Lessons from Letting Go and Death

Photo by Noah Silliman from unspalsh.com

This post is a hard one to write. I don’t want to write. I really don’t want to do anything. I signed off from Critical Conversations 3 weeks ago reluctantly. I have posted weekly ever since I began three years ago. In my quiet time before that decision, a couple of things were occurring. I was reminded regularly that making space for silence and listening for the voice of the Spirit or Divine Love made my life simpler.

I had no way of knowing that letting go of writing this post and working on finishing the Wilson book would include my first experience with Covid, two weeks at the beach with very little family or friends visiting, and my brother John dying. Today’s reflections are some early observations, and perhaps lessons about this experience.

Before this time out, I was getting more anxious about finishing the book on Bill and Lois Wilson. Part of the challenge of writing is knowing when something is done and good enough. About a month ago, I realized my fear of being criticized about the book and desire for it to be perfect were blocking me from knowing how to finish it.  My collaborator on the book, Joy Jones, suggested I take some time away from it. I was open to following her wisdom, though it was hard.

It was hard because staying busy provides a sense of importance and blocks out feelings that are uncomfortable. Part of facing addiction to work and activity is becoming willing to face the empty time with no agenda and see what happens – to trust the process of life.

We had planned two weeks at the beach in MD and Delaware. The first week we expected children and grandchildren and the second week a visit from friends, and more children and grandchildren. This has been our tradition for a few years and one we always look forward to and enjoy.

Just prior to heading for vacation, my brother John was moving from York, PA, back to Bel Air, MD, where we grew up. My brother Mike and John’s son are nearby, as well as other family members. John had experienced a stroke a few years ago and had been getting weaker as he experienced vascular dementia. The move to Bel Air was intended to make it easier for him, and his wife Mooi, to stay in a home together for a longer time.  

John moved to Bel Air on a Saturday and was admitted to a nearby hospital with a fever and cold sweats Sunday night. Monday he was diagnosed with Covid. Geraldine and I had visited John and Mooi on Sunday right before he was admitted. Based on that visit and reports from the hospital staff, our expectation was that John would recover and go home shortly.

Once we knew John had Covid and we had visited him, I realized my nasal congestion could be more than a cold. I tested positive for Covid first, having the minor inconveniences of congestion and cough. Geraldine tested positive a couple of days later. Covid changed our vacation by delaying its start and causing our son and his pregnant wife to decide not to visit, to avoid Covid exposure.

In hindsight, what I now call Big Spirit or LOVE was preparing me for John’s death. I didn’t know it. I decided to focus my reading on books that nourished me spiritually instead of my normal crime novel. I read and reread a simple and profound book by a 17th-century monk, Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. His message is what the title suggests – be with God in each moment and dedicate everything to loving and serving God. It’s not my normal thought process nor one easy to develop.

As we were at the beach, the reports were that John would go home “the next day.” Friday of the first week, when they tried to discharge him, he passed out and was readmitted. The following Monday I visited him. Thinking the hospital was not doing a very good job, I became determined to get the care for him that would get him out of there and to a rehab facility or home.

John and his body had other ideas. It became clear he was getting weaker each day. He got out of bed and into a chair once, but it took every ounce of strength and will he had left. Day by day he ate less and said less.  

John died on August 19 at peace and with family.  

John was among the best storytellers in the world. As his many friends shared at his memorial service and in his obituary, he lit up a room and was the kind of person everyone enjoyed. He lived a simple life and called his God Big Spirit.  A local restaurant that he and his friends frequented 20 years ago added to their sign “God Bless John Adams.”  He was remembered and revered because of his Big Spirit.

Life is full of invitations to let go and make space for Big Spirit and LOVE’s wisdom. Life ends with the ultimate surrender to death.  I miss my brother terribly and hate watching his wife, children, my brother and sister and friends suffer his loss.  John’s Big Spirit invites me to stay close to my Big Spirit and trust there is a force that loves us all.   


  • Tom Adams

    Tom Adams writes and speaks on topics vital to the intersection of our personal lives with our community and global lives. He has for decades been engaged in and written about nonprofit leadership and transitions, spirituality and spiritual growth, how we each contribute to a more just and equitable world and recovery from addictions and the Twelve Step recovery movement.


  1. Carolyn Luond

    Sending love and deepest condolences, Tom. John sounds like such a lovely person and I am sorry for your loss. Will keep you and the rest of his loved ones in my heart and prayers. Carolyn

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Carolyn, faith is so important during the tough times, And beleiving that prayer of others makes a difference is part of my faith. Thanks for your prayers and kind words. Tom

  2. Joy Jones

    So very touching.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Joy for your friendship and support! Tom

  3. Robin Chandlee

    My sincere sympathies to you and your family. Thank you for writing this difficult and thoughtful post.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Robin, much appreciated. Tom

  4. Sally Raphel

    Beautiful reflection on your journey through hard times. Thank you for sharing
    Cousin Sally

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Sally, wondierful to have been on this journey together for quite a while. Be well, Tom

  5. Shirin McArthur

    Ah, Tom, my prayers are with you and your family as you continue to live into this loss and letting go. Thank you for listening to Big Spirit and sharing some here about your journey, as challenging as that process was. It helps us all remember the importance of letting go.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Shirin, it is a blessing to be surrounded by family and friends and their love and prayers and faith. Be well, Tom

  6. Mary Pitner

    May John Adams’ soul rest in peace and his spirit rise in glory with his Great Spirit. My prayers are with John’s family and with you and all who love him and will miss him.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Mary, we appreciate your prayers. Tom

  7. Martin L Warren

    Tom, I’m sorry to hear about your brother’s death. From yoour description, he clearly had a profound impact on many people. You and your family are in my prayers.
    Marty W

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Martin for reaching out. We are deeply appreciative of your prayers. Peace,


  8. Jon Olson

    My condolences Tom. May the Peace which passes all understanding be with you.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Jon, appreciate it. Best to you and Chris, Tom