Until Our Lease Runs Out


We do not own each other. Kids don’t belong to their parents. Spouses don’t belong to each other.  We are lent to each other until our lease runs out. The only permanent truth is knowing that everything is impermanent. It’s knowing that we take our first breath alone. We take our last breath alone. We have no idea the time we have in between those two breaths, but we do choose what we do between the first inhale and the last exhale.



I’ve been a big proponent of leaving regrets and grudges by the wayside. It’s a waste of time, I’d say, to cling to anger, and to beat ourselves raw over past decisions,  lost opportunities, failed relationships. A more productive use of our energy is to  spend some quality time on self-reflection, on experiences we can squirrel away in our life’s knapsack, and pull them out when we find ourselves in a similar circumstance. “Ahhh, yes,” we can say, “I’ve learned that lesson. Thankfully I don’t have to live through it again. Phew.” That’s until we find ourselves in a different situation, repeating the same old tired patterns, asking ourselves, Why can’t I get it right?




Every day we pick up the newspaper and read about horrific tragedies in the world, the Newtown shootings, Boston Marathon bombings, a missing airline, to name a few more recent ones. We close our eyes and thank the celestial beings for our countless blessings, shake our own hand, and make a promise to be kinder to our spouse, spend more time with our children, call our parents and siblings more often. We take a last sip of coffee and go about our day.


It’s not earth-shattering news that tragedies make us pause, take a quick inventory of our lives, and make any necessary tweaks to live a more conscious life. It’s natural and important, but rarely does it stop us from going to bed angry when we’ve promised ourselves we wouldn’t, or stop us from screaming at our kid instead of remembering those who have lost theirs, and ask ourselves, “How would love respond in this moment?”


After my mother’s stroke, I was certain I’d never take any time with anyone I loved for granted. I’d not waste another breath arguing with my husband. I’d no longer become frustrated with my parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, and strangers. I had earned this new-way-of-being badge and pressed it into my heart.

A truth I’ve not shared with anyone before now, because I didn’t have the guts to stomach it, is the realization of a regret I’ve carried around since my brother’s death—not reaching out to him more frequently while I still had the chance. Instead, I waited for him to reach out to me, because I was right. During his last visit in June, he had a conversation with me—he felt that I’d abandoned him in the past year. When Skype had been removed from my work/home computer by our IT department, I could have bought an iPad to FaceTime. I could have learned the other numerous ways to communicate with a brother who lived on the other side of the globe, but I didn’t—I had PLENTY of time. And yet… there was a little more to it.

Rocky wasn’t here. He hadn’t lived through the day to day heartache after my mother’s stroke. He lived in Bali—a life so far from my own. Maybe I was angry at him for leaving, for moving so far away, for not being here with me and my brothers’ and my parents. Maybe I was angry he had a child who I couldn’t see and share in her life in some meaningful, tangible way. Or maybe the sadness in his voice and in his eyes hit me in those places where my fear ducked for cover. I couldn’t bear that he was right. I couldn’t bear that I’d hurt him.Image



I put my arms around him during those last few moments I’d ever be face to face, body to body, and said I was sorry , said I’d try harder, and that I loved him with my whole being. But I didn’t try harder, because I wanted him to try harder, too.





I talked to my brother over Christmas in a room full of people over a bad internet connection. I’m waiting Rocky, I thought to myself, I’m waiting for you to apologize, to tell me that you didn’t mean what you said. To tell me that you didn’t feel abandoned by me. To tell me that moving to a thirteen-hour-time-zone away was your choice, not mine. To tell me you’re coming home to be close to our family. I waited for all these declarative statements that would never come. I waited in my place of rightness, in my place of knowing that we had a miniscule window of time to connect during our hectic days. I waited for him to say, “I abandoned you, too.”

I was still in Maine. I went to all my family functions. I was the good and dutiful daughter, but more than that, I was his older sister who he used to talk through everything with before he made a decision. I missed him, and connecting more frequently only reminded me of how much I wanted him home.


