The Gift of Death: Celebrating The Day of the Dead

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I have now lived in Mexico for over 2 years and "The Day of the Dead" is a huge celebration that focuses on remembering those loved ones who have passed. This blog is dedicated to my mother Janet F. Leahy who passed ten years' ago on December 1st. Her memory and energy live on and I feel a closeness to my mother in her death that was not possible in her life.  My Mother’s death was her final gift to me. 

This is a blog about that gift. It is one that I hope inspires you to reflect on the loss of your loved ones. Pain is not negative, it is normal and when we permit ourselves to intentionally and completely feel, we move through it to the gift that lies on the other side.  

How my mother walked in her death was her final and one of her most beautiful gifts. Conscious living has to integrate the conversation about conscious dying. I will say that as a mother of 2 small children while I pray that my passing will be a long time in coming and hopefully not as painful as my mothers, I am conscious and aware that it is coming.  I am conscious that I want to give my children the gift that my mother gave to me during her final process.  I will openly admit I don’t think I am there yet but it is a conversation that I have started within myself, a conversation I hope to inspire within you.  When you die, will your passing be a gift or will it leave a burden for those who love you?  

My intention is for my life and my death to be a gift.  

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My mother died 10 years' ago of stage 4 lymphoma.  Her death process took a very long 8 years.  She was in and out of hospitals battling various aliments due to her cancer, which compromised her immune system. In addition to the radiation and chemotherapy, my mother dealt with several rounds of bronchitis, pneumonia and spinal meningitis. They had to put my mother into an induced coma for 13 days because her lungs started to spontaneously fill up with fluid.  My mother’s death was a long and very difficult process with a lot of pain.  There were at least 6 times that we thought she was going to die and we said our final goodbyes.  It was an emotional journey. 

Death isn’t pretty, it is not fun and it sucks; however, death is what makes this life…life!  Without death our experience here would be very different.  The fact that we all get to die and that we all get to lose people we love along the way unites us and death is what makes life, life.  It is true that you can’t have life without death.  If we are really going to be conscious and live consciously then death has to be a part of our conversation.  It is the backdrop that our lives hang on.

Through watching my mother’s death process I realized that dying well, is the final and one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children. While my mother was in extreme physical discomfort, she never got angry, she wasn’t in denial, and she never got mean or nasty, as many people do when they get sick.  My mother was conscious about how she was dying; she was sweet and open, vulnerable and present.  She allowed us to mourn her while she was still here. She created and held the space for us to talk to her openly about our fears of losing her. 

I will never forget about 3 months before she died, I was laying on her lap and I looked at her and told her that I didn’t want her to die.  She looked at me and said, “Susan, you are going to be just fine without me.” In that moment I didn’t believe her but today it makes my heart warm loving her, knowing that she was right. I am fine without her and I love that she was wise enough to give me the permission to be fine.  That has been such an enormous gift. I have seen so many people who feel so much guilt and sadness after someone close dies because they are burdened to carry unresolved issues, words not said, fears not expressed, love not shared.  I am blessed and feel humbled to be able to say that due to how my mother chose to die and encouraged us to participate in her process, I am now fortunate enough to look back on my mother’s life and death, not with sadness, but with love and a wonderful feeling of completeness. 

I know this might sound strange, but I don’t even really miss my mother.  She is gone physically but because I have no guilt or grief I am able to be with her directly. Getting to this place took a considerable amount of time.  I had to move through my own grieving process. But today, I feel like my mom is everywhere and that gives me such great comfort. 

So, on this Day of the Dead, my desire is to have ignited an inner conversation for you or to have added to one that has already begun.  As you walk through this day, take a moment to appreciate how life and death are linked. Your death is a very important part of your life.  

Thank you Mom!!!

Note to my Mom Janet F. Leahy: 1/19/1939-12/1/2006

Mom, you are my hero, and I love you more today than the day before! The lessons you have taught me both in your life and in your death have been life-giving!! Thank you for who you were and who you continue to be! I love you and appreciate the conscious choices you made as a mother, committed to raising and loving your children in a positive and joy seeking manner. I love that I can still feel your joy.  I love knowing that I am genetically, energetically and spiritually connected to you. I love feeling you when I hold my children in my arms. I love holding them and thinking about you holding me the same way.  You are right; I feel a closeness to you in death that I didn’t in life. I love that you are the example that I get to live from. What a true and sacred gift you are both in your life and in your death.  I love you mom and am blessed to be your baby!! Thank you from the deepest parts of my being!! Thank you…

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Susan Leahy MA CSP is a powerful leadership, team building and keynote speaker, trainer, and coach.
Susan does live presentations, interactive online webinars, and private personal coaching.

She is the creator of The Confident Woman Program, Robert's Rules Made Simple and is the co-founder of Group To TEAM Leadership Solutions a global coaching and consulting organization that provides leadership and TEAM building training that builds a culture of TEAM by empowering the individual to choose TEAM. 

Susan and Freeman worked with the US Air Force AETC this month. It was a powerful 2-day Group To TEAM Leadership training in San Antonio, TX.

Susan and Freeman worked with the US Air Force AETC this month. It was a powerful 2-day Group To TEAM Leadership training in San Antonio, TX.

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