Being Touched by Life and Death

Message from Leslie
at the Institute for Empowering Communication

Dear Friends,

My friend Mary Lee cared for two of her parents and in-laws in her home when they were dying. I would not have known about this part of her life if she had not told me. I am experiencing the beautiful consequences of her words and so I am especially keen on celebrating this awareness, that what we choose to say or not, can have amazing ramifications.

Mary Lee told me that these experiences were so rich she would make the same decision again. Up until she shared these words I questioned who would really want to care for those dying, except people with a special call like Mother Theresa or hospice workers.

I found out two weeks ago that my mother would not live long. With flexibility in my life right now, I knew immediately what I wanted to do, to spend time with her and my dad supporting them in any way I could. I wanted to contribute to her comfort, share the household work with my dad, and create beauty and art in her life as she did for me throughout my life. Mary Lee had inspired me. Mundane household work, preparing meals, cleaning up and shoveling snow have a sacred purpose for me. Each slice of onion, each carved section of grapefruit has a profound purpose to it, to make her life wonderful.

I have been lying on my mother’s bed with her, reminiscing about vacations, relishing the beauty of the round barns outside her windows, expressing gratitude for the constancy of her delicious international cooking. I have expressed awe for the beauty she crafted in our home, for her eye for yarn, textured fabrics and plants in her needlepoint, knitting, sewing and gardening. We have laughed from our bellies, and we have sobbed, feeling the intense pain of saying goodbye.

White light enters a prism on one side and a rainbow of colors bursts forth on another. I am this prism where life and death take on new colors, new meaning. I treasure that I am seeing, hearing, tasting and touching with new intensity. The feathered pattern of frost on the window, the satisfaction of reading a poem to another, the saltiness of tears, the relaxation of the one massaged and the masseuse, stand in relief to times I have lost this depth of awareness.

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”-Emily Dickinson

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for me, points to this choice we have every moment, to live semi-conscious to life and death, or to become a prism, experiencing life and death more fully. NVC helps me set aside my projections and guesses of what someone else values, so I can listen for what is coming from the other’s heart. It helps me decipher what needs are most present for me. NVC gives me hope that we truly can be the transformation we wish to see in the world.

I celebrate the decision Mary Lee made in sharing her experience. If she hadn’t told me about it, I might not be here, relishing each moment, scrubbing the pan and savoring the tea.


Leslie Ritter-Jenkins
Institute for Empowering Communication


About Institute for Empowering Communication

Co-founder of the Institute for Empowering Communication
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