Death has become a long dark roadway, giving me time throughout the day and wee hours of the night to drift along, imagining how I’d redo the past seven months if only I was allowed a second chance. It’s given me time to play the “what if” game. Fruitless? Yes. Does it change anything? No. So what’s the point? I’m not sure if I have, or will ever have an answer to this question. It just happens all on its own.

I’ve mined my inner depths, digging through the archives of our time together. My brother loved me. I loved my brother. Both are true. He didn’t abandon me and I didn’t abandon him. We were different creatures. He was a free-spirited ethereal being who could not be contained anywhere for long. I knew, and have always known this about him. And he knew that I’d live out my life in Maine being here for my parents.


As siblings, we weave stories about each other. Some are true and some are not true. We play roles within our families and trying to break out of them is like to trying to break out San Quinten, but it’s worth the energy and sweat to see and to honor our siblings as the men and women they’ve grown into, and not freeze them into the role they once played.




If I could hold my brother’s hand,  hear his laugh, and  walk along a wooded path with him one more time, I’d give up everything I own. I’d say to him, “I love you in the only way an older sister can. I  will roll in a bed of coals for you,  or give you my heart if either will  save your life.  You’ve been a beacon in my world since the day you were born. I know you had to move to Bali. I don’t blame you for leaving. I’m not angry at you for going so far way. I just miss  you so much sometimes—I do what I can to push it out of my mind until I’ll get to see you again. Maybe that’s why talking to you causes pain that I didn’t understand before. Forgive me.  Your travels allowed you to bring your love and light to more people. You don’t belong to me; you never did.  You’re on loan and I swear I’ll cherish our time together no matter how fleeting. As you said about life, ‘You love every single minute of it.’ Rocky,  I love every single minute I’ve had with you. Every single one.”


Here and now, I promise you, I will not avoid what causes me pain. I will learn from this most recent lesson that you’ve handed to me: there is nothing more important than to love the people who matter most, and to show that love each and every moment we’re given together until our lease runs out.


43 thoughts on “Until Our Lease Runs Out

    1. How can we capture a candle flame?

      I meditate each morning and have come to realise that the candle flame is a fleeting, floating reminder of who and what we are – ethereal, elusive be-ings in this seemingly physical world. We are so much more than what we sensorily perceive here – and in that “other-ness” we are all always connected. The separation, the duality, is the biggest illusion of all….

      1. Yes, my dear friend, George…Separation is the biggest illusion of all…much love and thanks for reading always and leaving your insightful messages…xoxox

  1. And you should know that your words today–in the very instant I read them–made a difference in my life.
    Thanks, Susan.
    L xx

    1. Only…love for you, Lisa…you stretch me…and as I was writing this particular post, the conversation we had that day over wind, wine and Goldens stayed with me…when the tears hit, I know I’m writing from a place of truth. xo

  2. I was a witness to that Christmas Eve conversation. I could feel the distance in that call, wondering if it was just about the physical distance of the miles between Maine and Bali. Now, Susan, you showed a deeper level that is important for all of us to peel away in all relationship where we structure a distance barrier of “rightness”. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Maggie…it took some soul searching to understand that had been there between us…and never realizing it was less painful to not talk to him…then to hear his voice knowing I wouldn’t see him again for a long time…the lessons he keeps teaching me. Thanks for reading. Love you!

  3. Dearest Susan, Mi Casa! Sending you lots of love… the fairy caps will soon bloom here and I will wander among them and think of you. Claim your strength… who knew what that really turns out to mean and what it will keep meaning…
    XOXOXOXOX Smoochies

    1. Suzanne,
      You were the most influential teacher and mentor to help me to become a better writer. You were my mentor, my teacher, my cheerleader and friend. Thank you for taking the time with your “busy” creative, amazing life to read my posts. Suzanne…I do love you, I love what you have brought to my life and what you bring to every student who has the honor to work with you. AND I saw that Wally Lamb left a post for you! I love you…you are an inspiration and always will be to me..as a writer, but even more as a human being. All my love and gratitude for leaving your hand and footprint on my heart. xoxxo

  4. My Sister Friend, Again you have created “an image” to the emotions so many of us have felt and cannot wrap our brain around. Your writing is amazing and with this post I feel your steps toward healing. Love you and yours!

