Housekeeping — The Kind that Matters

Last week, at her request, I called a potential new client. Questions in hand, I was ready to see if we would mesh in a coaching relationship. Within minutes I discovered that this woman has a short—very short—time to live. The coaching experience I offer is typically nine months in length, so where did I fit in?

Beyond humbling, she shared with me that knowing in advance her approximate date of death has been a tremendous blessing in that she’s completely prepared—except for one thing. Taped to a framed photograph on her nightstand is a clipping from a long-ago magazine article I wrote:

Like the path we walk, giving and receiving forgiveness is a fundamental part of life’s journey. Reminiscent of falling leaves, offenses may scatter the pathway of our heart—the seat of our outlook. This attitude determines the terrain of our path and forgiveness keeps the pathway clear.

It is my perspective that the place to start—the place to launch joy, hope, positive aspirations, and healing begins with forgiveness. Until that bit of housekeeping has been taken care of, everything else is futile.

Since that initial call we’ve had two more conversations. Neither one of us is charging a fee, but you can well imagine that I’m receiving much more than she is. I’m learning how to die.

Do you need to give or receive forgiveness, or are you all set?

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
                — Laurie Buchanan

The Book—Discovering the Seven Selves
The Experience— Life Harmony

© 2013 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

Find me on Twitter @HolEssence

94 thoughts on “Housekeeping — The Kind that Matters

  1. Ditto what Jeff said. Very powerful. So thrilled that she has sought you out, and that you’re both learning from Death’s pertinent teachings. (As are all of us who contemplate.) I am wondering if forgiveness is something that happens once and is over. Or if we forgive as deeply as we can and then, at another later moment, it arises again and we forgive again. In the end I believe–since we’re all truly One–we’re really forgiving ourselves. And that doesn’t always happen easily or in one fell swoop.

    • While it is nice to believe we are forgiving another, the gift is for the self, and the forgiveness is always self-forgiveness. In that sense, it matters not whether the other knows we have, or whether they accepted it from us. To my own perspective, it’s a bit demanding upon the other to require their acceptance, in order to complete our own healing. To my own perspective, forgiveness is always an inside job. The beauty is that we can even forgive the actions of one who is no longer living. To some degree, for forgiveness to function well, we must first acknowledge the validity of our own feelings, and then progress to acknowledging that we can never know the truest real wholeness of that situation, the other person’s intentions, motives, circumstances. We hurt subjectively, whether the other intended to hurt us or not.

      • Deb – I know this comment was for Kathy (please forgive me for squeezing in here), but I just love what you said:

        “…forgiveness is always an inside job.”

      • Actually, Laurie, how can I forgive you ?, for actively participating in your own topic. None is necessary but if it helps . . . ;-} Oh, I love the heck out of Kathy, as she knows well enough. Public comments are for whoever they attract the attentions of. Squeezing In Hugs to you too, Laurie !!

  2. What a difficult situation to find oneself in! Still, I am sure you have the necessary qualities to deal with it and to help your client/friend. I hope you can both find comfort and strength in each other and may her last few months on this earth be as blissful and peaceful as possible. A big hug to both of you.

  3. What an delicate yet possibly heavy undertaking, teaching someone to forgive. Forgiveness is often hard to ask for and possibly even harder to give, depending on the offense (real or perceived) in question, and a hundred other different factors. We are told we must forgive that we might receive forgiveness ourselves. Sometimes it seems almost impossible. Whereas you liken unforgiven deeds as leaves cluttering your path, I also see them as mushrooms, hidden in the earth unseen until some event bringing them popping up to the surface again and again. Good housekeeping is in order, good gardening will also amend the soil in which these fungi thrive. If we can go a little deeper we can possibly root out those things that lie in wait to annoy us with their appearance. It is not an unusual occurrence that some people have to be forgiven again and again, I think good many will admit to being on both sides with this. Jesus was heard to say, ” Forgive a man seven X seven X seven times.” In other words, let there be no limit to your forgiveness. To bear a feeling of anger or dislike towards someone because of something unforgiven on your part is to increase your own burden by carrying that as well. Better to lighten your load as to bear ill-will through out your life.

    • Sandi – Thank you for the gift of your reflection. I love your mushroom analogy:

      “I also see them as mushrooms, hidden in the earth unseen until some event bringing them popping up to the surface again and again. Good housekeeping is in order, good gardening will also amend the soil in which these fungi thrive. If we can go a little deeper we can possibly root out those things that lie in wait to annoy us with their appearance.”

      I whole-heartedly agree that forgiveness can be again and again (no limit), and it’s better to lighten the load because ill-will becomes very heavy with time.

