My life has recently been full of endings. Having moved from Germany to Italy, I’ve had to say good bye to family, friends, and acquaintances, my garden, my bicycle, and the comfort of the familiar. My husband and I were only one week in Italy when his father died. At the same time, many issues from my past were suddenly emerging, demanding that I redeem them and finally put them to rest. It felt like endings were spilling over me from heaven. A shower of good byes marking the time of new beginnings.
During the last two sessions with clients, I always ask them to focus on endings. We take our time to reflect on how they have typically ended past relationships and how they might like to try a different type of ending during our last session together. We all have a typical way of saying goodbye. For example, there’s the tragic ending, the never-ending ending, and the disappearing ending.
One client had a ‘ritual’ ending. She would always return to the empty room/home/space that she was leaving, stand and acknowledge that space, and then say goodbye. When she told me this, I instantly thought of her birth. This client was a twin and the first-born. At the beginning of her life, a time of great numinous significance, of great endings and beginnings, her mother’s womb had not been empty when she turned to say goodbye.
As much as we might dislike endings, they are, of course, necessary for new life to begin. According to the Tibetian Book of Living and Dying, the space between an ending and new life is called a bardo state, and it is full of chaos. We can be caught in this space feeling confused, lost, and uncertain. However, the more we are able to sit peacefully in the bardo state, holding the tension activated by the polarity of life and death, the more we can garner the energetic forces in that chaos to creatively move forward into our next transformed state.
Sitting quietly in chaos is not easy and naturally takes practice. Every time we encounter an ending and beginning in our lives, we are given yet another chance to surrender and trust ourselves to the chaos, knowing that our ending of choice will reap a qualified beginning.
For fun and out of interest, I made a list of the types of endings I experienced turning this period of great change in my life. Perhaps what surprised me most was, despite knowing for the past six months that we were leaving, many people showed up to say goodbye only at the last minute. I found myself struggling to connect with them in any real way, as my husband and I were absolutely caught in the final stages of extreme chaos! This taught me that for any conscious ending to occur, timing is essential as well as your choice of action.
Here are some of the endings we experienced:
- Pre-Emptive Ending. Someone who lives 5 kms away came and said goodbye nine-months before we left.
- Short-and-Sweet Ending. A friend came for tea, stayed briefly, brought a gift and kissed me goodbye.
- Never-Ending Ending. My neighbor came to say goodbye four times during the two days before we left.
- Last Minute Ending. A friend called to say goodbye only hours before we drove off.
- True Friendship Ending. A quiet goodbye with the knowledge that somehow we will meet again and reconnect as if we never had parted.
- Let-Me-Pray-Over-You-So-I-Can-Feel-Good-About-Being-A-Christian Ending. (No comment.)
- Bad-Timing Ending. The movers’ were packing our furniture while I was scrubbing the kitchen and doing a million other things before we could leave when an acquaintance called in the middle of the chaos to chat and say goodbye.
- I-Don’t-Know-What-to-Say-So-I’m-Just-Going-to-Keep-Talking Ending. Someone afraid of endings, unable to simply be in the bardo state, came by and filled the space with exhausting chatter.
- You-Are-Not-So-Scary-Anymore-Because-You-Are-Leaving Ending. A few people who never really were particularly friendly were suddenly inviting us to stay with them whenever we returned to Germany.
- Self-Pity Ending. People who said that they were sorry we were leaving, but you could tell that they were really sorry for themselves because they were stuck at some point in their lives.
- Too-Late Ending. Neighbors who came by the last night before we left, when we were absolutely exhausted, wanting to have a drink and chat. They actually tried four times to arrange this at the last minute, despite living only 2 minutes away and knowing we were leaving months before.
- Helpful-And-Caring Ending. One friend thoughtfully brought us a deliciously prepared meal which we gratefully received. She also prepared food for us to take with us on the journey.
- Non-Ending. There were people I had known for years, like my next door neighbor, who never said goodbye.
Perhaps the most Beautiful Ending was with my late father-in-law (86 years). We visited him at the hospital before driving to Italy. He had been slowly dying since January after falling and breaking his hip. During other visits, he had talked about fighting demons and, at the same time, chatting with Saint Peter who was waiting for him at the Gates of Heaven. Our last time together was brief, but we were able to deeply connect. Then suddenly he announced, “It’s time for you to go.” And it truly was.
Tens days later, it was his time for a new beginning.