conscious wellbeing for ourselves & our world
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Author David Kessler says his childhood experiences brought him closer to the scene of the crime, the face of disaster, and into his career as a grief counselor. But unlike David who followed death wherever it called him, I vowed as a kid to steer clear of any sign of sickness or casualty. Death scared the hell out of me.
The first death I ever experienced was the mother of my grammar school friend Denise. No one ever sat down to explain it to me. Why it happened. Or why it happened to this particular lady who was so nice to me. From the eyes of this 8-year-old, she didn’t look sick. She didn’t even go to the hospital. One day, my friend’s mother was here; the next day she was gone.
This was in the late sixties when death wasn’t something people talked about. It’s too bad, because I grew up so frightened that if my friend’s mother could die suddenly, so could my mother. I clung to her like glue! Then somebody told me that only really old people die, so I shouldn’t worry about my mom. That didn’t help much. In those days, everybody looked really old to me!
It wasn’t until college when I was introduced to the work of an author named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross that everything started to make sense: Why being sheltered from death only made me fear it more. Why a childhood surgery caused me to get nauseous each time I walked into a hospital. Or why the passing of my beloved dog while I was away on a trip caused me to be fearful of traveling.
Before I read Dr. Kübler-Ross’s books, death was an ugly demon that I tried to lock away in the dark basement of my childhood fears. But when she showed how understanding death can help us live to the fullest, she turned on a light within that inner room.
Dr. Kübler-Ross was a champion for terminal patients—she stood up for them when they were abused and shunned. She was honest with them when doctors sugarcoated the truth about their illness. She sat with them so they wouldn’t be alone. And she listened to their fears and concerns when everyone else was afraid to.
For me, she was just as much a champion for the living— those who learned the most valuable lesson of all—that dying is nothing to fear. It can be the most wonderful experience of your life. It all depends on how you have lived.
I remember hearing on the news about six years ago that Dr. Kübler-Ross was on her deathbed. I was hoping that someone was there for her, to listen to her innermost thoughts during her final hours. And how happy I was to learn just recently that someone was there—David Kessler.
David says that part of his mission is to keep the work of Dr. Kübler-Ross alive for the next generation. Let’s keep the light burning.
Click here for more details on David’s book Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms. To learn more about David’s work, visit www.grief.com. For more about the legacy of Dr. Kübler Ross, visit www.ekrfoundation.org.