Discovering aliveness through loss

By Don Mack | February 07, 2017

In our Compass we invite a powerful aliveness. When I talk with others about aliveness, the discussion is often around times when we were really happy or excited, like the guy in the Compass video who is whitewater rafting. While those are certainly ways of feeling alive, I want to share another perspective based upon the events in my life the last several months. 

In the context of powerful aliveness, we are referring to being able to experience and be present to all of our feelings and emotions.  There is an acronym SASHET (we do love acronyms don’t we?). It’s an acronym that describes the high level feelings and emotions that we experience as humans. It stands for Scared, Angry, Sad, Happy, Excited and Tender. Powerful aliveness for me is to be able to be present to any one or all of those emotions. Little did I know that I was headed toward a place of powerful aliveness, where I would ring the bell on five of six of those emotions. 

I have three brothers (how my mom survived, I do not know). I am son number three. My oldest brother Chuck was someone who I always looked up to and I tried to emulate. He was not only my brother, but also my best friend. He is the brother that I built my airplane with. Chuck is the one that got me interested in model planes, slot cars, a wide variety of music and the importance of support others, especially those that serve in uniform.   

About six years ago Chuck’s kidney’s failed. He never had a transplant and being on dialysis is not a long-term solution to having no kidney function.  

Chuck’s health had been declining and really started to fail last fall. He ended up in the hospital. I remember visiting with him the first time. When I saw him I was scared. In the past, I would have “toughened up,” been the hero and deny the scare even existed. Instead, I took a lot of deep breaths (remember the second step off the triangle— shift your energy and take several deep breaths) and let the feeling be. I didn’t see it as good nor bad, right or wrong. I didn't try and resist or deny it. It just was.

Letting that feeling be present actually allowed me to be present with Chuck and his wife. I could be fully there with them, for them and for myself. I also had let anger run. "Why hadn’t he done something about it and let it get to this point?” Villain— I was attached to what he should have done. Hero— I should have been the adult in this relationship and done something. Victim— he was letting me down and I could lose him. Using my training, I was able to shift and let that go, somewhat.  

After a month in the hospital, things were not improving and the doctors were gently indicating that there was nothing more that could be done for him. He was moved to hospice care. I held the intention that I didn’t want him to die without family around him. For me, with that intention I had a lot of scare. I was afraid, nervous, anxious. I had not been there when my mom and dad died; others were there. I didn’t know what to expect. And yet even in the scare, my intention allowed me to be OK with the scare being there. The power of intention is always amazing to me.

I was headed home from work and was going to change and go see Chuck. Well, for some reason I decided to go directly to the nursing home instead. We were sitting in the lobby together and he quietly stopped breathing. The incredible staff does what the staff does and took him back to his room. I could tell by the look in their faces that he was gone, but the process doesn’t allow them to tell us. Sadness flowed through me. I was already mourning the loss of my big brother. I didn’t try and fight it or deny it. Just breathed and let the feeling be within me.   

A few minutes later his wife, eldest daughter, son in law and a moose of a lab named Daisy came around the corner. Even without the “official word,” they knew when they saw me.  We went to a private room to wait for the “official” word." In that room with family, and in the following days I felt both tenderness and yes, happiness. The sharing of what my brother meant to others, the stories of which there were many and varied, and most importantly to me, the lives that he helped shift. How his heart had touched others so that they came alive made me proud and glad to have had him as my brother. 

Allowing myself to let those feelings be. Not try to fight, run from or bury them, like I did when my parents passed, has left me with a new appreciation of what powerful aliveness can be and through this a deeper appreciation of the love for my brother, his family, our friends and an amazing peacefulness with this loss.   

Blue skies and tailwinds, Chuck.

Share This Article
This site uses cookies to analyze your use of our products and services, assist with our promotional and marketing efforts, share content on social media, improve your experience, and give you the ability to provide feedback. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms and Conditions.