Saturday, November 28, 2009

Suspended Between Heaven and Earth ~ When The Soul Is Trapped In The Body...

Leaves have their time to fall,
And flowers to wither at the north-wind's breath,
And stars to set; but all, Thou hast all seasons
for thine own, O Death!

~ John Milton, The Hour of Death ~

Dear Ones,

Dying is such a mysterious process. My mother has now been on Hospice for a month. Her doctor didn't even think that she would last 2 weeks once on Hospice, and she is more than ready to go, she wants to go, she can no longer sit up alone, is terribly weak and thin, and when you talk to her -- if she's able to talk for a minute at all -- she sounds as if she is drifting away. On Thanksgiving, just as we were all about to sit down to eat, mom wanted to tell us all goodbye. She said that "this was it," and I asked her how she knew, what made her think this was the time, and she said she just knew. She wants badly for it all to be over, and yet here she still is. A devout Catholic, my mother sees the Virgin Mary sitting on the bed next to her, holding her hand. She says that Mary is going to help her over to the other side. And yet the tiny delicate woman that she has become sleeps all day, becomes weaker and weaker, and no one can see how this can go on much longer.

It's almost harder than seeing her through the five years that this cancer has had it's grip on her, because then she was trying to fight it, doing all manner of treatments and experimental drugs. October 28 she went on Hospice and she is still here. We are all rather dumbstruck, and it is heart-breaking to see her want so badly to go when she has suffered so long. It's as if her spirit is on the edge of slipping out of her body, but for some reason cannot yet be set free. I think this time is more excruciating than anything that came before. She asked how long she's been on Hospice and when told a month she said, "That's too long." Where are the angels at this juncture? Why is her spirit still trapped in her body?

When I read Milton's quote, above, about the seasons of one's death, I wondered which season my mother is in. Surely it is winter, soon that last leaf will drop from the tree, but it is impossible to understand how one's body can hold out against all odds, even when the dying person wants badly to go. She keeps telling everyone "Goodbye" and I wonder if in saying it part of her believes she can will it to happen. Why is the last leaf that falls able to hold out until the others have fallen before them? My mother has changed colors in the autumn of her dying process and now, deep in winter, how can there still be this one leaf on the tree? Is there a purpose? Just now, we cannot see or understand.

But there is a reason, one that we are not meant to know. No one knows when the exact moment of death will come, and often it is not due to the illness that one has been battling for their very life. Finally, the body is tired, the defenses down, and it may be the heart that gives out, weakened by the struggle. Who can say?

What I do know is that when given a short time to live five years ago, if she had died when the doctors expected her to then, we would not have healed many, many painful issues from a lifetime of struggling. In the beginning they were still there, but finally, like the logs in the fireplace burning down to glowing embers, when everything else has been burned away, her fire will gently go out. She is not finished with her work here. She has been leading us by her example all along the way. What will we yet learn before the spirit spirals upward and out of this earthly plane? Surely, there is something that holds her here.

Thanksgiving night she kept repeating to each of us, "I just want you all to know how beautiful dying is. I am at peace, I am not afraid, I am ready to go." Like the legacy she has left us in her constant reminder, even through the worst the cancer had to offer, that "Everyday's a good day, it is what you make it," now she is teaching us the beauty and the grace of death itself. She will be my muse long after she is gone. She has shown us, through five years of her dying process, how one can be held up by strong faith and a positive attitude, she has never complained, has been more concerned about the people around her than she has been herself, and now, as the final hour approaches, she wants us all to know what a beautiful and peaceful transition death is, and I come almost, finally, to truly understand what people mean when they discuss the spirit finally being set free from the mortal coil. He body is disappearing, her soul is growing, her spirit is ready to take flight.

