Inhabiting the In-Between

Published by Sally Palmer on

Inhabiting the In-Between

**This is the last song I sang to my paternal grandmother before I said goodbye to her physical presence. She lived in the land of In-Between for three more weeks, beautifully supported and surrounded by her family.**

It might be late at night or the early hours before sunrise and you are there, waiting, caught in the in-between. It’s a place where you don’t feel quite comfortable – a challenging situation where you are waiting. While you inhabit this place, your mind is drawn to the person lying on the bed, who is also caught in the in-between. Sometimes you watch their body for signs of stillness and other times you find yourself holding your breath as they hold their own. Part of you wants them to open their eyes and glance at you with recognition and love so you can find your voice and your peace. Another part of you longs for them to finally let go and rest; yet there are wisps of your being holding them in place, wanting to remember the time before. They were once strong and vibrant, full of laughter, love and a sharp mind. The body you see before you has been whittled down into a fragile husk and relies completely upon the next inhalation. You find yourself holding your breath again as a tear makes its way down your cheek. You wonder how much longer it’s going to take for them to finally let go; what holds them here? Can they feel you holding them with your gaze? Should you look away?

No. You should not look away. You need to be here, in this barren wilderness with crunching snow and dim light – watching and waiting. Death does not show itself easily and a life well-lived has a hard time letting go. The soul of your beloved is hovering and waiting as well – the time has not come yet. Something unknown still needs to transpire and you let go of your breath as you watch their lungs fill with air again. You find yourself having conversations with a presence, rather than a person and you wonder if they can even hear you; if your words matter. Your mind races to the memories you have of them, when they held you close and filled you with their love. All that they have given to you is mired in the past, but will live in the tenuous world of your memory. You know that their actions and words will reverberate through your thoughts forever, sometimes unexpectedly. They will not be forgotten and you will continue their legacy with your own hands, sculpting a world informed by their lessons.

Sometimes you can just sit in the moment and co-exist; other times you trade places with another person and leave the room with shaking breaths and an empty heart. The role of the watcher is not meant to be easy and you give everything you have, each time you enter that room. As soon as you exit, you are able to collect your thoughts and move forward with a sad, yet purposeful step. Mundane activities such as eating, sleeping and talking allow you to heal your heart and soul, so you can reenter the non-negotiable space with a slightly rejuvenated calmness.

There is a truth in death and it allows you to reflect in a way that you can’t imagine or experience in this moment. Right now, your role is to balance, precariously, between all that has been and the severing of this delicate cord, connecting your loved one to a semblance of life. Nobody envies your position in this seemingly timeless space and nobody knows what to say; yet the warm embraces and tear-stained faces connect you and bring you back to the present. Those who rise up around you with food, a warm drink, love and memories will give you the strength to go back into that space to wait.

You are not alone and you are a true warrior for knowingly walking into the sacred space of the in-between. Your time here waxes and wanes with each inhalation until the eternal stillness, which could come at any moment. For now, though, inhabit this space with patience, honesty, ancestral strength and a reverence for the heart that continues to beat.