What Really Lies over the Rainbow and How to Reach There

What Really Lies over the Rainbow and How to Reach There

Do you want to live your life or experience your life?

Fact: We’re born, we live, and we die.

Our own heartbeat, the proof and vital element for life begins in the womb, way before we take our first breath.

From the moment we are born, we are connected to life with our breath. Our life depends on it.

Our life begins with our first heartbeat in the womb and our first independent breath upon being born. Our life ends when we take our last breath and our heart stops beating.

In between these two breaths, between these two heartbeats, we live life—our life.

Two years ago, on May 14, I watched my father take his last breath and I felt his last heart beat through the fingers of my right hand.

His life was gone…

When the ‘official’ grieving time is done – Life moves on…

“Forward, Forward” my father always used to say to me when I was challenged by life with setbacks or disappointments. "Forward Forward", his words etched echoing in my body through years of hearing that phrase.

Then came the task of releasing the physical possessions of that life.

Going through all his belongings, his books, his clothes, his pictures, his letters, his notes, and his papers from a lifetime of work and research…

I was sifting through a lifetime of a person, choosing what to keep, what to throw away, observing what things he kept, what was important for him to file neatly, what was stuffed and crumpled, scattered in an insignificant way.

Like a forbidden treasure box, I was allowed to open and sift all the hidden drawers, all the secret files. ​A life revealed from what was left behind. Mounds of files, pictures, newspaper clips, notes, his thoughts on paper, him all around me in each and every object - A mans life through his possessions.

Sifting, keeping, throwing...

In a way, I was throwing my father’s life away.

In a way, I got to see his whole life in a new way.

I’m getting to know him all over again through my own growth and change, from new realizations, from things that he saved, letters and notes, from the change of perception through time and distance.

His life was a bunch of moments, a bunch of events, a bunch of adventures, of triumphs and falls, of joy and despair, of courage and fears, worries, delights and creations.

Towards the end, in the process of his failing body, as his illness (Parkinson’s disease) took over his independence and dignity, confining him to a bed, we had countless conversations. We learned to see each other in new ways. We found the courage to ask questions, knowing each conversation might be our last.

We shared who we were, we told each other our stories, we made peace and promises, and we redefined our stories.

My father spoke about regrets. About what he cherished. About his worries for me and my sisters, about what he was hoping to leave behind, about what his life meant to him.

What is left from his life are my memories, what he taught me by example (or the opposite), and by who I am choosing to be today.

Throughout the years of his illness, and the impossibility of trying to prepare myself for a future without him, my struggles in life and the new insights I had after every time I visited him caused me to change.

The fears, the pain, the struggles, the suffering—it became so unbearable that all I could do was surrender.

Insights. Feelings. Thoughts. Fears. Listen to your heart and open up to your own truth, which in my experience, changes with us as we change and grow. As long as we stay connected to ourselves with open curiosity, we change and grow like the seasons of nature.

Before his death, my father asked to smell a flower. Then he wanted to see a bird, and then he waited for his three daughters to come and be there with him.

My father’s last words to us (recorded for me and my sisters) was LOVE. He repeated the word as a last message to us: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE…

And then came the final breath and the final heartbeat.

His body was there, but he was gone.

The world disappeared from under my feet into a dark cave of pain I had never experienced before.

That profound moment of sheer shock and despair was profoundly peaceful and filled with gentle serenity in the air.

Two opposites were fitting, completing each other in a most obvious, perfect fit. They belonged together; they were harmonious with each other.

"And after all these years, today I woke up to a new piercing pain of sorrow.

Penetrating, shaking tender sadness of poetic surrender,

Speaking self-compassion to me:

I’m transparent.

I am broken.

I am star dust.

I am holy cracking open.

It was the sound of awe, of my soul moaning, crying for me, crying with me.

My grief spoke a new language.

A new, unknown, never before heard sound so profound emerged from the deepest depth of my soul, in the weeping sound of my tears."

And I surrendered.

From being focused on myself and my life, from years of limited life, living the circumstances of my life that defined and confined me, I finally found myself free.

I found myself in an open place of choice.

It was a choice to continue living a life determined and confined by my life’s circumstances, an automated living of what is, or of finding a way out, creating my life the way I would like it to be, becoming who I want to be, and freeing myself from the chains that I chained myself with.

I am not my life’s circumstances. I am not my past. I am now, and my now is creating and building my tomorrow and who I will be.

I choose me. I choose who I want to become, I choose how I want to live. I choose to experience my life, to experience my breath, to feel my heart beat.

