My Sister Nancy

I was driving home from a movie with my sons several weeks ago, when I noticed a call from New Mexico on my phone. My 60 year old sister Nancy lived in a small town outside of Santa Fe. It was her friend Gwen who informed me that Nancy had killed herself. Nancy had a long history of depression, her energy was chronically pressed down. A big part of the shock I felt was realizing that I shouldn’t be totally surprised that she felt she just couldn’t continue to helplessly fail in her attempts to face her life. She was so emotionally fragile that she felt imprisoned in emotional paralysis that prevented her from taking action on the most important decisions necessary to function in her daily life.

We grew up together in a quite disengaged family in terms of expressing our feelings with one another. She was seven years younger than I, so we didn’t have a lot of contact over the years. But we always knew we cared for each other very much, she was a very compassionate and benevolent presence. We had become quite a bit closer over the last several years; my other sister Mary Jo and I had found her a divorce attorney with whom we completed her second divorce, and we walked her through the steps of selling her expensive Colorado home with a real estate agent when we visited her in New Mexico a year ago.  She had taken us to the cemetery in her little town, and had said several times she wasn’t sure how much more time she had on earth.

As I was receiving the inevitably painful and heavy dreadful shock of her death, I realized that the most difficult part for me was that she had left her 38 year old daughter Lindsay with a one month old baby boy. Couldn’t she see that her loving presence alone would have been enough as well as necessary for Lindsay and baby Matisse to experience the wonders of Grandmother heart?? I at first felt some anger at her for abandoning her family at such a crucial time, but it didn’t last long. I knew that I couldn’t fully understand how dark the cloud of despair and helplessness held her in its grip.

There was still a part of me that needed to push away the horror of that despair, and I couldn’t yet clearly see that even in our darkest moments, we are deeply loved. I was reminded of what Nisargadata said when he was asked about sinners. “When I look at others, no matter what they’ve done, I don’t see an other, I see myself.”  To really deeply realize our oneness is to embody the BEING that is all beings. More and more I now only have love and mercy in my heart for Nancy.

The night before her funeral, I laid down and felt her presence with me. I sensed that she knew she was loved. I realized there was nothing I could have done to prevent this happening. I resisted her pain while she was with us, and it was clear now that I was really resisting my own pain. I was seeing her pain as other, seeing her as other. Now there was forgiveness in my heart, and I remembered Thich Nhat Hanh’s saying, “I hold you close to me, and I release to be so free, because I am in you, and you are in me.”

11 Responses to My Sister Nancy

  1. kimberly July 7, 2016 at 1:27 am #

    I am so sorry for your loss, Roger. What a sad thing when a person you have known all your life goes out this way. Your brother also killed himself if I recall correctly. How beautifully you have accepted your sister’s death. Your understanding helps me come to terms with my alcoholic mother’s death so many years ago. I have been preparing for my own death for some time. I want to go out beautifully as a blessing to those I leave behind. May all being be free and at ease.

    • Roger Hawkins July 7, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

      Thanks Kimberly,
      Forgiveness and understanding is something we are always growing into. And it is such a gift to have the opportunity to consciously prepare for our own death.

  2. piro papa July 7, 2016 at 1:31 am #

    Hey brother I feel you I am expressing my condolences to you from my heart.
    On the other side I see that pain flows through you it has no where to hang on
    Even through those hard times wisdom
    is your elixir to heal the heart.
    My best wishes for you and your family from now on.

    Love and LIGHT

    • Roger Hawkins July 7, 2016 at 10:51 am #

      Thanks so much for your words of wisdom Piro! The willingness to not find a place to hang on, becomes the willingness to express the love
      of the universal heart.

  3. Myoan July 7, 2016 at 2:30 am #

    Hi Roger, Sending you and your family my deepest wishes for continued love and support within the vast and wondrous jeweled net. I’ve thought of you often over the past few weeks, wondering. I was hoping you were on vacation.

    It’s been so valuable and powerful all these years to witness how you work through pain and resistance with your special brand of gentle bravery and wisdom. Thank you for sharing this story and for sharing your life so fearlessly. May the waves wash through you and the sailboats carry you to freedom.

    “I hold you close to me, and I release to be so free, because I am in you, and you are in me.”

  4. Roger Hawkins July 7, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    Thanks so much for your beautiful comment Debra. Not finding any I to cling to, the boat of Self is always expressing freedom. It’s so great that you’re
    sailing here with us all!

  5. Kathy Bishop July 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    My heart is with you and your family. I will keep you in my prayers my dear friend.

  6. Bernard Schechter July 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    My sincere condolences to you. Realizing that there was nothing that you could do to prevent this,
    is a form of liberation and healing for you, and perhaps those other family members who share your grief. Another opportunity to grow, even if thru tragedy as we humans perceive it.
    Much Love to you.

  7. Shirley July 7, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

    Uncle Rog, this was so beautifully written and wise. It helps me to come to some sort of peace in this stage of my grief too. Love you!

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