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Thursday, September 16, 2010

But I want to hold on!

Letting go is one of the hardest things to do.  When we descend the stairs, we hold onto the railing until we get to the bottom, and even then we don't let go until we know we have solid footing.  When we are holding a child's hand, we don't let go until we know it is safe to do so, and even then it is with some reservations.  We hold on as if everything depended on it.  

If we all take stock of our lives, we have all had times where we have refused to let go, believing that if we just hung in there, it would all work out.  People have held on to troubled relationships, tried feverishly to help someone suffering from addiction, and stayed where they were because it was what they knew.  We hold on to the familiar; ideas, habits, ways of doing things, we stick to the same routines, it makes us feel secure, as if we have a handle on things.  If anything upsets the norm, we tighten the grip. If we let go, we risk losing what feels safe, what has us believing we are in control.  

When someone we love is dying, we definitely do not want to let go.  We cannot believe someone we love would leave us.  A few months ago I was speaking to a couple of people who were angry at their loved ones.  They could not believe that they died even after asking them not to go.  'How dare they, I wanted them to stay.'  'I wasn't ready to let go.'  I am sure any number of you have heard this before, you may have found yourself in the same shoes, definitely not ready to say good bye.  If any of you work in the medical profession, you have no doubt witnessed this more often than not.  Especially for those of you who deal with patients who are dying, you a very much aware of this.  

Years ago when I worked in the emergency room, too often I would watch as family, friends and even the medical staff would hold on to every possibility, believing that there might be something else that can be done.  Even after people were informed of the death of the loved one, they would still hold out for some sort of miracle, wanting to hold on to the hope, wanting to believe we had made a mistake.  

I remember when my dad had been diagnosed with lymphoma and how we had responded with shock and fear, after all cancer was a dreaded disease.  But as the years passed and my dad went in and out of remission, we new that we were not ready to say good bye.  Ten years ago when my dad was admitted, my brothers and I made sure we were at his beside.  When I realized that my dad might not make it, I let him know that we would be okay if he had to go. I found out later on that one of my brothers had done the exact same thing, while the other two refused to let go, believing that he would fully recover.  

When my daughter lay there unresponsive after the car accident, my mind knew that I might have to say good bye, but my heart wanted no part of it.  How could I, she was much too young.  I remember not being able to pray, but I do remember asking God to give me the strength to cope with whatever the outcome would be.  It was very hard to let go, even when they sat with us and explained that she was brain dead, we were not ready.  How could they ask us to do this, there must be something else, anything else.  I remember my mom saying that she knew Rachel would be okay, everything was going to be fine.  None of us wanted to let go.

Of course, there are times when it is okay to hold on, grasping every ounce of hope, and just believing that everything will be fine.  It is this hope that buoys us, keeping us afloat.  It is that dogged determination that helps us find a solution, seek alternative answers, and insure that our loved one is getting the best possible care.  We hold on knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

But on the flip side of this, I have also seen people hold on waiting for a loved one to show up, suffering through pain, holding on because a loved one is not ready to let them go.  When my grandfather collapsed early one morning after suffering from a major stroke, we were all told by the doctor that he would not make it.  We were told to contact family members because he would not last much longer, we would be lucky if he made it to noon time.  Family members began to arrive, getting there as soon as possible, but there was one uncle no one could seem to get a hold of.  But my grandfather hung in there, my uncle finally arrived at the hospital late that evening, walked into the hospital room and said hello.  My grandfather died a few minutes after his arrival, it was as if he waited for his son, and now with his entire family present, he could go.  

Sometimes we need to let go, we need to let our loved one know it is okay.  It does not mean we have given up hope, it doesn't mean we are quitting or giving up, it just means we will accept whatever the outcome is meant to be.  It is not easy, it does not eliminate the pain of grief, but it can and does lead to healing.  When we let go, we allow ourselves to be transformed, we allow ourselves to seek different ways of coping and we allow ourselves to change our attitudes toward what is happening.  

So it is okay to hold on tight when it is necessary, but know that there will be times when you will need to let go, when you must leg go, when letting go is the only solution.  If you do find yourself needing to hold onto something, hold onto the love.  

There is a beautiful prayer to many of you are well aware of, The Serenity Prayer, here is the full version by Reinhold Niebuhr.

The Serenity Prayer
Path God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr
So remember to 'Let Go and Let God!'

Blessings! and until we meet again.

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