Last week, my dear friend whose hospital stay strategies we documented a bit in June ended up back in the hospital for a rather scary heart procedure. Test-after-test indicated dire problems that had to be taken care of NOW, ASAP, STAT!!!!

While helping him navigate challenging tests and meetings with the doctor, my 94-year-old mother passed away in her sleep, about a perfect a passing as you could ask for. But a blow nevertheless.

It’s been a week of very wild life, each moment unpredictable. Big things often happen in two’s or three’s and there is nothing to do but go with it and practice the essential principle that Improvised Life is all about: within each moment there are a number of possible solutions. We just have to find them; to do that, we have to open ourselves up, be present, listen.

Much came out of this trying time (and many future posts). But after a solid week of intense improvisation, I’m going to take a day or two off to get my bearings…rest…reflect.

The image above was my view from a hidden bench I found at the hospital, nestled among trees. While waiting for answers to my friend’s final crisis, I lay down and took in the trees and dappled wall and birds, which all seemed like a miracle amidst the dreary hospital reality. A few hours later, the crisis was resolved and I brought my dear friend home.

Riding the train back and forth to the hospital last week, I read Pema Chodrun’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics) on my iPhone’s Kindle.

When Things Fall Apart


It’s a book to carry everywhere, as it is packed with reminders that help, like this one:

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.


Coming together and falling apart and coming together is what last week was. Now it’s time to take a little space and rest….

(back in a day or two).

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22 replies on “When Things Fall Apart, They Come Together Again

  1. Dear Sally,
    Condolences on the loss of your mother. No matter the age or circumstances, it is always difficult to lose a parent. With the additional strain of coping with your friend’s emergency, you are wise to take some time for rest and reflection. Of course, you are not alone. There are many hands to help lift and carry you forward. You are supported by a loving community. I wish you peace and comfort in the coming days.

  2. Dear Sally,

    I am saddened (for you) of your recent passing of your mother. I hope you and your family were able to celebrate your mother’s life and her contri-
    butions to your family in her favorite place.

    Vernon’s mother passed away at the end of August, a few days before her 94th birthday. Family and friends were able to gather at Pine Grove on the hill
    above Czar.


  3. I’m very sorry for the loss of your mother. Sending healing prayers for your dear friend. And thanks for the mention of the book. I need that now, too, and just downloaded it.

  4. My sincerest condolences on all fronts. How fortunate your friend has had you by his side. May you feel your mother with you always.

    Thank you for this gift of a post. It’s an important reminder to be in the now and to breathe in and out. I’m going to go visit my 87-year old mother tonight. This is just another sign that I’ve been away from her too long.

    Peace and blessings to you as you traverse the time ahead.

  5. Hi Donna, I’m sorry to hear about Vernon’s mom. The family gathering sound like a perfect way to remember her and be together.
    My fiance’s illness shifted everything of course, and made it impossible for me to do anything but focus on that. When I’m sure he’s okay, I’ll visit my sister, and we’ll make a memorial for our mother and remember. When you get to a very advance age as she did, most of your friends have already gone ahead, so there are few left to gather. But we will!…And at some point, I’ll visit beautiful Helvetia to reflect on all that has happened.

  6. I’ve long been touched and amazed by the “loving community” that is Improvised Life. Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, light and virtual chicken soup. Powerful healing.

  7. Dear Sally,

    I’m so sorry about your mother, but I’m so glad her death was quiet.

    And I do know about the fears of heart surgery. Myron had a triple bypass, which was terrifying for all of us. And then, later, a stent.

    I suspect you’re not quite as calm as you indicate. Know that we’re thinking of you with love and good wishes..

    And rest is the best thing for both of you.

  8. Dear Sally, Please accept my condolences on the loss of your mom. Mine’s been gone since 1985, and I still think of her daily. It’s something you don’t ever “get over” but the blessings of time and its perspective do help. A dear friend of mine lost his mom (she was also my friend) a couple weeks ago… she died on her 94th birthday. A very full circle. Pema Chodron is a wonderful guide through all sorts of vicissitudes, and I have to say, so is Improvised Life. Please take all the time you need. You give so much. Sending metta for your fiancé.

