Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was born on July 8, 1926 in Zürich, Switzerland. She pioneered near-death studies and worked with the terminally ill. Kübler-Ross published the ground-breaking book On Death and Dying in 1969. The book describes grief as a process that may include five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Time magazine named Dr. Kübler-Ross ‘one of the “100 Most Important Thinkers” of the 20th century’. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after the death of my mother-in-law. – Jadi
Her chair is in our living room. I curl up in it cross-legged; the air around it is empty.
I wash the leather cushion and back with a damp cloth. It swivels under my touch, then stills.
Her limbs did too, shortly before she died. I gave her the ritual of a final loving massage. It was gentle touch, my palm on her forehead, my hand over her heart.
Her ragged breathing calmed. I found myself matching her breaths. You can go, it’s okay. I thought those words, and said them aloud.
Her breaths slowed. In, out. In. Out. In….. out. In.
And just like that, she was gone.
Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. A hole in the everyday has punched through the solar plexus of life’s waistcoat. I discover I can’t fill the resulting void.
My mother-in-law and I breathed together, the same air, for 24 years. I’m not able to breathe back out, because Mama’s no longer here to do it with me.
In memory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004
NOTES: © 2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Breath.
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