If we are able to envision the very last moment of our lives, what would we want it to look like? How free of regrets do we want our last conscious thought to be? How calm do we want our last feeling to be? How peaceful do we want our last breath to be? Haruki Murakami once said, “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” He is right. Each of us will leave this mortal world eventually, naturally or unnaturally. Yet, how prepared are we when our lives end unexpectedly? Similarly, if we are lucky enough to have our loved ones, and those who love us, by our side when our own time comes, how ready would we be for the very last few seconds? While these questions may trigger some discomfort and unease in us, they are nevertheless significant questions for us to pause and ponder. The Moment, Finally Ms C (name changed for client confidentiality) was in her early 50s, married with three adult children, and assisting in her husband’s family business. Her maternal home relatives were her widowed mother and an unmarried elder sister. The mother and sister lived together. I served Ms C about three years ago, in the areas of her career direction. Her return to seek therapy services from me was a surprise. She told me that her sister was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. The whole family was devastated and in deep despair. I understood that Ms C’s elder sister, who was nine years older than her, was like a “second mother” to her. Since Ms C’s childhood, when their parents were working long hours for making a humble living, Ms C’s sister looked after almost all aspects of Ms C’s life. With that unfavourable medical detection, my priority was to process Ms C’s overwhelming emotions and feelings, anchor and ground her physique self. Besides that, I needed to manage her expectations and hopes on all the possible consequences, with reference to a series of medical procedures, surgeries, therapies and treatments performed by the hospital on her sister, who was already in a fragile and delicate condition. With these therapeutic goals in mind, I introduced the concept of “In Between Half and Double” to Ms C, facilitating her to consider the things she could do for her sister and herself, during the critical period. For “Double”, she committed to the followings:
Visit her sister twice per week, instead of once a week
Enhance the accompaniment two-fold whenever there was a need
Increase her daily worshipping and praying by two times more
In terms of “Half”, she would like to:
Cut down half of her time in her husband’s family business
Reduce her personal spending to half for supporting the medical expenses of her sister
Decrease the time talking about her own affairs to half to focus more on her sister’s daily needs
As for “In Between”, she wanted to be in good health herself so that she could care for her sister by:
Having quality sleep of seven to eight hours daily
Achieving a desirable body weight by consuming healthy meals two to three meals timely and daily
Improving physique stamina and strength by exercising three to four times weekly
It was touching and encouraging to witness Ms C’s motivation and determination in changing her lifestyle and even some values, for taking better care of her sister throughout the challenging times. When Ms C was probed by me on her “In Between Half and Double” for her mental and psychological domains, besides what she had shared in the physical and behavioural aspects, she was speechless. After some guiding process, Ms C affirmed that she would like to double her resilience, half her anxiety, and manage her expectations on her sister’s medical treatment outcomes in between the best and the worst scenario. To attain her goals, Ms C reckoned that she would continue re-centring herself through expressing and processing her emotions and feelings in our therapy sessions, during the difficult chapter in her life. In addition, I gently led Ms C to explore and review her connections and relationships with her sister. In particular, should the recovery targets of her sister’s sickness be not that optimistic and stop further treatment? With great emotional pain and fear of the possibility of facing her sister’s passing, Ms C completed the exercises and consideration bravely, yet appreciatively. All Ways, Always One of the most imperative exercises Ms C and I prepared, for minimising the potential remorse and disappointments in the bonds and ties of this pair of close sisters, was the well-known teaching, “The Four Expressions of Life” (四道人生).
An Expression of Gratitude (道谢) – It enabled Ms C to articulate her profound gratefulness and thankfulness towards her sister for looking after her since young, beyond her role as an “elder sister”.
An Expression of Apologies (道歉) – It allowed Ms C to ask for her sister’s forgiveness by verbalising her unwholesome mistakes and behaviours made toward her sister, intentionally or unintentionally.
An Expression of Love (道爱) – It helped Ms C to voice her intense yet hidden affection and adoration towards her sister boldly and unreservedly, which would otherwise be held back.
An Expression of Farewell (道别) – It laid a foundation for Ms C to convey her parting sentiments and statements with her sister, which also aided a relationship closure between them this lifetime.
As what Michael Landon emphasised before, “Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.” Ms C realised the urgency and importance of “The Four Expressions of Life” in our therapy session. Furthermore, Ms C agreed with me on the need to carefully explore and assist her sister to fulfil or have a closure of any unfinished businesses, as well as to repent for forgiveness or compensate for any regrets her sister would like to. I was updated in our next session that Ms C did express all these fully to her sister when she was more conscious and aware. Both of them had a memorable and precious time together, leading to a full understanding and acceptance of each other. A couple of days later, Ms C’s sister did the same expressions toward their mother, in front of Ms C. To the mother and daughters, any misunderstanding, miscommunication and misinterpretation amongst them no longer mattered, as they were all replaced by the pure and authentic love, compassion and kindness in between them. That crucial experience was cathartic and epiphanic to the family. Shortly after that episode, Ms C missed our subsequent scheduled session. Her sister’s health conditions deteriorated suddenly and drastically. Ms C’s sister finally passed on peacefully. It was fortunate that Ms C and her mother were by her sister’s side when she took her last breath. Ms C and I did meet again to process her grief and the demise of her sister. She ultimately gained an insight of what Rumi ever highlighted, “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” It was good to know that Ms C found new meanings after the departure of her sister. Ms C started volunteering in a hospice care centre and making frequent donations to support cancer researches and studies at local and overseas institutions. I was informed that Ms C also spent more quality time with her mother and her own family. She understood that she could only live one moment at a time. As such, she would like to be present in every moment, for herself and her loved ones.
The greatest mistake we make
in our relationships:
we listen half,
think zero and
Note: As this article is mainly catered to general members of the public, the case conceptualisation, intervention formulation, discussion and terminologies used are deliberately simplified and presented for an easy reading, comprehension and relevancy. Image: https://www.pngitem.com/middle/hbxihhi_pills-icon-legal-icon-thin-hd-png-download/
This article is written based on Krish Phua's greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore "Inside Mind Insights" for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness. Other articles of Krish Phua: Sow a Seed - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/sow-a-seed Last Man Standing - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/last-man-standing In or Out - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/in-or-out As It Is - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/as-it-is Mapmakers and Travellers - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/mapmakers-and-travellers Our Little Voice - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/our-little-voice The Three Minds - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/the-three-minds My First Lover - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/my-first-lover Hurting to Heal - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/hurting-to-heal Place . Space . Pace - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/place-space-pace Make You YOU - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/make-you-you