  9. Dear Sally,
    All my condolences for the loss of your mother. My thoughts are with you and wishes for strength and tranquility in the coming days. Take the time you need. Be kind to yourself. Your loss is a great one.

    And as your beautiful posting expresses life goes on. I have discovered that the mourning process has a life of its own. And with time the pain will lessen and openings will emerge.


  10. Dear Sally,

    I am so truly sorry for your loss. My own mother is 92 and frail, and I often think that once I lose her I will never be able to truly go home again. (Moms are special!) I am sending kind and hopeful thoughts to you. You give so much to so many. In this time, I give you what I can–my hopes, my best wishes, and my heartfelt condolences.

  11. I so enjoy reading your blog/site. So sorry about what you’re going through. Pema Chodran, to whose writings my daughter introduced me, is so good to have with you in times of stress.

    Thank you for your continued efforts to help all of us live more intelligent, reasonable, appropriate and suitable lives.

    You are most all the time an inspiration.

  12. Dear Sally,

    So very sorry to learn that you lost your Mother.

    Please take the time you need to mourn, ponder, celebrate,
    process and integrate this passage in your life.

    and, yes, Pema’s simple wisdom can be so comforting during strange times….
    Just reading the words “coming together and falling apart again” bring healing tears to my eyes.

    take good care….

  13. I just had to send a note…I was literally just looking up some guided meditation podcasts and already enjoy Pema Chodron – her books and audio. I found a few from her and downloaded them. I decided to see what was new on your site and lo and behold, there’s a post with reference to Pema Chodron! What’s more peculiar is that I’ve had “When Things Fall Apart” in my library for awhile and pulled it out last year when I was dealing with the loss of my mother, who was only 64, as well as a miscarriage. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges I learned and am still trying to accept, as you put it ‘in these wild and unpredictable moments,’ is that there really aren’t any solutions, there’s sometimes nothing we can really do besides find a way to be gracefully in it. I recommend reading the Orphaned Adult by Alexander Levy for anyone who has dealt with the death of a parent, no matter what their age. May the stars carry away your tears & the sun fill your day with precious memories…

  14. Hi Sally I am so sorry to hear about your Mom whom I knew so well has passed away. Also about your great friend’s heart problems. Perhaps you could email me when things settle down. Mary

  15. Dear Sally –

    So sorry for your many recent crises. Even when one has the good perspective on them that you articulate here, death and fear thereof are so much to try to absorb. It is strange that we have never met, and yet I feel and react to the loss of your mother as I would that of a steady friend. This is what you have made with TIL – friends with benefits in so many many ways – and I’m not talking about how you are making TIL self-sustaining…;)

    You make everyone feel and see so much of your life, that we share in all parts of it, and root for you safe passage to through the falling aparts and comings back together.

    May these journeys be rich with love and insights. And good moment of peace when possible.

  16. Doing nothing is what I finally had to give into…and it proved to be a kind of unconscious working on its own. I expect that will go on for some time, and am realizing the trickiness of balancing the need and help of working and the need to stop and be still.

  17. I am inspired daily by Improvised Life’s readers…their ideas and especially their great kindness and generosity.

  18. No, not calm and didn’t imagine I seemed so. That few minutes lying on the bench was out of pure exhaustion and overwhelment. What I am most grateful for is the understanding and very generous words of Improvised Life’s readers, who are, as Susan Dworski noted, a family.

  19. my deepest condolences to you. i don’t know how i missed this and did not realize the references made in more recent posts.
    sending you healing energy and big hugs.
    you are an inspiration.

  20. Dear Sally,

    i only read this now and would like to offer my condolences and sympathy .
    If of little consolation, enjoyed reading the phrase ‘ it’s been a week of very wild life’, because that is what it is, really. Taking all shapes and forms, it is good if you found something to help navigate you.
    It doesn’t end, there, it’s really something new beginning though it might take a while to feel it ( my perspective).

    Love & protection & smiles

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