The Beginning of the End BERNIE

By Bernie Siegel, MD I

t may seem strange for me to start a discussion about how tohandle loss and the death of loved ones by saying that death is not the worst outcome. There is a point in everyone’s life, no matter their species, when one’s body no longer functions and is not a comfortable place to be in.

Symbolically, when people draw purple balloons, but- terflies andkites going up into the sky they are telling me, often unconsciously,that they are ready for the healing that comes when they make thespiritual transition and leave their bodies. Death is about beginnings, not endings. We do not call graduations termina- tions, we callthem commencements. Every caterpillar and but- terflyunderstands what the transformation means better than most people.

I have experienced a near death experience as a four-year-old

choking on a toy. I aspirated, and I can tell you when you leave your body you will most likely not want to come back. Even blind people see when they have a NDE and are often upset when resus- citated and find themselves back in their body and blind again.

I can remember building a cairn over the grave of one of our

dogs who died and bringing a rock to the site every morning as I walked by his grave. Then one morning I thought what I wanted to bring him was beauty, so I picked a flower to place there. From that morning on I looked for beauty because of my loss and not a cold stone.

I have written about the candle that represents every one of

ourdead loved ones. I do not want to put out their candles with my excessivegrieving and tears. I have learned to forgive myself as I know they would forgive me, and to use my pain to nourish myself andothers and make our lives meaningful. When one is hungry one does not get angry at one’s body. You seek nourishment.

Animals and children are complete and can be our teachers. When a cat named Missy came into our home, and I didn’t notice she wasn’t eating well, I felt enormous grief and guilt when she de- veloped liver failure and died. Her grave and cairn lies in the yard outside our door and I think of her often, but I also know she has forgiven me and wants me to enjoy the day. We must use our loss and express our compassion and when we do the curse becomes a blessing and helps us to become complete too.

The key is enjoying the day as all animals do. The way to die laughing is to accomplish what you are here to accomplish, and animals do that much better than we do. To quote a veterinarian who lether patients help her through surgery, “I can amputate a leg or jaw and they wake up and lick their owner’s faces. They are here to love and be loved and teach us a few things.”

42 Natural Nutmeg - July/August 2017

The other, and more practical aspect of dying laughing, is to remember the things you or others have done and tell stories about what you remember. Let your departed loved ones bring a smile to your face and life. Animals have no trouble doing this but we, the incomplete species, need to learn to let the child out and to not be normal.

Also remember we have a great deal to say about when we die. So do not feel guilty if your beloved dies when you are not present. I have seen this with our pets (who wait for family mem- bers to leave), and with my parents and patients. So share your love but also give them time to be with others and leave the room if you think they will feel better with you not experiencing their death.

Since consciousness is not local there is still a part of all our

departed loved ones that is still here for us to experience and sharewith. I could tell endless stories about the experiences of loved ones who have lost family members or animals and had them return spiritually or symbolically after their death. My mother’s name was Rose. After she died, we kept finding roses and pennies everywhere. Finding pennies is my way of knowing I am on the right path and my mom’s great grandchildren started spontaneously calling them pennies from heaven.

When our beloved Smudge Bunny died I played a tape someone had given me as I drove to pick up her body. Dear Barbra Streisand sang to me…“They say there’s a universal plan for every woman, for every man; But in our darkest hour it’s hard to under- stand why did the right road take the wrong turn? Why did our heart break and why did we get burned? Just like the seasons there are reasons for the path we take. There are no mistakes; just lessons to be learned.” Death is the greatest teacher there is about life; so live and learn.

For many, Dr. Bernard Siegel-or Bernie, as he prefers to be- called-needs no introduction. He has touched many lives all over- the Planet. In 1978, he reached a national and then international audience when he began talking about patient empowerment and the choice to live fully and die in peace. As a physician who has cared for and counseled innumerable people whose mortality has been threatened by illness, Bernie embraces a philosophy of living and dying that stands at the forefront of the medical ethics and spiritual issues our Society grapples with today. Read Bernie’s regu- lar blog posts on his website where you will also find his books, articles, and CDs:

Bernie currently holds a cancer support group the second and fourth Tuesday evenings of the month 1:30-3:30PM at Coachman’s Square at 21 Bradley Road, Woodbridge. If interested contact Lucille Ranciato: 203 288 2839; or Bernie: You can find Bernie’s books ad CDs at Wisdom of the Ages in Simsbury, Ct. See ad on page 43.

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