    1. Denise,
      I love you sister…yes…I feel the movement, too. My brother and I will continue this walk…he has much left to teach me I know…but someone asked me yesterday, if you brother could say to you, what he thought you should do with your life, what would he say? I’m sitting with this…I really am. I love you!!

    1. Linda,
      Thank you…you know through this experience, I’m learning something else about grief and loss…there are so many layers to it given the relationships…I never thought I’d lose a sibling, my sister-in law didn’t think she be widowed at 32 and my parents never thought they’d have to say goodbye to their son. When you lost your son, I remember asking myself how a parent gets over losing a child…but it’s not about “getting over it” is it? It’s about living with the loss and doing something more beautiful with the knowing of how truly precious the people in our life are to us…you inspire me as well…My love to you! Susan

  5. Another heart wrenching, but beautiful post. Rocky reads these, too. I, too, try to be more fully present. (Hard work). To have no regrets, even if it’s the comfort of having made sincere efforts that met closed doors. I don’t close doors on my end anymore. Thanks for your wise words, dear friend. Much love to you. Berry

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Berry,
      Yes…you are one of my teachers…and conversations with you always bring new insights. Even when others close doors, we have the choice to always keep ours open. I love you my wise and beautiful friend. xo

  6. Dearest Susan, my heart goes out to you and your whole family. I too wonder what I could have done different when I lost my sister so unexpectedly. It tugs at my heart strings your words ring so true for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I remember the words of my best friend Gary who used to love to tease me by calling me back as I was walking away. He would beckon me & I would return to him saying “how far do you think you would have got if I hadn’t called you back?” I cherish that memory as you can cherish yours. Keep telling the stories. Love your family and love each day….love you,,, T

    1. Theresa,
      Thank you for always sharing your thoughts with me and the rest of us on this site. I love the words from your best friend, Gary…this made me smile. I close my eyes often and call back the memories with my brother…and sometimes I want to stay there. All my love to you, too. xoxoxox

  7. I know that while you were writing this you kept wondering if people might be tired of hearing about your journey as you try to cope with Rock’s death. The answer is, NO! Your writing has helped so many of us who have struggled after the death of a loved one.
    Many of us need those reminders to get rid of past grudges and judgements and hurt feelings because we could only have moments left with them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    The tears have not yet vanished, but the tears I cry now are for you, Susan. Rocky is in a better, peaceful place and you have been left behind to cope. For that, I am still very sad. I hope that you quest for peace ends quickly.
    All my love,

    1. Denise! I love you…yes…I keep thinking just one more post and I won’t write about this anymore! Or people will simply stop reading and I’ll just write to myself which is fine. Thank you for your love, your personal understanding and your encouragement that these stories, essays, are helpful in some way. I think it’s okay, my friend, if our tears don’t vanish but just transform into something different. I love you!! Thank you for always reading and posting your comments…I look forward to your thoughts…I really do. All my love Denise!

  8. As Linda said, it takes much courage to look inside and even more to unscramble all the hurt and pain into something as powerful and meaningful as your posts about it.

    I saw your blog when you first started writing it, but got waylaid and didn’t get a chance to comment, but I’m here now and following along on your journey.

    You’re a beautiful writer, Susan. You express your grief with such grace and elegance and power.

    There are lessons to be learned, always, but please, I hope you don’t beat yourself up for how either of you treated your situation. We do the best we can with what we’ve got, what we know, what we understand at the time. You understand more now, and so you take that forward with you.

    I’m so very sorry for the loss of your dear, wonderful brother, Susan. I wish my words could wrap you up in a gentle hug, but short of that, know I’m thinking about you, praying for peace in your heart, and I’ll be right here enjoying your writing and your process through it all.

