We can learn much from someone who is dying.
When death is no longer a distant intellectual musing but has become a companion, we are stripped naked in the face of our own mortality—complex theories distill to simplicity.
One woman I work with receives hospice care and has been bedridden for the past year. Our work is to get her on her feet so she can stay in her home to die, a requirement due to liability issues, since she lives alone.
This work takes all of our focus. She is a large woman, much larger than me. Her legs are not always under her control. One missed step and she would be down with no way of getting back up. So, as she walks, I follow her intently, holding her with one hand as the other pulls her wheelchair right behind her.
At the start, there were only a few shaky steps. Now, she is doing remarkably well, pushing her walker for short distances in her home. One day we venture to the back of the house, a space she has not been in for nearly a year.
She sits back in the wheelchair after walking 10 feet as magical tones fill the air—where was the source of these beautiful sounds?
I glance around. Three Koshi chimes swing gently in the archway. My head inadvertently hit them as we passed.
I had first been bathed in their transcendent tones at a ceremony in Santa Fe. Tito La Rosa, an Andean musician and sound healer from Peru, was a featured performer at YogaSource. Immediately captivated by their quiet wonder, I had ordered them when I returned home.
Hearing them now fills me with the delight of a child.
“I love Koshi chimes,” I tell her.
“You can have them”, she says.
My initial impulse to her gift offering is to refuse it. Why should I have what I want? Plus it is better to give than receive.
I am silent.
“The last thing I want is a yard sale when I’m gone,” she says.
What really matters becomes crystal clear when everything that seemed to matter is slipping away.
“I see how your eyes light up when you look at them” she says. “I want you to have them now rather than wait for me to leave them to you in some will. It’s much more fun that way.”
Not only did my own delight shut down with my impulse to refuse, but if I do so, I also am denying her the pleasure in giving the Koshi chimes to me. We both lose.
I open the well of receptivity in my own heart and taste a deep truth about giving and receiving.
A gift that is given and received freely, in its purest sense, is simply joy—a joy for the one who gives and a joy for the one who receives.
There is no agenda with a true gift. There are no strings attached.
Often a gift comes with conditions, hidden or blatant. If you are good, if you are worthy, if you love me, then, and only then, is the gift yours. The price tag is often way too high, because the giving is done as a way to keep someone bound, to keep someone needy. It is the twisted power play of codependent relationships. The natural flow of energy between two hearts becomes so laden with conditions, expectations, and demands that the gift becomes a burden to bear.
But when we strip it clean and polish it to purity, this exchange of giving and receiving is an immaculate transmission of our sacred heart. Whatever the exchange, be it time, money, love or a bow-tied box, the true gift is the lightness of joy.
This dying woman offering me Koshi chimes without adulterated attachment is one of the purest gifts I have ever received—I leave her home feeling like a child on Christmas morning, rich in a bounty of gifts.
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Editorial Assistant: Pamela Mooman/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Thereysa/Deviant Art