After half a year of uncertainty and living in pain, my father finally convinced the family doctor (GP) to admit my mother to hospital for intense research on the growing pain in her abdominal area. While previous researches and tests hadn’t brought anything to light, the 4-day intensive research would bring more clarity on the cause of her pain.
Early January 2005 I received a call from my dad who told me that the research outcome was conclusive. The doctor in charge had informed my mother she had about 10 weeks left to live due to a large tumor in the pancreas that had spread to other areas and was no longer treatable. Devastation and disbelieve were obviously the first responses, with my mother initially refusing to believe this information was meant for her. Unfortunately no alternative news was given and both my mother and dad had to accept the final verdict. The test result suddenly made clear how severe her situation actually was. She was immediately given morphine instead of the maximum daily dose of paracetamol she had been taking for months. 2 days after the call I was on a plane to Holland to spend time with my mother and support my dad as much as possible.
Facing reality (1)
When I arrived at my parent’s home, my mother was resting on bed. I lied myself down beside her for a while to chat and just be there. An intimate moment that made me realise our close connection and brought me back to being my mother’s child. Despite the stress related to the devastating news, she seemed at peace now. She appeared strong, composed and calm, seemingly having accepted her fate at this stage of her life. This was quite a difference from the moment I received my dad’s call two days earlier.
The days that followed still amaze me as my mother had eventually fully accepted her journey towards the end of her life and wanted to direct everything in preparation of her departure. Over recent years I started recognizing her deliberate steps towards the end of her life as a shamanic connection. She was very aware, had accepted her fate and was guided by a deliberate initiative of letting go of attachment while embracing the concept of departure from this life, however difficult this may have been. This surrendering to acceptance brought in a natural level of calm and focus in just being here and reviewing life from a different angle.
My mother had always been a ‘helper’ personality. Serving others, looking after her own family and kids while helping out with her ageing parents. It seemed as if she now had activated a sense of being, clarity and determination that embraced life with the definite end for her own lifetime here in sight. She was aware that the increasing dose of morphine would reduce her allertness and waking state, finally leading into the shutting down of her body system.
During my first visit she wanted to be fully present and set out her own path towards departure and cremation. The first thing she had arranged was for the town priest (catholic) to give her the last rites and ask for forgiveness for whatever she felt that needed forgiveness over the burdens she had carried for most of her life as a mother. She had invited her two closest brothers, my dad, my brother and myself to attend and to ask each person for forgiveness. A deeply moving moment for all present as all of us had experienced my mother as a strong, loving and supportive person, living her life through the intention of being of help to others.
The manner which my mother handled her current life situation allowed this life experience to be a more positive one and was never doused in a sense of suffering and premature grief for all; The ultimate way of ‘being in the moment’. We were able to spend time together, undertake trips and engage in small activities, as much as my mother’s condition-of-the-day would allow her to have fun and laugh as much as possible. It was still a painful experience of course especially for my dad who, despite his age, had taken upon him the role of 24/7 caretaker. Also he has this ‘helper’ character. The relentless commitment (till death do us part) to looking after his life partner is one of the areas where love hides I guess…
Recall and record
Following the example of an uncle of mine who had interviewed my grandparents, I had brought a digital recorder to capture random talks with my mother. Sometimes I sat down with her on my own, or with my brother and dad present. This I would recommend to anyone, however uncomfortable this may seem or feel. Record talk. Pictures are one side of the spectrum of memories, but sound goes beyond this. Recording my mother’s voice not only brings back her personal sound but also her thoughts, ideas, dreams, challenges and doubts in life. These moments of reflection allowed her to share all her experiences as much as she wanted, which grew into a great sharing session with my dad and my brother around. My experience so far with any person closing in to life departure is that they become more and more open and candid about intimate or personal life experiences, opinions and thoughts.
This form of interviewing may seem like peeping into someone’s life but what it actually does is enhancing the bond and increasing the understanding of a dear one before it’s too late to ask. It is very OK and my mother even told about her experience meeting my dad and her decision to choose him as life partner, which gave me a very interesting (less romantic) insight in how my parents connected into their bond for life. It also connects to family tradition and influence of grandparents, ancestral influence that builds up and becomes part of everyone’s personal history and path of life.
During the 10 days of my first visit we eventually covered the full plan for my mother’s cremation, the selection of music, the picture to go on the memorial card and most elementary parts of her last service. It was a serious process but very light at the same time since we all had started embracing my mother’s approach towards reaching the end point and would make sure she would be as comfortable as possible at all times.