Now, I wake every hour or two all night long. When the phone rings my heart clutches... is this the call? And while I know I will be filled with sadness and will grieve her passing, there is something that happens when the dying process has been very long and slow, somehow, amidst the moment by moment, one breath to the next time, everyone can perhaps let go a little more, the part of us that doesn't want to let go and lose our loved one. Even when we have told them it's alright to let go, to not hold on for anyone or anything but to go when she is ready, there will still be those who cling in fear and this can hold the dying person back from their final exit.

Perhaps, in my mother's beginning a trail of goodbyes, fading and falling like the spent petals of a rose, those who have clung too hard for too long may, finally, with grace, let go. I think when the final person lets go, truly sets her free, her spirit will soar. Or so I imagine it to be.

My mother has taught me to make every day a good day, the best it can possibly be, and in the end, when it is time to go, to go in peace, without fear, and to let go, holding on to nothing, and simply to allow my spirit to rise up out of my body and be set free. My mother has taught me how to live, and now she has taught me how to die. What greater gifts can one be given?

And so now we are walking that final walk with her, and very shortly we will have to stop at the precipice, the place that we cannot yet go. But my mother's spirit will be set free and will fly gracefully into the heavens, and be, perhaps, a brilliant star against a velvet black night sky. I believe that. And I know that for the rest of my life my mother will be my guiding star.

What beauty, what blessings she has given us, and she is leaving us with her faith, with her peace, with her knowledge that death is not an ending but a beautiful beginning. Her legacy will live on and on...


Krista said...

Maitri, I am thinking of you and your mother. Though this is some of the hardest times and feelings to experience, you write it so beautifully, and to think of your mother holding the Virgin Mary's hand, waiting until it's time is beautiful and reassuring, maybe for all of us. I pray for strength for you and peace for your mother.

stigma no more said...

Dear Maitri, I know what you are experiencing. My mother was put in Hospice care about a week before Thanksgiving in 2007 and she lived until January 12th of 2008. I was feeling the same as you as I could not understand how she was physically holding on, yet I could see her spirit was in both worlds.She often staired at the ceiling in the corner of her room. I think she saw the Angels waiting to help her cross over. I feel she was waiting for my father to come for her when it was time. I could see reflections of the Angels as well. A week before she passed she became non responsive, yet one day she managed to whisper hello to me. That is the last time I heard her voice. On the day she passed I was in the hall while the nurse was cleaning and changing her. At 9am on Jan 11th, two nurses came out to me and said, she may be gone any minute to an hour or two. I called the rest of my siblings and all six of us sat vigil by her bedside. They say the hearing is the last to go. As we all sat we talked of memories and my 4 brothers of course talked about sports.The nurses and staff at the nursing home brought us food and gave us much comfort. They would tell us they never saw such a loving devoted family, especially to their mother. Come 10pm that night my mother was still alive, I feel she did not want to pass with all of us there. One by one everyone decided to leave. My brother and I were the last to leave after we made sure she was comfortable. I wish I had not now. we thought she would hold on another day. She passed at 12:30pm on Jan 12th. I truly believe now that she did not want us there. She slipped out in the middle of the night with the grace and dignity that she lived with. You mom may be waiting for someone special as I heard from hospice they often do. When she becomes non responsive it will be a matter of any day. You mother is an inspiration to me as well. As she has shared with you what I always wondered about my mother, was it peaceful. I was told she passed peacefully but not being there I felt it is something I always needed to know. Thank you for sharing this journey with us. God and the Angels are around all of you at this difficult time. I am sure your mother will cometo you in your dreams as my mother has to me. She was happy and free of pain in suffering, even dancing in our house we grew up in. Sorry this is so long,
Love and Light,
Janet :)

Split Rock Ranch said...

Maitri: Your mother sounds like an amazing woman and how blessed you are to have had her as your mentor and guide for all these years. May her gentle soul rest in peace soon. Warm hugs to you my dear friend. Brenda @ Split Rock Ranch

RennyBA's Terella said...

This is of course a sad read and of course I feel sorry for you! But also its uplifting to read about the spirit you have.