  4. Amazing Laurie. I like to think I am ready for my death from the perspective of forgiving and being forgiven but life continues on as I live each day. Sometimes there have been situations in the past that have taken time to resolve – like years! Yet, I believe I am content to complete any housekeeping relationship tasks each day as best I am able. In fact I am make a practice of it. But I also sense that there may be feelings and conversations that are incomplete, fraying at the edges, or in a complete tangle when I make my exit. These things I may have to leave with my blessings to those still living to find their own inner peace, as is appropriate. It is kinda like – when I have done the best I can then there is no more to do, with “best I can” being key. May you client be successful in her task. With your support I am sure she has the best possible opportunity.

    • Terrill — I deeply resonate with your statement, “Sometimes there have been situations in the past that have taken time to resolve – like years!”

      Like you, I have a daily practice of being/doing my dead-level best each and every day. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here today. I appreciate YOU!

  5. Can the practice of forgiveness ever be complete ? I think not. It is as ongoing as waking up every day. My favorite is Colin Tipping’s Radical Forgiveness – an awesomely powerful method that can collapse all “like” patterns, as these keep arising based upon old programming and even past lives (if one believes in such things). I have found the “response” to the practice almost instantaneous at times. The giving and receiving parts are pretty easy but the realizing of that need to – not always apparent.

    • Deb – You bring up a vital aspect:

      “The giving and receiving parts are pretty easy but the REALIZING of that need to – not always apparent.”

      Thank you for shining light on that aspect.

  6. Wow. I have read or experienced things before that have given me the “chills” – you know that brief tingling sensation, but never this duration or intensity. I am very grateful for your post. What a ripple effect …………….

  7. What an incredible experience! I agree that forgiveness has to start with one’s self. I agree with your friend, who appreciates knowing how long she has to live (although that is never a certain thing) and can use her time in a way that’s best for her. I think that knowledge would be a gift, making each day that much more precious.

  8. I can only imagine the moment Laurie when your wise client/friend shared her situation. It brings everything quickly into perspective. What’s important, what’s not … what painful situation of the past or today can we let go of and in the process be healed.
    When I started my leadership coaching program (over 10 years ago now) we had as one of our assignments that year 10 books to read on various subjects; 2 were on death and dying. I think the clear point was (and is) to live each day, each year as if we knew it was our last; being fully awake and fully present [see Stephen Levine’s small book A Year to Live] in each moment. I appreciate so much the comments of the earlier posters; debyemm’s comment “it’s a bit demanding on upon the other to require their acceptance,” and the balance of her post. And sandiwhite’s on the teaching to forgive again and again … I would say too, forgiving again and again not only the other but ourselves as well. I’ve been sitting with that a lot this month.
    Housekeeping is intended to be an ongoing process; clearing the spider webs that appear from nowhere. I agree that forgiveness is ongoing as well. On occasions I’ve found my initial forgiveness replaced later (over time) with deeper forgiveness (to the other myself) and with chagrin at my own evolving understanding of my contribution to the situation.
    Thank you Laurie for this blog … there is a lot here to reflect on. Thank you too to the wonderful community of posters here on your blog; great wisdom evident in your comments as well. Namaste.

    • Audrey – Once I realized that forgiveness (like housekeeping) is an ongoing process, I stopped beating myself up as a “forgiveness failure” and now take it one day at a time. For me, that nugget of wisdom has been like a key to a jail cell. One I free’d myself from.

      • Yes, yes … it is a one day at a time and throughout our lifetime process. I normally have less problem forgiving the other. Forgiving myself for a “trip-up” or “getting hooked again” on that old story or whatever the case may be, hits harder and takes more time to forgive. Love your image of the jail cell. Certainly a jail cell of our/my own making. I don’t have to put myself in jail for a mis-step. In fact, I may need time to reflect and then a good dose of loving kindness. Thanks Laurie.

  9. WOW, Laurie. What a blessing for you both! I got chills reading this post. I’ll have to re-read and contemplate all of the issues that your encounters together raise. Thank you!

  10. I’m overwhelmed by the strength in this post. The strength your client has to face death and housekeep. The strength you have for being there for here. May you both find the peace you seek.

  11. Beautiful for you both, it sounds like a wonderful, beneficial relationship. Blessings on you both on this journey of discovery.

  12. Learning how to die – yes, something we don’t often pause to think about. But gaining these lessons ourselves, and learning how to help others’ when their turn comes. Powerful “life” lesson indeed.

  13. Forgiveness… I’ve recently discovered how very important this is on our respective journeys… whether one is preparing to die or to live. It is an element of healing no matter what the end result is.