Emotional responses to end of life
Because my dad, my brother and I all responded differently to this emotional situation and our innate ability to handle this slow moving process, we also became more aware of the triggers for the cause of upset and anxiety. Because we accepted and respected each individual’s response to this event plus the clear intention of my mother and creating a calm environment for her being the focus point, we were able to create temporary solutions to resolve tension and conflict. Usually this would mean that my dad would take a walk with my brother and I would spend some quiet time with my mother listening to relaxing music which made her eventually dose off.
The other message my mother sent out to the world was to invite people to visit her in small doses and with a dateline. All were welcome to visit and say their goodbye while she was still aware and alert until the time she decided to no longer take visits. While observing this process it became evident how much the topic of dying and being confronted with a person who will soon no longer be around becomes a challenge for many and sometimes is avoided.
Some people showed up to be with my mother for a last time, others made promises to visit and were too late or some sent cards and did not visit in person.
The remarkable thing was that my mother had asked to include in the speech during cremation to ‘send her best wishes to all that were not able to visit her during her last stage’, whatever the reason. This way she left everyone with a sense of acceptance and gratefulness for all who had been in touch with her during her lifetime.
Facing farewell (1)
At the end of my first visit, the hardest thing for me was to leave my parent’s home, say goodbye to my mother and fly back to Singapore. Since my mother’s condition was deteriorating rapidly I did not know if I’d still see her alive at my next visit. The endearing image of her standing at the window waving with one hand while holding the curtain aside with the other at the point of leaving home, as my dad was driving me to the airport, is still engraved as a deeply emotional, and partially melancholic connection to that moment. Deeply connected, I knew she knew what I was feeling and she knew that I knew what she was feeling…
Facing reality (2)
My second visit to my parents a few weeks later showed the rapid decline in my mother’s physical ability and mental presence. By now she could hardly walk independently and mostly needed the support of a wheelchair to be pushed around. One last outing aside, most of her time was now spent being confined to bed. My parents had decided to get paleatic care at home and not spend (waste) any time in hospital as that would not help her situation anyway. Another recommendation to anyone is to allow the person to spend the last days at home, in a trusted and familiar environment.
A special bed was placed in the living room where my mother would receive regular check ups and baths from visiting nurses. This also made life for my dad a bit easier.Until then he had been very determined to look after my mother on his own. Unfortunately, the decision to take distance from this caretaking does have an emotional impact on the caregiver, my dad, who was confronted with the final stage of my mother’s life. He was no longer actively able to contribute much besides being there and feeding her some soup, as far as she could still take that.
Facing farewell (2)
Leaving my parent’s home this time, I knew that the next time would be at the stage of death. So we agreed with the GP that I would receive a timely warning enabling me to hop on a plane and be there before my mother’s departure. My dad, brother and my mother all had agreed how her life situation would be taken care of if she no longer would be able to respond.
While back in Singapore I would receive regular updates and was on a constant stand by to leave. This at least gave me a sort of sense of calm, knowing I would be able to be there during her last hours. Ultimately the day came that I was asked to come over to share the last few days of my mother’s life.
Speaking about this to others and also hearing stories of people not able to attend the departure of a dear one or unable to speak out personal thoughts to create a proper closure before this moment, helps me to understand the importance of the effort made to be part of these last days and intimately share the space with my mother.
Facing reality 3)
Upon my arrival at home, my dad and brother were welcoming me in the living room. Despite her deteriorated state and high dose of morphine, my mother had become aware of me walking in. Her eyes opened wide and with great relief she stretched her arms out for a welcoming embrace. As I bent over to hug her, she held me (surprisingly) firmly while kissing me all over my forehead and face. It was obvious she had been holding on, trying to retain enough strength for this last moment of physical contact.
After this last very emotional and warm welcome, she started to relax and rapidly sink into a shallow comatose state out of which she was able to rise less frequently, but with surprising signs of alertness. She was still able to hear and understand all that was said around her. This made us very aware and mindful about what should and could be said and spoken. We instructed everyone, including the nurses to speak kindly and respectfully while in her presence.
Guidance and guardian angel
During the last 2 days before this final event we had a nurse, I would call her a ‘guardian angel’, guiding and preparing my mother and close family members for her departure.
From the moment of my arrival it took 4 days before her body would give up...
