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Acceptance, Gratitude, and Change

Recently, a beloved friend texted me the sad news that his father had died. “It’s over,” he wrote. “Shikata Ga Nai.”

He is right. Shikata Ga Nai is the Japanese phrase for “It cannot be helped,” or “Nothing can be done about it.” For those of us who like to maintain the illusion of control over our lives, death laughs at that folly.

I remember holding my dad’s hand when he was taking his last breaths and (weirdly) thinking, “There is nothing I can do about this.” His life was slipping away, and I was powerless to do anything other than to stand by and bear witness to his passing. Shikata Ga Nai indeed.

As heartbreaking as it is, with the wreckage of loss and grief swirling around us, the death of a loved one can also be viewed as an invitation, a call to relearn the lessons of acceptance and gratitude. Acceptance for what can’t be changed and gratitude for what was, what remains, and what is to come. A death can also be an opportunity to examine our own lives.

I haven’t written for End in Mind since June of 2021. That’s when I wrote about re-entry into the world after Covid lockdowns. I wrote something trite about deciding what parts of “normal life” you wanted to go back to and what new ways of living you’d take with you in the future. Since then, I’ve made some changes, but they’ve not led to a happier or more joy-filled existence. Instead, I’ve hopped back on the bucking bronco that is the life I led pre-Covid and find myself hanging on for dear life. It isn’t a comfortable ride, but I’m used to the horse.

I haven’t written because I’ve been caught in a whirlpool of busyness and I felt I had nothing much to say as I’ve dragged myself through most days.

Perhaps it is because time is passing and I’m getting older that I find I’m longing for something more in my life. Perhaps it is what the Japanese describe as “Datsuzoku.” It’s a philosophy, a mindset. It is an escape from daily routine, a reprieve from convention, a going outside the well-trod path of what you normally do or what society expects you to do. Is it a whole scale change or is it simply a matter of looking at life with fresh eyes?

I’m not sure. Change isn’t easy but it’s really the only constant in life. I’m interested in hearing about how you instigated changes in your life or how you have navigated the unexpected ones. Let me know at cwurzer@endinmindproject.org.

One Comment

  • Pam (Fish) Carlson says:

    Mmmmm. I’m right there with you Cathy. Held my Dad’s hand at his passing in 2001, and still learning from him.
    Mom passed last month after a long 2 years of 24/7 care-which now seems it wasn’t long enough. Then beloved Mom-in-law left us 6 weeks later.
    Still processing the grief and joy filled days with my 3 adult kids as they mourned one Grandma right after another, both of which were very close to them.
    I must say the time with them and the unfolding of their perspectives on each Grandma was both heart wrenching and healing. It helped ease my sadness knowing they each took away valuable life lessons from our Moms. To see all the grandkids (11 on my side and 13 on my husband’s) laugh, cry and share memories was such a gift.
    I guess what I’ve taken away so far in terms of ‘change’ at this time of life is that even though I’m not a Grandma myself I should try to be the kind of loving role model they were to their Grandchildren. They created such special bonds!

    Thanks for what you wrote.

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