  14. what an incredibly brave lady.
    Forgiveness is for the giver and the receiver I feel and practising this in our daily lives is good for the spirit and the soul

  15. This post resonated deeply with me, Laurie, along with all the amazing outpouring of support and honesty from your followers. And I agree with Chris: I have not doubt that you and this woman were meant to cross paths right now, even only for a short while. I admit from my experience, true forgiveness, full forgiveness for yourself and others, is extremely difficult and sometimes an ongoing exercise of “choice”. But once you do fully forgive, it is the only way to be free, the only way to achieve peace with yourself. And if any of us are strong enough and willing to achieve that many years PRIOR our imminent deaths, then we can live the rest of our lives truly blessed.

  16. Hi Laurie

    A profound situation indeed, with many profound thoughts by yourself, Kathy, Deb, and Sandi in particular (and others also).

    Having come face to face with my own mortality a couple of years back, it incentivised some rather deep introspection on the subjects of forgiveness, acceptance, and morality in general, that continue to this day. I have three books on my beside table at present – the Oxford companion to Consciousness, the Oxford companion to Philosophy, and Fifty thinkers who shaped modern thought. This morning I spent an hour or so on Heidegger’s contributions, working to place them into my own schema of understanding.

    One aspect of Heidegger’s thoughts that are particularly relevant to this conversation is that all thought can only be understood in a context.

    I have the particular context that I have, my history of experiences both external and internal (my perceptions of the world, and the intuitions and abstractions and connections that my mind has made of them), and you have yours. Language seems to be a complex process in time and space of attempting to approximate understandings between minds, and often those attempts fall far short in reality.

    For me, there are many levels at work.
    At one level, acceptance and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin.
    At another level, the need for acceptance derives from our declarative judgements of value (both those we made for ourselves, and those we have implicitly accepted, unchallenged or undistinguished, from culture).
    In the first instance, in all of us, it seems that all such judgement stems from a small set of very simplistic binary valuation paradigms that we are taught very early in life by language and culture – things like right/wrong, good/evil; good/bad. In all cases, these seem to be very simplistic approximations to infinities. The simplest thing any of us can do with any infinity the first time we encounter it is see it as two poles. It takes a lot more experience to see the potentially infinite shades in between those poles.

    Making such simple distinctions is a necessary start to the process of growth of awareness (at many different levels), yet holding on to them as anything other than a simple first order approximation to reality, seems to me to be a recipe for spiritual suicide.

    In these multi-level contexts, I am strongly drawn to the old definition of “superstition” – a superstition is only a superstition when it is not a superstition – meaning that it is only a superstition for so long as it is incorrectly perceived by someone as a truth.

    It seems to me that we must all have many superstitions, and it is likely that such must always be the case (infinities are like that – big – big beyond the scope of imagining).

    So it seems to me that there is much sense in bringing acceptance to all levels of our fallibility, and to not get too attached to the idea of truth or of our knowledge of it.

    In the case of death, it is always a possibility, and I suspect that it is rarely a necessity.

    For my own survival, I had to first accept the possibility of my death, before I could create the possibility of life.
    For me it is working.
    I am here – still, in the face of all expert opinion to the contrary.

    Our beliefs are the ultimate shapers of our experience of reality, in a very real sense.

    The complexity of our being is vast beyond any hope of any human mind ever to encompass. Our existence is the end result of all that complexity, not the consciousness of all the mechanisms involved.
    Our awareness seems to be very much the ongoing child of context, and it seems that we can each play a role in choosing context at various levels, and as such, can indeed exert our own creative will into the vast mix of processes that is our existence in reality. It seems that we really do have choice, and it is not total choice, and it is the choice that is available to us.

    So I would say to your friend, certainly, accept the possibility of death, for that is always real; and accept that probabilities may be against her, and also be clear that all probability functions have infinite tails (with discrete, if small, probabilities associated with them). No one knows with absolute certainty when death is due; and it is powerful to be aware that the probability is always there.

    So – yes – acceptance and forgiveness; in the ultimate going beyond the need for judgement (in the declarative moral sense). of any sort, of self or other; leaving only the judgement of how we can each do the best we can, moment by moment by moment.

    • Ted – Having known you since before you received the medical prognosis that you (happily) didn’t live up to…

      …I’m thankful for your response today. The part that particularly resonated with me was:

      “Our beliefs are the ultimate shapers of our experience of reality, in a very real sense.”

      Please know that I will, indeed, pass along your words of wisdom. As always, thank you for sharing them here.

