Posted on : 09-04-2011 | By : Lynn | In : End of the Road, Featured
Tags: the dying process
Turns out there is just a whole lot about dying and living that most of us don’t learn about in most academic settings. We tend to learn about the hearty rich part of life and death through our own personal experiences. One of the best things we can do for each other is to share those kind of experiences. Of course, there is no substitution for the real thing but at least we can create a safe place to explore these mortal topics.
I’ve been blessed with three friends who have allowed me to support them as their days came to an end. I had never had this experience with my family (thank goodness) partly because everyone is so dispersed that sheer geography gets in the way and partly because we must all be really really lucky! I’ve written about these friends over the years because it seems that I am still unwrapping gifts and lessons from my time with them. One of the things I’ve learned about being with someone who is dying, at least as far as pertains to these friends, is to accept that you cannot “fix” them. That they are going to die and to give them a safe harbor to park their boat and talk about their feelings and thoughts as they ready for their journey home. It’s such a sacred time right on the edge of this world and the next. I wonder if this is what babies are trying to tell us about their experience of being born only they don’t have our words yet?
I’m grateful that I’ve cleared away enough of my own inner garbage that I can be there with my friend during this time. Yesterday during our visitr, her pain level was at about a “6” (1-10) but even more disconcerting was her bi-polar and depression medication not working very well so she was feeling very fragile and very scared. I’m grateful that we’ve known each other a long time and had talked each other off of many cliffs, so I knew how to talk her down off of this one. She was worried and sad that she may have offended one of the older CNA’s when she was talking about her son and made a disparaging remark about his confusion and politics which my friend though offended the CNA. After years of working the 122-steps of AA with my friend, I was able to acknowledge how she felt and that she wanted to make amends where she had done wrong but I was also able to tell her that I was pretty sure that anyone who worked in this particular hospice setting that she was in had probably heard just about everything and was not bothered by it….but even if he was, right now my friend needed to focus on herself and love herself. Feeling crazy because of the mental meds being off and also being in pain and also in the process of accepting that you’re dying is probably not the best time to rake yourself over the coals because you “may” have said something that offended someone else. At least it seemed so in my mind.
Some people have asked me how I have been able to show up for this friend day after day, month after month and of course you know I respond with “how can I not?” But even more is that I believe I have been graced with the desire help her. It’s as if there are hundreds of angels on the other side of this earthly veil who are just waiting for us to ask them for help and for us to be willing to be used by them in the process. Sometimes I feel like I am floating through experiences with the ability to observe what I am going through and wonder how it is happening so smoothly when there really is a big huge chicken s&*t inside of me who has regularly run away from all kinds of commitments and intimacies in my life. On the way home from our visit yesterday I put on Zero 7 and cried all the way home. Cried that my friend is having a tough time right now, cried because I will miss her but also cried because of the searing beauty of life in these moments when we’re asked to expand our hearts.
What we usually don’t learn about the dying process is the outline of love that is filled in by living.