    Much love.

    1. Kelly…it is so GREAT to hear from you. Thank you for your words…I’ll take that gentle hug..this will be a process..and I have feared that this blog has turned into something much different than I had intended. Every time I get ready to post…I’m thinking no one wants to read about my dead brother anymore…and then I think no one has to…it may reach one person who holds a grudge and maybe they’ll reach out to a friend, a sibling or maybe they’ll forgive themselves for something they did or didn’t do with a loved one who has passed. I just want you to know that leaving a comment means a lot to me. I just found your blog..and loved this post!! I’m a new follower. Please read all: http://www.authorkellybyrne.com/2014/04/fear-define/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-4

      All my love to you my sister-writer-awesome friend!

      1. This was one of the most traumatic experiences we can have in life and you have a great deal to process. I’d encourage you to take as long as you need to do that. The blog is a malleable entity, pliable and easily shaped into whatever you need it to be at any given time. Take your time. We’ll all be here.

        By sharing your grief or joy or epiphanies through this experience you’ll help others in ways you don’t even know about yet. That’s the writer’s job, IMO, like it or not. We enlighten through our own stories, we open minds to ideas and insights that others may not even know they need to know, or want to know until they see it in the blueprint of someone else’s life which points them to their own. What you’re doing is perfect and poignant and necessary.

        Thank you so much for visiting my blog and sharing it here, you’re such a doll. Much love and big hugs to you! I’m so glad we’re back in touch. 🙂

      2. Kelly…you are truly a light being. Thank you for the reminder of our jobs as writers. Ok…I’ll just keep writing what comes and I’ll print off this comment from you as a reminder…that writing isn’t about us is it? We share what comes to us and people will take what they need from it given where they are in their own life. I look forward to your future posts…and so happy to reconnect. All my love to you, Susan

  9. My amazing friend. I may say that word a lot, but know that you truly AMAZE me. I am in awe of your strength and your courage.

    And please continue to write what moves you, and you will leave us moved. The underlying themes of your posts are universal. We have all in our own way struggled with fear, loss, expectations and judgments, and all the rest. These posts help us all in more ways than you can imagine.

    Your posts are a shining light, showing me a greater vision helping me to step into a grander version of who I am.

    Love, Yvon

    1. Yvon…it takes one amazing friend to another…I tell you…I keep thanking Neale for bringing us together to walk along this journey, because you also always help me step in a grander version of who I am. I know I’ve said this before…but you are the courageous one with strength and beauty and grace the way you’ve lived your life and moved through your own struggles. I love you my friend! xo

  10. Susan—This piece is truly beautiful in every way. The honesty, complexity, and love here is so human, and this piece stands as testament to the depth of your character and vibrancy of your spirit. I am proud to say I am friends with someone as brave and big-hearted as you. Thank you for sharing your words.

    1. Jackie…it’s too early for my morning cry! What is that saying…birds of a feather flock together…I could repeat every word right back to you. I am going to start reading your book after Rocky’s memorial and I can’t wait! I love you and thanks for sharing your words. xoxo

  11. ****If I could hold my brother’s hand, hear his laugh, and walk along a wooded path with him one more time, I’d give up everything I own.***

    YES. Yes, I would, too.

    I always pray to God that I dream about my sister, talk with her, hug her, kiss her, love her.

    In one of my dreams, I ask Kay —-“What the hell happened? ” And she says, “he shot me three times.”

    That’s all.

    Love your words. Love your authentic voice. Love your honesty. xx

    1. Dear “MY Inner Chick…” I just like writing that:-) Your comments touch me in the quiet places…I’ve not stopped thinking about your story and what you’ve gone through…I’m wondering if you’d send me your email…I have a couple of things I’d like to run by you…a lager body of work I’m getting ready to begin writing…if you care to share your email with me, you can email me at Scasey@provcorp.com

      Thank you for your words..xoxo

  12. So many people have conveyed the power of your words so beautifully here. In the face of loss and grief, most of us run. Sometimes, we open up to that loss in our own quiet and private moments. But you are uncovering this depth on the page for all of us. Thank you for being that light. You are an amazing soul.