      • Maybe I took Winston Churchill’s 1941 speech at Harrow School to heart “Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

        And Yeah – stubbornness is a good first order approximation 😉

  17. I had to come back….. beautiful Laurie! Forgiveness is so important! Working though all the emotions connected to the experience – but once we do that, forgiveness and love is there – always. That is one of the most beautiful experiences, to forgive with the heart and feel love take over!
    Thank you for sharing – you are blessed to have each other!

  18. I have often wondered in the past 5 years since my mum’s death, if the last 10 years of her life was the work I was called to do. She was very intelligent and her mind was sharp right to the end of her life, but she did not fantasize or create things – she was a logical thinker; and incredible first grade teacher. She was never sick. 3 surgeries to deliver her children and then nothing for the next 50 years. When she started to lose her body, she could not interpret the feeling she was having. Her whole skeleton was bone on bone and she did not find it painful and just went on with her day. Then she got pneumonia – and she was ready to die and in the middle of the night when I was not with her a new Doctor put her on a heart rhythm medication, which kept her alive and having to work terribly hard to keep going the next 4 years.( pin the directive to the patient so it is with her/ him all the time, I think I needed to have made a poster for the wall above her bed – the doctors never looked – I kept having to get angry) During this time, 3 vertebrae in her spine collapsed – very painful…kyphlopastic surgery and she needed lots of physical therapy and she started to hate life and getting through the day. So at 92 years I began teaching her how to die. It was an amazing experience – her only regret was that she never got to vote for a woman for President. Forgiveness was the hardest lesson to move through because she did not feel like she needed to be forgiven for anything or to forgive anyone….All the papers were in order….she let go just before her 94th birthday, in her sleep just as she wanted.

    I know you are not charging for this work…but it is extremely important work…I would want some pay before I did it again. Then again! I would want some pay before I did any work !!

    • Patricia – I’m so sorry that your mother had four years of painful endurance. I’m glad that when it was all said and done, she died “in her sleep just as she wanted.”

      Not having walked a mile in her shoes, I can only speak from my own experience which has (thankfully) been being on the receiving end of forgiveness on numerous occasions.

  19. Touching lines.Yes,the path gets clearer and brighter as we clear those leaves.

    I find forgiving myself to be the hardest and that is a huge stumbling block.

  20. Wow; what a powerful post. We always say life is short, but man…life is short. Forgiveness is so vital to living in freedom. I really try to humble myself and ask for forgiveness when needed, but I know I fall short. Your post is a gentle reminder.

  21. What a gift and honor you have been given, Laurie. In my internship I am finding that my ego wants to get all cuddly with what a wonderful job I am doing for my clients while my soul is simply in awe that the people who share their stories with me are still walking, believing, and wanting to make their lives better. At the end of the day, my soul wins out because I find the first forgiveness that is required is that of the self.

  22. One of the most soulful and resonant posts you’ve ever featured here Laurie, and one that spurs you on to thoughts about unresolved disagreements or relationships that were severed by geographical re-location or moving forward on different paths. You query is one to ponder though, and though my family, immediate and extended gets on quite well, I do remember some minor differences with long ago friends that might be perfect choices for reflection in absentia. This is as compelling as any idea as one will cross in the walk through life and it grants spiritual closure.

    Thanks for this Laurie.

  23. So glad you have connected—and happy to know you both will give and receive great lessons, comfort and joy. During the last weeks of my mother’s life, she was at peace with knowing the end was coming. She spent as much time as she could connecting and communicating with those most important to her. But she also found great strength and support from a hospice social worker and a physical therapist—they knew my mom for less than one of her 81 years, but I think she would rank those two as tops on her list of “dears.”

    • Winsomebella – Thank you so much for sharing some of the ingredients in your mother’s transition: peace, connecting, communicating, strength, and support. I’m sure they went a long way toward supporting her comfort and joy.

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  25. I’m not checking out and moving on to the next great thing anytime soon, but I have been working on forgivenesss and letting go. It is taking a burden off my shoulders like nothing else could. I can enjoy life more now, plus I am finally attracting all the right things, yahoo!

    I was blessed to learn about death from my Mother-in-law a few short years ago. It was a profound learning experience I am grateful for.

    • Karin – Your analogy of forgiveness being like a burden lifted off your shoulders is fantastic! It’s like when Atlas shrugged and let the weight of the whole world he’d been carrying go.