You and your family is in my thoughts!

Poetic Shutterbug said...

This is such a heartbreaking story. We went through the same with my Father. While he could not speak or even sit up it is horrible to know they want to pass but cannot for whatever reason. I think maybe they wait until they know their loved ones can handle the passing. I also know how stressful this is for you and your family so I will pray and keep you in my thoughts. Be strong.

Daisy said...

So beautifully written, you touched my heart. When it is her time, I wish your mom a gentle journey. Soft purrs to you.

Laane said...

You've been in my mind all the time.
The way you write about dying makes me once again think that dying isn't decay, but growing to become more whole, both for the person who's dying and the people around.

Like Janet said, my father was waiting.
Then I realized how close his bond with the family in england he stayed with in WW2 had been, and I called them and they asked me to give him flowers.

So I went, carefully chosing the colours and the flowers. All symbols for them.

He always said that the first two days on the vase flowers were most beautiful, as they still kept a promise.

He cried when I gave him the flowers and told him the final message of his beloved ones in england.

He looked at the flowers for two whole days and nights, then closed his eyes.
That evening he died.

Thank you for sharing.
It moves me deeply.

Lily Arbee said...

Wow! what a post? I read word by word till the end. Normally I do not do that to other blog especially it's late hour already and I'm fighting to stay awake trying to chop MM. Still sleepy zzzzz

Your mum is really a strong lady and with wisdom. I think while she is still around try to touch her frequently so that she feels love around her and I know she would love that very much before she goes to a far unknown journey alone.

Much love & hugzzzz from you dear online friend as always Lily Arbee

Auntie E said...

Yes I too had this experience with my Mother. She wanted to go home to Jesus so much. Unknown to everyone we all were praying the Lord would receive her. My prayer was.." why do you tarry? she is ready and so are we. Why let her and us suffer. Please tarry no more." Within 24 hours the Lord took her. Afterwords we all felt bad for praying our prayers and told each other, we Smiled and said... It was her time and the Lord heard our cries. No one was mad or upset at each other. I still dream of her and miss her greatly. But she is no longer in pain. I learned a lot from her during the cancer life. I know now that when my time comes I pray my family will plead for me too. For to be with the Lord is much greater then to be here suffering with cancer.
May the Lord heal your friend as she goes to be with Him.

Chill said...

What a great and brave mom you have. She is one of the bravest patients!

Amy Lilley Designs said...

dearest and your loving family remain close in my thoughts and prayers for peace that surpasses all human understanding...

Torilpia said...

I am so glad I chosed to read your blog tonight. You've written an amazing post. My eyes are filled with tears, thinking of you and your mother. I hope this will be over soon - so your mother can pass over in peace and you can start your grieving properly. It's a necessary process - it's hard and painful - but still, impossible to avoid. I can't say I know how this feel like - my parents are still alive and well. But just thinking about it makes me wanna cry.
You have a great gift in your writing - and I am very happy finding your blog.

I do believe that there is an afterlife - and that we all meet up with our loved ones there.

Will be thinking of you and your mother tonight - and I'll send you a hug for comfort.

spices of life said...

It's really nice for you mother to see the Blessed Virgin on here side holding her hands on the last moments of her life. As I read this article of yours i feel there's a butterfly inside my stomach... she is really amazing. For sure, Mama Mary will guide her to heaven. Lucky of you of having such mother like here for God love her very much. May her soul rest in peace.

Mom said...

This is a difficult time for you and your family.

She's waiting for something. Somebody or something is still holding her here. Perhaps if she has a moment of lucidity, you could ask her what she is needing.

If you have not already, perhaps you could tell her that it is okay for her to go and that you will be alright when she does. (If you have siblings and children, have them do the same.)

I'm sorry you are going through this. We endured the death of my husband's step-grandmother about 2 years ago. It was a long drawn out process, much the same as yours.

I hope your holidays are as bright as they can be as you travel down this path.

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