During the day leading up to this moment she had showed some evidence of being ‘in contact’ with the place she would move into. Mumbling and raising her arms, she seemed to recognize family members who had passed on. (Although there is enough consistent evidence of these moments of contact experienced by people closing in to departure, however real this experience is we will only find out once we get to this point ourselves regardless of our beliefs).
When the time had come, around 3am at night on 6 April, our guardian angel woke my dad and me to be with my mother. I allerted my brother to make his way from his house to my parent’s place.
My dad sat beside my mother holding her hand while I was stroking her right upper arm. At this stage her breathing had become more irregular. Shallow breaths followed by occasional deep breaths. It was clear she had a hard time letting go while my dad and I continued encouraging her to leave this place and comforting her that we all will be well and able to move forward with life. Long intervals separated her life’s breath, out of which she would come back with a sudden deep inhale. Until it finally stopped. Silence.
Soul energy, vibration of life
At the point of silence I was still stroking my mother’s right arm, with my left arm overlapping her body up to my elbow. While she released her last breath, I looked at her face and saw it changing from my mother’s familiar face into an ‘empty vessel’. At that same moment, I distinctively could feel an upward movement of energy flowing through my left lower arm, the part that was overlapping her body. It was a sort of pins and needles feeling but much more defined and with the ‘needles’ more spread out, very distinctive and moving upwards for a few seconds. As if this intimate moment was not intense enough I was made physically aware of the departure of what I would call my mother’s ‘soul energy’.
Overwhelmed by this intense experience I was not able to talk about this sensation moving upwards through my arm for a few days. I needed some time to reassert myself I had not imagined this.
In combination with the various studies I followed and teachings I received over the last 10 years or so, this physical sensation connected to the departure of my mother has shed a clearer light on our presence here and to what is next. There is still a lot to be discovered, but it helped all of the family members who were intimately involved with her preparation to departure and to not be afraid of the unavoidable moment of ‘death’ anymore.
Unfortunately my brother arrived too late to witness my mother’s departure. Something I spoke about with him a few years later as this must have had an impact on his ‘last moment’ experience.
Once my brother had arrived after our mother’s departure, our guardian angel suprised us with the request to help her clean my mother’s body and change her into new clothes. Weird. At least weird at first, but since we all were so overwhelmed with this experience and engulfed by an ongoing adrenaline rush, combined with a strange sense of relief, this became a beautiful moment of togetherness for my mother’s 3 men.
We had a last chance to physically touch my mother’s body and take care of her remains. Her naked body was soft and still a bit warm while her last internal liquids were flowing, which were (thankfully) dealt with by our guardian angel who guided and instructed us throughout this process of washing and cleaning.
Although I knew it was my mother’s body, the total lifelessness of this fleshy vessel no longer resembled my mother. The experience of washing and changing clothes had become just another stage in saying farewell and made this episode much more bearable and lighter. No other life experience compares to this unique (‘once in a lifetime’ is an understatement) intimate moment I shared with my dad and my brother. Never before did we experience a closer family bond than going through this moment. At the same time it created a new beginning for ‘the ones left behind’.
Since this moment, the bond between my dad, my brother and myself has only become stronger and better, with a changed appreciation for life and increased awareness of the importance of care for our dear ones. Open, honest, clear and grateful without any judgment or remorse.
Despite the initially devastating life change, this traumatic experience of death of my mother had turned into a wonderfully deep experience in connecting to life AND death. Although there was sadness around the loss of my mother, there was also a great level of positive emotion and gratefulness of what she had created in life and in preparation of her life-ending event; her strength being able to guide us without visible fear, the ability to set her own rules for how she would like to leave this place under the given circumstances and my experience of literally feeling the departure happen. However weird this may sound, to me and to my close family members, it was a beautiful experience.
To commemorate my mother’s final journey I was photographing the ongoing event and had also asked some of my friends to take photographs during church ceremony; as we do with birth why not at the point of death?
New connection and reset
The shared experience of departure created a closer connection with my dad, which extended into changes in communication and personal contact. In the past my mother would call me for updates and allowed me to speak with my dad for just a few minutes once my mother decided to hand the phone to him. Since her departure my dad naturally started calling me and we could talk for at least one hour.
Strangely, my mother’s departure had reset his life to a different level of freedom. Although speaking no English, for a first couple of years he would travel to Singapore on his own. During those times we would travel places together, have more intimate talks about life and ‘growing up’ and even spend a few days hiking in Sapa in Vietnam when my dad was 79 years old.
