On Letting Go


Letting go has never been my best thing. One comment I heard long ago, from someone who was wrestling with addictive behavior, was that “Everything I ever let go of had scratch marks all over it.” I could definitely identify with that. The same held true for me in letting go of my aunt. Even though I felt so exhausted with the slow and arduous work of grief, I couldn’t give her up.

The following is a brief note I wrote to her in the first year after her death –

I wish I had been there when you were slipping away. I could have sat with you. I would have held a thin bubble of quiet all around us so the bustling busyness would have been shut out. I wouldn’t have interfered when you were trying to leave. I would have just held your delicate fingers, let you grip hard if you needed to. Just waited, in the wonder of seeing you off, loving you so much.

Would I have felt you tug away? Lift up, out of your body that had been strong for so long? If I had watched your face, would I have seen the change? The wonder take over? Would I have noticed any fear slip away, replaced by the sheer, exquisite beauty, the stunning holiness, the truest coming-to-ground, even as you left the ground behind?

Oh, I would have given anything to be there with you. But maybe it’s selfish, this longing. Maybe you needed to be alone, to slip into the whispery world, beyond everything you knew, by yourself. And maybe you trusted me. Maybe you already knew that I could do this by myself—live here, in this, the tender tangle of things, loving the world, the work, the hidden diamond at the heart of all that’s hard. Maybe what I needed most is this: you, trusting me enough to leave, to let go. So I can do that, too. In loving you, I can let you go.

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