I make that choice every day—again, and again and again.

When I am gone, what will remain is how much I felt life while living, in its magnificent and glorious salad of joy and pain, fear and courage. When I take my last breath, I want to have the experience of it all in that breath.

I want my last heartbeat to be the joy of my life and the pain of grief.

So I’m choosing to feel, to enjoy, to create, to try, to fail, to succeed, to love, to share, to be embarrassed, to feel excitement, to dare, to make mistakes, to enjoy each bite of that sinful rich creamy cake, to bask in the breeze of the wind caressing my skin, to be frustrated, to love myself, to get mad, to slip, to be silly, to be open, to enjoy not knowing, to find courage in my fear, to find encouragement in my judgement, and to embrace not knowing what will be. I am making peace with the world as it is; I am making peace with my life, with myself, and with my world.

Love guides me.

My life is far from perfect. I am not perfect. On the contrary, I am perfectly Imperfect, and my life is wonderfully imperfect and challenging every day. It will never be perfect. I don’t want it to be.

Yet, life has become more colorful than ever, filled with curiosity, uncertainty and explorations. Life became open to new possibilities, even those that seemed impossible.

A bad day is an opportunity to have a bad day—a perfect day to allow myself to be grumpy and cranky.

My life has become everything—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the fears and the courage, the pain and the relief, the grief and the grace, and all the colors and shades, all the feelings and emotions, insights and disappointments, the hope and despair, the unknown and change. It’s a regular life, just like yours.

I try to embrace this life. I try to experience and thank my days for what they are. I simply revel in the fortunate fact that I am alive, and I cherish and respect this gift as much as I can.

Mostly, I forget and go through the days just running from one place to another, inside my head living in the past or the future, not noticing the sun or the rain too much, not noticing how I get from point A to B, or flying in my mind to other places while washing the dishes or taking a shower.

But when I do remember, I stop. I stop and feel my breath enter my nose, I smell all the scents that are carried in the air. I feel my chest elevate and my stomach expand. I feel the wind on my skin; I look up at the skies, open my mouth, close my eyes and immerse my taste buds in the sensation and taste of my food. I stop and feel and experience my now, whatever it is. I like those moments; they feel special and magical. They carry a special secret of something untouchable but important, 'unexplainable' but known.

I call those moments my “over the rainbow” moments.

It is where the logic of life doesn’t make sense, but everything makes perfect sense.

Over the rainbow is here when we let go and look at our fears, when we choose to be who we want to become, when we choose love.

Because what really lies over the rainbow, that perfect world that we dream of over the rainbow, is right here in front of the rainbow—right where we are. Learning to love and enjoy our imperfect selves in this imperfect world with its moments of magic and love and painful heartbreaks—that is the perfect world that lies just over the rainbow.

Over the rainbow is the place where we look at our fears and gently lean into them.

Over the rainbow is where you embrace and feel each and every moment, feeling, sensation, scent, and touch all the way through your body with respect, curiosity and understanding.

Over the rainbow is a place where life is a rainbow of feelings, a rainbow of experiences, a rainbow of adventures, a rainbow of failures and a rainbow of triumphs.


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    • Thank you Jodi. It was not easy to share my story here. I’m glad you found inspiration in it. Yes, life is filled with so many experiences that we can not control, and surrendering to embrace those events is hard, yet rewarding in it’s graceful inner peace…

  • I loved the entire post. Thank you for sharing your experience of your father’s passing. I have not yet experienced this and your tender sharing is a glimpse for me. The rainbow analogy really resonated with me…looking on this side of the rainbow…learning to love our imperfect selves in our imperfect lives…I needed this. Remembering it’s all about love…a reminder that always is great to hear!!

    • Thank you Kathy. I wish there was a way to spare other people from going through this experience, but then, as I wrote there are gifts in the process. I’m only at the beginning of learning to live in a world without my father, and have the rest of my life to practice this new place. Incredibly, life does move forward and love finds a new and renewed meaning…

  • Your shared experiences with your father near the end of his life “through your own growth and change, from your own realizations” were beautiful to behold. Thank you for including us in them.


  • Wow Lian, this post is so powerful AND beautiful. I absolutely love your father’s last message of LOVE. Thank you for sharing your experience and this post.

    • Thank You Maritza, for your kind encouraging comment.
      Losing a parent is one of the hardest things we go through in life. It does seem to me more and more in life that at the end of it all, love, is the most important ingredient in our lives…