What I Learned From My Partner’s Death

What I Learned From My Partner's Death

I find myself sometimes muttering, literally out loud and often just within my own head; “This isn’t the time to get tired, Jacqueline!” 

I don’t remember ever really saying anything like this before. It is a fairly recent addition to my self-talk. I’ve been pondering the whole “get tired” concept. In particular as it refers to the idea or notion of our eventual exit from this life. 

For the first time ever, I can “see” how one can be ready for our inevitable departure. What I learned from my partner’s death is invaluable to me. By no means am I there yet. I haven’t even gotten to my yoga/meditation/play golf while drinking Armagnac Brandy phase. Which, for whatever reason, I plan on for the later part of my life. When I get there. Which clearly is not now.

Back to the growing tired concept.

But, it’s what I saw happen to my friend and original Kuel Life partner, Robin. For those of you new to the Smack, Robin passed away from colon cancer shortly after we launched the original Kuel Life platform. What I learned from my partner’s death has fundamentally changed me.

When she was first diagnosed, Robin’s response was “F-You Cancer.” She ran out the starter gate of the battle with a burning fire within to duel her disease and walk away victorious. She entered the fight cancer arena a warrior; a gladiator fully prepared to slay the lion. Robin dropped the Fuck-you Cancer card a lot and was filled with fervor and energy. But what I experienced from watching her live her last six weeks of life was life-altering for me.

Mishap after mishap and setback after setback ensued with her medical care. Turns out cancer is an invasive little monster wreaking havoc all over the place. I witnessed her resolve and determination slowly whittle away. I distinctly remember my last visit with her before her death. 

We were in the hospital and she was itching to be sent home – knowing full well it was her last round, so to speak. The nurses relentlessly insisted she use the bathroom versus a bedpan. They explained to us that she needed to be somewhat mobile at home and they felt strongly about encouraging Robin to leave her bed. 

Robin wanted none of it.

She was tired and done. Not seeing any real value in pushing herself, everything hurt by that time, she became an immovable force. No amount of cajoling, threats or even shame (yes, there was some of that) could motivate her to leave her bed.

Something, somehow, had made a switch in her mind. She was too tired to keep pushing. From my viewfinder, her anger at cancer’s rudeness disappeared. She wasn’t even bitter. She mentioned no regrets – at least not to me. There was an overwhelming sense of acceptance and peace emanating from her. From the outside it seemed like an arbitrary switch had been flipped. Within six weeks my warrior friend surrendered to her circumstances.

Curious, I wanted to probe.

I wanted to ask her what was going on for her during these moments. But sadly, at the time it felt awkward, bordering on rude, to pursue that conversation. Instead, I opted to stay in the moment with her and share in her life for those last few days. 

I know to some this may seem macabre and depressing. There is no way around the grief and sadness when we lose a loved one. But to me this experience gave me hope. What I learned from my partner’s death brings me hope that when it eventually is my turn I too will feel acceptance and peace. The notion that when this ride is over I’ll know I’ve lived the life I wanted and can be proud of gives me peace.

I keep Robin close to me. Her memory serves me daily, reminding me to “Not get tired” of living the life I desire. To discern more granularly the “how”, the “what”, the “why” of my time on this physical earth. I too want to reach that moment of tranquility and acceptance with zero regrets.

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8 thoughts on “What I Learned From My Partner’s Death

  1. Dr. Andrea Slominski says:

    Hi Jack,
    This is such a thought-provoking piece! Our culture does everything it can to ignore, deny, and exclude death from our consciousness. Yet, we are all touched by it many times in our lives, and it’s a road “we all must take.” I have been using the works of J.R.R. Tolkien recently as a touchstone back to the noble, the beautiful, and the sacred in life. The ideas of a noble death, a good death, and normalizing death as a constant companion are ideas he explores throughout his works. Let us all hope that when our day comes, we too have peace, knowing that we lived a full and generous life.

    “PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.
    GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
    PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
    GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
    J.R.R. Tolkien

    • Kuel Life Membership
      Kuel Life says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read and further the conversation. Tolkien was a wise one… those are words to ponder, for sure.

    • Kuel Life Membership
      Kuel Life says:

      Oh, thank you Lori… for taking the time to read it and comment. I love when my writing provokes thought and emotion. For me, that is definitely a win.

  2. Bethany says:

    Thanks for this, Jack. I watched my Grandma transition into a state of peace and acceptance as well. I’ve also seen many people who go terrified, angry, and focused on regrets. For me, it goes back to the idea that we are so powerful. We get to choose. Thanks again for this piece. A great reminder to start my week.

    • Kuel Life Membership
      Kuel Life says:

      Bethany, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I know you have had a great deal of experience helping others transition – your stories – cautionary tales – really ring in my ear. I want to be at peace by the time it’s my turn. Working on it…

    • Kuel Life Membership
      Kuel Life says:

      Ah Lauri, thanks for your kind words…. The experience taught me a very valuable personal lesson… for that, I am grateful.

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