    1. Kerry,
      I can’t tell you how often your words have been a guiding light for me as well. Writing helps us to swim in those depths and look at things that can seem so frightening only to find nothing is more frightening than not to look at all. Thanks for having the courage to swim me with with open eyes and an open heart. All my love…Susan

  13. Susan, I once heard a really powerful lesson. It was about freezing people in time. It was about holding people hostage of an old paradigm we still cling to, not affording the flexibility to see someone in a different light. In our ignorance, we shun the notion that people change…including ourselves. Surely Rocky had changed-but so had you. Yet love prevails. Love dissolves the lot of it. And love will nurse your pain, give you strength, and ensure that Rocky is always walking that wooded path by your side.

    1. Alissia,
      Thanks sweet one…I feel him all the time..I feel him…and I do believe with the coming of spring…I will continue to feel the strength growing within. Love you!

  14. This is profoundly, beautiful, Susan. We all, as friends and family, are part of this gorgeous, timeless, transcendant, soul cluster. Rocky feels you now, uplifted by the love and energy in all of this. He is alive in your memories, which we gather to honor this weekend. In India, they refer to death as “dropping the body.” I love the immediacy of that. Souls are all around us, on endless, unfathomable planes of consciuosness, whispering in our ears, nudging us to expanded consciousness. All is right now. Peace and all of my love.

    1. Yes, my sister…Angela…we are part of the “gorgeous, timeless, transcendent, soul cluster.” And we will honor his sweet soul this weekend. Thank you for being in my soul cluster…life would be a much dimmer world without you in it. I love you dearly! Susan

  15. I am so sorry for the pain you are so obviously living with. My husband lost his mother a sister and his 41 year old brother last year and it devastating. His mother and sister we could kind of come to an understanding they were both elderly and sick but his brother who died pretty suddenly has just shaken us to the core. We didn’t go to the memorial, my husband just couldn’t take it. What we did was get in the car and just drove, we found a beach sat down and drank a beer (BIL favorite past time) and just talked about him. I feel like it was better this way. We drove and drove and just told stories about him. We didn’t come back for a week. It still hurts but what can you do. The hurt shapes us into new people.

    1. Rena,
      Thank you for leaving this comment. I’m so sorry for you losses, too. My brother was 43…it will be 3 months on the 14th. We had his memorial on Sunday. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking day. And yes, The hurt shapes us into someone new and I hope someone stronger with deeper compassion and grace.
      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read. Hugs!

  16. Susan,

    As I catch up with your blog going BACKWARDS – from most recent to oldest entry, I am seeing thy journey through your stages of grief. It seems you have gotten Rocky’s beautiful messages for you; to see what he presented to all whom he touched with his life; how HE sees the essence of life; contrary to what we have all been domesticated with, by ourselves. Most important of all, how CLOSE and TOGETHER and CONNECTED we all are, no matter the distance that separates us, even when whole realms and dimensions separate us. One thing I can tell you from my personal experience is that our Souls are always traveling between the Realm of the Absolute (Soul Realm, Afterlife, Heaven, whatever pleases ya); and the Realm of the Relative (corporeal plane, Earth, physical realm, whatever pleases ya). So whenever a Soul travels between these two realms, other Souls grieve for their leaving; just as you have been doing.

    With Gratitude,

    1. Peter,
      I like this idea of reading them backwards…I never go back and read what I’ve written…perhaps I’ll do this at some point when I’m ready…I just don’t want to relive any of it for now. The way that you’ve described our souls traveling between Realm of the Absolute and the Realm of the Relative hit me this morning. I’ve been “feeling” this for weeks as the reality continues to sink deep into my body. What I can tell you is that he’s here…I feel him often and wait for the signs. He still has much to teach me as I move through this process…no matter how painful it is…sending you love and gratitude. All your comments this morning made me smile. Thank you!

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