We often use the words life and death as though they are separate, even opposing, forces. But it was not until I endured the illness and death of Adie that I was able to fully understand how closely linked they are, one to the other, a part of the same cycle.
Adie—my husband—was also called Adrian, BB and Dadda Bear. I’d had respect for the way Adie journeyed his days, but it was his odyssey into this extraordinary mystery of life and death, as his cancer stripped him bare, which left me in a state of awe, and taught me how to be fully present to the divine mystery nestled in the grace of surrendered love.
Our now adult children, Jack and Ella, and a few close friends and I, witnessed an ordinary man becoming gradually enlightened. Adie had never been more alive, present or more beautiful than when he was touching the face of death.
The vital life that he lived, and the death he transcended with exemplary grace, taught me many profound and powerful lessons. But with that my life fell apart and I broke open.
Like many long-term partners, our lives were completely intertwined. Not only was Adie my soulmate for nearly twenty-eight years, we also ran a business together helping leaders and organisations create thriving cultures based on values. Our professional work was incredibly rewarding, but also demanding and intense. During the course of a day’s work we would experience each participant’s story, manage many of their interactions, facilitate their learnings and sometimes we worked with some challenging behaviours. We gave our groups everything we had. When we got home we would often be all ‘talked out’ so we’d summarise the day by citing a score out of ten.
‘How did your workshop go?’
‘Oh good—say 8/10.’
‘Great… are you hungry?’
A score above 8/10 would sometimes elicit a conversation about why the day had gone so well, while a score below 7/10 might prompt us to re-examine the dynamic of the meeting and what we could learn from it. Many times, however, we were content to just share the score; a private code between us that was full of understanding.
I hope Adie knew that his death was a perfect ten; if there was a higher score, I would have awarded him that.
We don’t talk about death enough. Most of us are uncomfortable speaking about the event that all of us will one day experience. Yet my death, and your death, our deaths are already waiting for us. While talk of death has become taboo in many western societies, Eckhart Tolle says: ‘it can be the opening into the dimension of the transcendent, the possibility of knowing who we are beyond name and form.’
Early on in Adie’s diagnosis we defined what we both wanted, regardless of the outcome of the situation: ‘To journey the journey with as much grace, wisdom and love as possible’.
Adie’s death rang like a bell across the landscape of my life. Jack and Ella were nineteen and seventeen when their father died. They have been magnificent. We are all still trying to apply to ourselves the life and leadership skills that Adie and I spent so many years teaching to others.
There are days that have been lost, and months with weeks that are a void to me. It is entirely understandable that the recollections of others may be very different to my own.
I began to write in earnest a few weeks after Adie died. I wanted to capture the essence of what I had been so privileged to witness—the sacred, truly sacred, act of his dying.
To share our story is not just to help facilitate my own healing, but to call into attention the holy act of dying. I want to share how Adie’s teachings about life and leadership helped him to do the most important journey of his life; his dying. And maybe this final act is the most important journey that any one of us ever does.
At first, I wrote for myself, for Adie, for Jack and Ella, for grieving, for healing and for solace. But I continued writing for you. For the you who also questions what this thing called death is. Maybe, just maybe, it will help you in your journey when your time comes. Or it will help when death comes to a loved one.
As I was writing I came to deeply understand that I did not want to wait any longer. In living this life, I want to actively seek to burn my own wood, cry my own tears and continue to unfetter my heart in order to love and live in such a way that when it is time to die, I am carried out with a full wind underneath every unfurled sail of my being.
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About the Book
When Adrian Beardsley is diagnosed with cancer at age forty-nine, no-one can imagine how quickly death will come, nor the challenges it will present. Mary Dwyer details with courage and candour the substance of a marriage, a family, a business partnership, a spiritual journey and how she and her children faced profound loss and grief. This moving memoir of life’s most mysterious experience brings us into the light of an eternal grace.
A companion for the dying, for those losing a loved one, and for all of us wising to arrive at our own deaths well-prepared.
About the Author
Mary Dwyer is the Founding Director and CEO of Impact Solutions International specialising in large scale cultural change and ethical leadership. She works with business, spiritual and political leaders nationally and internationally. Mary believes that loving kindness is a powerful instrument for the transformation of global leadership. She views herself as a citizen of the world, travelling and working across the globe, but makes her home in Tasmania, Australia.
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