Friday, March 8, 2013

Farewell, Beautiful Soul

The lengthy excerpt below from today's New Old Age blog in the New York Times speaks to what one of my dearest friends is experiencing right now.

Around three years ago, her dearest friend (I will call her Beautiful Soul for privacy reasons) was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer, and began Hospice Care at home at the end of 2012. Beautiful Soul left us two nights ago, and my dear friend is in the throes of that loss.

My friend and Beautiful Soul created a very special world in preparation for Beautiful Soul's passing, and I know for sure that as this blogger says below, there was "a sense of ceremony and intimacy, suffused with honor" when it happened.

View of the Pacific at La Piedra
At La Piedra, by Liza Bernstein
I hope my dear friend, somewhere down the line, after the tsunami of extreme grief has ebbed, flowed, and receded again, will find that sense of peace and acceptance, despite the unbearable pain of loss.

Knowing her, she will. But at what cost?

Again, Advanced Breast Cancer, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Stage IV Breast Cancer -- there is no cure, it is the cancer that kills and takes our loved ones from us. It takes them young, it takes them old. It doesn't discriminate. And yes, we may experience and learn important life lessons and wisdom and growth and so forth when we are there with them side by side.... but I'm feeling selfish. I don't want any more of these life lessons, I am enraged that my dear friend (and all others like her) has to experience this unspeakable suffering of the heart and soul.

I send her and all like her my deepest love and comfort.

May Beautiful Soul rest in peace.

Here's the excerpt:

After Caregiving, Comfort in Having Helped
On the day of her death, Mom’s grandchildren came in, one by one, to bid her farewell. My brother, sister and I held her hand. I had a sense of ceremony and intimacy, suffused with honor. The honor came from acknowledging Mom’s long, hard journey, and from facing things squarely, encountering what it means to be human, in extremity.
A year later, on the anniversary of her death, I stood on a bridge crossing the Chicago River and had an extraordinary sense of time both collapsing and stretching into infinity all at once. It was a warm, sunny day, the water gleamed bright below and I felt Mom with me, amid all the beauty. 
In the end, I was not left with the loss I had dreaded so much. What I felt was a sense of fullness, uncolored by fear. 
I tell you this because during years of struggle, this may not seem possible, this sense of knowing you stood your ground with love and honor, this deep acceptance of all you did and left undone. But it is, and knowing this is one of the insights that followed my years of caregiving, which informs all the work I do here.


  1. Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry about this loss. I, too, and sick and tired of having to learn life's harsh lessons. We need a cure for this terrible disease.

  2. I find this very difficult to read Liza as it is the experience I wish I could say I had when it came to my own mother's day from brain cancer. Because her tumor was misdiagnosed for a year, it grew to such an extent that by the time a grade IV glioblastoma diagnosis was made, it was too late for her. She deteriorated rapidly, lapsing into a coma and never regaining consciousness. I feel no sense of peace over her passing, just a lot of anger and pain.

    1. Oh, dear Marie, I am so sad and sorry to read this. I get it, I get it I get it. My father died when I was a child and while the circumstances were different, there was no possibility of saying goodbye, no way to reach peace.... just a lot of anger and pain, like you said. Sending love to you xoxo.

  3. A beautiful tribute, from one dear soul to another.

  4. I have almost no words, Liza. So many of us, too many, can relate to this experience. All the people I've lost occupy my heart every day. I'm glad I knew them, I'm glad I was there in whatever way I could be. But it hurts. And the losses don't stop. xoxo, Kathi

  5. Liza, This brings back such painful and vivid memories for me. Five years have now passed since my mother's death from metastatic breast cancer. And so many others have been lost as well. Unspeakable suffering of the heart and soul - that's exactly what it is to watch someone you care about go through this, something so many of us know about all too well. Thanks for your beautiful and poignant words.

  6. Thank you All for your heartfelt comments. I will pass them on to my friend. I am deeply grateful for having found all of you, deeply sad that we all know this too well, and deeply comforted in that we are in this together.

  7. Thank you for writing this, Liza.
    Love and hugs,
    Donna Peach

  8. Oh Liza....
    The words are powerful. You know you are never alone -- we stand together and we share grief and we share sorrow.

    I am so very sorry. No words, just deep and profound sorrow.