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How to Leave This World Awake

The secret may be adding a single space to play.

Heal
Beat Birds

Beat Birds by Vivienne Strauss

Two days before our daughter was to be married in our backyard in August 2017, I was gathered with my seven siblings to discuss whether we should approve a trial of chemotherapy for our mother. She had been slipping into dementia for some time and we’d all been assuming we had several more years of watching her drift slowly away. Then she turned yellow. An exploratory surgery led to a diagnosis of terminal bile duct cancer. Chemo might give her, we were told, a few more months. For four hours my siblings and I shared our thoughts and feelings as we weighed the options. Ultimately, we decided to forgo chemo and emphasize quality over quantity of life. The next morning at 5:00 a.m. I sat with my journal, and I wrote a single line on the blank paper: I want to leave this world awake. These words capture how I hope to face death, but I wrote them more for Mom than for myself. If she could understand her situation, wouldn’t she prefer to leave us while she still knew who we were? After getting that first line down, I decided to let go of my heavy thoughts and began to look for ways to play with the words I’ …

Kevin Anderson PhD is a psychologist who has contributed several pieces to S&H. His latest book is Now Is Where God Lives: A Year of Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul.


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