Dying in peace

 

I haven’t faced death in the eye, but I’ve learned from others who have made the journey from this world to …. elsewhere.

It hasn’t always been love and light.  When I was 25, a young minister’s wife, I would go visit Mrs. Cook, in her 90s, at a luxury nursing home.  We were both members of a large Christian congregation in the Bible Belt.  For long decades, Mrs. Cook had wielded a lot of authority in the church.  Women weren’t allowed to speak in the church, but the Elders often sought her opinion in private.  I couldn’t tell if they thought she was wise, or if they feared displeasing her because she was wealthy and the church budget depended on her donations.

Mrs. Cook spoke her mind, and this was refreshing to me.  I tended to be too mousy.  I admired her spunk.  But I didn’t understand her habit of cutting off people who disagreed with her.  Out of four adult children, only one of them ever came to visit her.  I felt sad about this.  During my visits with her, she spoke bitterly of her children and others who had disappointed her. “They won’t get a penny when I die!”

One day when I went to visit Mrs. Cook, she was trembling and sobbing in her room.  Her usual “put together” appearance was all washed out.   “I had a horrible nightmare.  I died and it was Judgement Day.  Christ was separating the sheep from the goats, and he didn’t recognize me as one of his sheep.  He thought I was a goat.  He wouldn’t let me into Heaven.”  I tried to comfort Mrs. Cook, but her spirit was in agony.  I was young, and her distress confused me.

How could someone, who had lived her whole life as a dedicated Christian, arrive at the end and be so terrified?  I wanted to tell Mrs. Cook to forgive her children.  They were in their sixties and seventies now!  Couldn’t she call them and say, “Can we start over?  Will you give me a second chance?”   She had lived a long life.  She had gone to church three times a week.  By all accounts she was an upstanding Christian.  But had she missed the lesson of forgiveness?  We people do horrible things to each other, there is no point denying it.  But how to die in peace?

I promised myself I wouldn’t get to my 90s, knocking on death’s door, and have no mercy in my heart for family members and those I traveled with in this life.

In 2016, I interviewed Betty J. Eadie for The Power of Love book.  She wrote Embraced by the Light, which is one of the most comprehensive near-death experiences (NDEs) on written record.  In her experience, she was embraced by Jesus Christ— “There’s nothing on Earth that can compare with that unconditional love.” She said she felt like a “sinner” because she had not been very religious or moral.  He said, “Everyone makes mistakes.  This is so you can learn.”  Betty was shown many things in this experience.  “I saw the ripple effect of everything I’d ever done, both positive and negative.  I saw that the smallest of actions – a kind word, a smile – has a great effect, far beyond what you can imagine.”

This week at work, I was aware of the ripple effect.  I’m a college professor and spoke sternly to a student in the Meditation class, bringing her to tears.  The whole scene was unpleasant, and I wasn’t able to sort it out until a few hours later.  How embarrassing!  To be aggravated, of all places, in the Meditation class!   I had hurt the student’s feelings and injected negativity into the class atmosphere.

I thought of my death—how I would cringe at seeing the ripple effect of my anger!  I immediately reached out to the student and apologized.  At the next session, I apologized to the class.  I led us in a ritual to work through group hurts.  We watered the flowers of mindfulness and forgiveness.  I hope and pray that when I die, I see a ripple effect of forgiveness from this moment and not a ripple effect of anger.

As far as I know, I’m not close to death’s door.  Still, “every day is judgment day” – this is what my teacher, Dr. David R. Hawkins, said.  Each moment gives me the chance to prepare for death by living well.  What I’ve learned is that the simple interactions of ordinary life matter most.  Caring for a stray animal.  Listening to a friend.  Letting someone go in front of me in traffic or in the grocery line.  Forgiving a family member.  Encouraging and loving a child.

“Life is really very simple.  But – it’s difficult to realize that.”  This is one of the last things my teacher said before he passed.  A lesson for the living, spoken by the dying.

Dying in peace doesn’t require that we live perfectly but that we’re willing to transform our mistakes into a means of grace.

Fran Grace, Ph.D., is founder of Inner Pathway, a 501(c)3 organization to inspire and educate on the inner qualities of love, joy, compassion, forgiveness, beauty, and humor.  She is the author of The Power of Love.

Gratitude

 

If you want to help our world, a good place to start is to appreciate what Life has given you.  Gratitude for the gifts of life is a powerful way of sustaining Life.

When we practice gratitude, we foster our wellbeing, because gratitude is an energy that sources health and happiness. It puts us in sync with the source of life within us, and in harmony with the life around us.

Unlike outer environmental and economic resources, the inner resource of gratitude is not limited by our age, location, financial condition, or any circumstance. Every person has, potentially, an abundant supply.

Gratitude is necessary for our “inner sustainability,” by which we mean an internal environment that is resilient and peaceful, flexible and compassionate. A person with inner sustainability is immune to external “stressors,” and has the capacity to self-generate inner energies that are vital, expansive, and supportive of life in oneself and others.

Some internal energies bring healing, accomplishment, happiness, and compassion. Other energies—fear, panic, worry, resentment, self-pity—deplete our inner environment and make us sluggish and sick. Because we are connected to the whole, our individual energy state either enhances or drains the world around us.

As my beloved teacher, Dr. David R. Hawkins, said, “We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.”  This “becoming” is what we are on the inside!  Our inner world affects the world at large.

Gratitude can be generated anywhere at any time. It’s free. There’s no training you have at attend or special equipment you have to purchase. And significant progress can be made with just a little bit of time, Even 5-10 minutes each day is significant.

The ego cultivates resentment, not gratitude. It looks back over our life, or our day, and thinks, “Oh! All the love and acknowledgement that I didn’t get!” It focuses on what we wanted from others that we didn’t get – acknowledgement, sex, approval, love – and we feel deprived.

In Gratitude meditation, we look back and acknowledge that we, in fact, have been the recipients of much love and caring. Or else we wouldn’t even be here to read this blog! It takes attention from others and generosity from Mother Earth for us to survive even for a single day. The fact that we are living is in itself proof that we have been loved and supported.  Nothing survives without energy, attention, or caringness from somewhere.

It takes just a few minutes to remember:  As infants, we were helpless. We received shelter, water, food, gravity, air, and encouragement. Perhaps we didn’t receive all of the love that we had hoped for. Unconditional love is the ideal, yet few of us get it from our parents. However, what we needed to survive was there, or else we wouldn’t be alive today. There were seen and unseen people and forces of life that gave us breath, belonging, meaningfulness, encouragement, protection, and guidance. There were all those who went before us, who looked out for us, who loved us, and who received our love.

Here’s our Gratitude Meditation Video (5 min), giving you an experience of it.

Fran Grace, Ph.D., is the founder of Inner Pathway (501c3) and author of The Power of Love. 

What Do You Get When You Take the “Panic” out of P-a-n-d-e-m-i-c? “Dem,” which is People!

Photo credit: Meggan Austin

What Do You Get When You Take the “Panic” out of P-a-n-d-e-m-i-c?

“Dem,” which is People!

Embracing the Gift of the Shift

by Fran Grace, Ph.D.

READ it here!

Fran Grace, Ph.D., serves as Professor of Religious Studies and Steward of the Meditation Program at the University of Redlands; she is the author of The Power of Love: A Transformed Heart Changes the World.