Now at age 85, he has decided to no longer travel long haul flights and we maintain our closeness differently nowadays.
My brother and I always got along well since our teenage years and the experience of our mother’s death has only enhanced our brotherly friendship.
At the first year of remembrance of my mother’s departure I visited Holland again. Together with my dad and my brother we spent a few days together in Vianden Luxembourg, the place my parents used to visit during the early days of their relationship. Here we ended up drunk at our hotel bar while sharing various stories related to my dad’s life partner, becoming more emotional as the evening progressed.
The more we spoke, the more my dad would be sharing and eventually ended up talking about an experience or an appearance in their bedroom one night. Only later it dawned upon him that my mother had fallen ill since witnessing that event... an announcement from ‘the other side’ or whatever it was.
These times of togetherness and sharing are moments to cherish and to become aware that this is all part of a healing process where we allow ourselves to celebrate and embrace the life of a dear one. Not just because we miss that person, also because we are grateful to have been part of this persons life and actions that partially made us what we are today and that delivered on an extraordinary learning experience in how to ‘own’ your path towards departure from this life.
The vibration of life or death is not just the connection with death or the departure itself and the related physical experience. It is also the ripple effect of what it leaves behind and how you connect to these waves, letting them flow and be engulfed in it or manage to ride it.
All is vibration and all is energy. Each of us carries his or her own ‘soul energy’ that will always be and always will move on, individually. It also moves within people connected to this personal energy, becoming the source for new in return.
Life = change. Death = change. Change = life, a perpetual movement of learning and evolving life energy.
The story described is the story of my experience with the death of a dear one. We all will go through different experiences as we all move through life on an individual basis and interact in various ways.
What I have learnt is that the human spirit can be much stronger and more open for such dramatic changes once we take the decision to make space, put aside our own fears and insecurities, pay attantion and just allow for life to happen, however painful this may be.
Although living and working in Singapore, there was a sudden drop in work activities while I traveled and was attending to my mother. As if the universe allowed me space to deal with this event. I have noticed similar instances whereby I was given sufficient time to attend to life issues or life changes without causing obstructions for work activities. So the element of ‘time’ and ‘busy’ can never become a reason to evade involvement. From my experience, intention for attention will create space and with that eliminate the chances on regret.
In the event of my mother, she had a clear wish which she had expressed. All we needed to do is pay attention to just that during her last days in life here. By showing respect, being honest and truthful, offering trust and focus on the dying person, we are offering all our support we are capable of. Support is all you can give at such point in time. There is no more space for saving someone from the inevitable, so you need to get on board with that person to guide and hold hands, be there to share the fears and all the feelings connected to this.
My mother died of cancer. One of the causes for cancer is the element of guilt and being unable to forgive oneself or another for life events that have occurred. Eventually, some events may have been the underlying cause for my mother, subconsciously accumulating feelings of guilt and regret, storing this as negative energy and tension which in turn had the potential to contribute to her condition later on in life.
Mindful exercises in expressing gratitude have proven to offer relief for feelings of guilt, resentment, anger and trauma, supporting the internal process to retain a healthy physical balance. The theme of gratitude is one of my favorite subjects for participants attending my sound meditation sessions. This process allows every individual to connect and deal with their personal experiences and the various people or events involved while releasing the blocked negative energy, leading to a natural way of self healing.
Love, Wil xxx
The following personal story covers the general energy around the journey leading up to the departure of a close family member and its effect on all people connected to or involved with this life changing event.
The passing of my mother, 6 April 2005. An event that allowed me to feel her physical vibration, the sensation of my mother’s life force moving upwards through my arm at the moment she released her last breath.
The topic of death and the period leading towards the unavoidable life ending of a dear one is often a ‘no-go zone’ for many people, whether in Asia or, in this case, in Holland. Avoidance and fear of the unknown, loss of control, attachment, feelings of helplessness and incapability of showing our true feelings are often the underlying reasons for many to rather not be confronted with this common life event; An event we all will be witnessing and ultimately be confronted with during our lifetime.
While I have been sharing my experience with some friends, or people interested in life and death events, I have never shared this on a broader platform. As I am moving forward on my life journey, having spent 10 years with teachers who deepened my connection to the spiritual side of life and taught me various healing modalities, I now can reflect on this episode with more clarity. Hopefully my experience, and the lesson my mother taught me when moving through this, can become a first step in support for others dealing with similar experiences.
Wil Kolen, 2018