud
and thanked her. It is now planted on our hill and has to be the most
pampered tree in the valley.
I believe she arranged the whole thing, including the frustration,
knowing that this would get my attention. She also knew I would try
my best to accomplish what I thought was right; but -- if it was not
to be -- I would also be accepting, assuming that there was something
there for me to understand, and there was.
What a lovely, humorous, and gentle way for her to let me know of
her presence and help.
I hope you now understand why I call her death beautiful. I feel blessed
to have been able to be with her during this transition. I felt inspired
to try to do those things we talked about. I want to stay open to
whatever might occur and keep my analytical (I have an engineering
degree) mind in neutral. There would be plenty of time later to analyze.
Now was the time to feel the unseen, hear the unspoken, and know the
larger extent of our spiritual selves.