The Beauty in Brutal Breakdowns.

One of the most brutal breakdowns in my life was when my brother and father sat me down and informed me they knew I was using drugs and lying about it.

They advised me, in no uncertain terms, that the gig was up — they saw me for what I was. All of my false identities were stripped away in that instant, leaving me bare, broken, real and very uncomfortable.

Yet time moved on as time does, and my life rebuilt itself only to be broken down again, years later… then again, and again.

I have come to see beauty in the breakdown and no longer shy away from this place of broken, real and uncomfortable. When I let go of resistance, broken-down becomes a place where I can rest. A place of naked tranquil abiding, where the trivialities of life no longer disturb or distress.

As a hospice nurse, I have the rare privilege of sharing in the exquisite and brutal breakdown that is death and the dying process.

I meet people when they are most vulnerable, and together we stand in the eye of the storm, bathed in uncomfortable uncertainty. I go with them into the deepest dark place of broken-down; I meet them in the inescapable exposed reality of the inevitable. It is an honor to help bear their pain, for the pain of loss belongs to all of us — none are exempt.

I once met a woman who had terminal cancer. Until this day, she could walk, talk, eat and care for herself with minimal assistance. But on this day something had changed. No longer could she talk and the left side of her body had become flaccid and useless — a devastating breakdown of the body.

As I drew near her bed, her eyes locked onto mine. It was clear that she was very much aware of death’s imminent approach. She knew and she was frightened. When I looked deep into her eyes, there was instant recognition. I felt as though I knew her and my heart swelled with love. I knew that she was absolutely and unarguably whole and unbroken, even though her body was ravaged and fading.

As I sat holding her hand, she cried quietly and I cried with her. Not because of pity or sorrow, but because of a profound reverence and tenderness.

The dead and dying tell me stories.

They whisper to my heart of unfathomable love, capable of overcoming any macabre sight or putrid perfume. Our bodies are simply bags of organic matter; in death, this truth is seen clearly. The dying lie, eyes half-open and glazed over with crusted seepage, the jaw slack and loose. Innards no longer in use begin to decay even before the last breath is breathed.

Yet the sights and smells of death go virtually unnoticed in the face of the raw and beautiful breakdown of all that we believe ourselves to be. Even when encountering deathly decay, love flows as a powerful tsunami, inspiring sacred acts of devotion.

I meet wonderful beings just moments before they pass away. I hold their hands and hearts in acceptance and love. We have only just met and already it is time to say goodbye. As I wash and stroke their wasted faces, I am filled with such boundless love that my heart bursts and spills from my eyes. As breath slows, and pain is released to peace, they pass gifts from their essence to my own, a deep stillness and serenity.

How extraordinary it is to even exist!

How precious and beautiful are the breakdowns which strip away all that we are not, leaving only the magnificent and resplendent truth of our soul.

In gratitude I welcome the breakdowns, and in gratitude I honor the beauty that is found there.


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Abby Pingree
Abby Pingree spent the first seven years of her life in a hippie commune. She is currently an author, hospice nurse, mother, and student of life. She has made friends with her own experiences with drug addiction, bulimia, dishonest and dodgy behavior by simply telling the truth. She explores these experiences in a book titled: Completion, by C. Abigail Pingree. She now seeks an authentic life. She writes for Elephant Journal and blogs for Huffington Post. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Abby Pingree
Abby Pingree

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