  26. Somehow reading this post tonight humbles me. I felt a “hush” come over me to think what this dear woman is experiencing, and then as you say, teaching you. Following that thread, in your capacity as a teacher/coach, you’ll be sharing what you have learned. It reinforces my experience that we are all connected, and I’m truly humbled by that knowledge. oxo

  27. “Forgiveness keeps the pathway clear.” So very true, Laurie – I didn’t quite figure this out until I was in my 30s and my mother was dying of cancer. It is a lesson that has stuck with me and served me well for all of the years following her death. Thank you for sharing your experience and many blessings to you and your client as you continue along this part of the journey with each other.

    • Barbara R. – Isn’t it interesting how sometimes it takes imminent death, or the death of someone we love, to help us understand the importance of forgiveness? In my own experience, I’ve found it to be absolutely vital.

  28. Hi Laurie! Hmm..I would say receive forgiveness. I know I probably hurt a few people in the past 😦 I wish I could go back in time and say that I am sorry or undo my actions, but life doesn’t work that way. I guess everything in life is a lesson and sometimes those lessons hurt us more than others. Some experiences that I have gone through made me learn and not go down that path again. I think for me when I do something good for someone and they thank me or show that they appreciated it, I feel that I did it not only for them, but for everyone that I hurt before. It probably doesn’t make sense?..I don’t know how to describe it, it’s just a feeling of peace and forgiveness that I feel inside me.

  29. Good for you on the first post on the woman not having long to live . I co-facilitated support groups for the terminally & chronically I’ll. I learned so much from them, especially how to cherish each day. Thru had more zeal than 98% of the population & vire each day as a gift. How lucky to have known them. Why not help them give their grace to others, while maintaining some for themselves
    Come vi sit soon . And tskecare

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  31. I was fortunate enough to work with a good therapist in my thirties, which set me on the path of learning how to forgive. The passage of time, my own emotional evolution, and the death of loved ones has helped me advance along the path as I’ve continued the journey. Sadly, even with this base of knowledge, I’ve experienced extreme difficulty in applying what I learned about forgiveness to myself. That is still a work-in-progress, although it shouldn’t be so difficult to afford myself the same gentle acceptance that I’ve learned to extend to others. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that no one has done me as much harm as I’ve done to myself, and the challenge is learning how to break the cycle of abuse in my own head.

    I was also blessed to work with a hospice team when my father, and then later, my mother, went through an extended illness before they died. This team of people taught me a lot about bringing soothing and positive energy into a room, and it is a lesson I’ve applied to my life in a general way, and specifically, I’m always trying to improve on what kind of energy I’m projecting into the world. Subsequently, I began volunteering with a hospice program, and having the honor to be with someone as they pass from this life is indescribable, other than perhaps to say that it has shown me a lot about love.

    When I began working with hospice, it was because I wanted to give something back. As I’m sure you can imagine, it has evolved to a place where I recognize how much I gain from the experience. Too much, really. Life, and death, are showering me with abundance.

    • Ntexas99 – My hat is off to you for volunteering with hospice. One of the many heart-based organizations that I oh-so respect!

      Thank you, too, for sharing the gift of your reflection. I appreciate YOU!

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  36. Wow. That phone call was from a powerful person. And I’m sure it made you think to yourself the same questions we all should ask ourselves. Definitely, I have a long way to go in some areas. Not having the option to have my own children has been a real biggie. One I will always struggle with.

    Here’s something kind of related – ok, well, not exactly related at all because I don’t know how I would have the fortitude to do what you do. It’s an interesting writing, to be sure, and I have it framed on my kitchen shelf:

    To live content with small means;
    To seek elegance rather than luxury, and
    Reinforcement rather than fashion,
    To be worthy, not respectable; and
    Wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly,
    Talk gently, act frankly…to listen to stars and buds, to
    Babes and sages, with open heart; await occasions,
    Hurry never…this is my symphony.


  37. Laurie, I love this message. Like all your Tuesday thoughts, this one is both concise and profound. Your posts are like a perfect French sauce — perfectly “reduced,” boiled down to essence. I have consciously addressed the “four tasks of the dying” in my life: “Saying thank you, I love you. I forgive you. Will you forgive me?” I want to think about these things as much as possible and to leave no business in my life unfinished. Thank you for sharing this wonderful definition of housekeeping.

    • Shirley – based on your post “Reviewing 2013 and Setting Goals for 2014: Continuing the Search for Simplicity, Legacy” (, I felt certain your thoughts would mesh with mine.

      Thank you so much for the French sauce analogy — I love it!

      As it happens, I attended a memorial service for a friend today. As a Reiki Master Teacher her family had asked me to come earlier this week to be with her in her final hours to help smooth the transition. We talked of giving/receiving forgiveness, thank you’s, and love. Another wonderful lesson on how to die.

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