August, A month tinged in a poignant mixture of joy and sadness


My sister Raija Tyyne Maarit Leppanen passed away in the late evening of July 30th, a few short months after her 63rd birthday, cancer having taken hold in her throat area, compounded further by early onset dementia. My sisters Margaret, Maija and I had been sitting with her since early morning into the late afternoon, sometimes singing songs from our youth, or I, chanting my favourite Sanskrit Gayatri Mantra, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes just sitting in silence. The air was certainly tinged in sadness … so much potential now slowly fading into a quiet death. I cradled Raija, lying beside her as she passed. It was my first time holding someone as they took their last breath. Three months later, I remain in awe of the moment and am slowly moving into yet another new awareness of the preciousness of our lives. How important to love and accept rather than judge and critique. Negatives and positives live within us all! Death is such a teacher … Accept, breathe deeply … let the good prevail! I was very touched by the memories both my children and husband shared for the memorial service … humorous memories. How fitting for my sister, who in her finer moments, her early years, always had a great sense of humour! The memories everyone shared including a wonderful letter written by an old friend were heartwarming. It was a memorial tribute at its finest, to pay homage to the good in all of us. I was happy to see Raija’s sense of humour return in her last year of life. Today, three months later, I picture Raija’s soul flying … saying “well that lifetime was a bit of a weird ride but cool to be back here flying free again, waiting for the next lifetime of lessons” 😂!

My son Tim and his partner Liseanne made it to the memorial service in the nick of time, which warmed my heart no end. They stayed to visit for a few days, treating my sister Margaret and I to a wine tour of various small vineyards in the area. A most enjoyable afternoon sampling tasty local wines, including mead wines 😊! Tim and Liseanne’s visit ended far too soon. However, the positive side of that left me much needed quiet time for reflection, contemplation … life, death and all our various incarnations.

2 responses »

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your sister. I am sorry for your loss but appreciated your description of the final day. The last breath is a powerful transition which I have been blessed to be present for many times. I resumed work as a Hospice nurse shortly after returning home from Cuba. It sounds like what we call a “good death.” She was so fortunate to have you all there during her journey.

    • Thank you for sharing Holly. You are such a kind caring woman … how fortunate were those in your care during their last days! You brighten up every space you are in!! ❤️❤️❤️

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