This is It

A person who is terminally ill commonly passes through a series of stages marked by physical and emotional changes that are recognizable to health care professionals. One of the last stages may be referred to as “Actively Dying.” As its name implies, this stage can be physically and emotionally active and, for a caregiver, very difficult. Inviting in someone supportive who has been through this stage before can be helpful.

In contrast, the stage after Actively Dying is calm; eerily quiet, simple. For caregivers, it feels like a long exhale after hours or days of gasping for air. Our loved one is still alive, just resting now before embarking on what many believe is the final journey home.

“This is it,” the nurse tells us, in a tone so tender and kind, it belies the words she is saying. “He won’t wake up now, but he can hear you. You can still give him the comfort and love you have been providing all along.”

A shiver ran through the room, and she continued, “If you see two vertical lines on his forehead, a number eleven, you can give him pain medication sooner than scheduled. This is about comfort now. You did a good job. You are all doing such a good job.”

 

For a Moment

Jorox Canyonby Penny Moore

For a moment

When I sink into the knowing

I feel you breath with His breath

The wind lifting ribbons

We untie ourselves without knowing

I like to hold you passing through

The ribbons gently waving on

The palm of my hand joining

Our passing on One to another

A moment never changes

When you touch it that way

 

 

Mancala: Many Hands, Many Voices

This message sent 61 days ago:
Yesterday, buried my dad Too wrecked to go out Maybe tomorrow

The game begins against our will

tinted glass stones slip with clicks into shallow bowls  61 days ago?

smoothed into a bamboo board  So, 62 days ago

click, click  I stood frozen over my father’s casket

 63 days ago, we calculated prayer cards, coffee cups, and parking spaces

and whistled, he would have beenmancala 2

12 bowls, six and six, running  90 today

the length of the board

troughs on either end

12 days before that, a 700 mile countdown

across 5 states   and now we look up

one fist suspended above the board

stones willing themselves a race to spend

to fall 5 eternal days dividing 6 hour shifts

figuring 3 people per shift can sleep 4 hours each

measuring 2.5 every 2 hours  handfuls of gems

and something else every 6  shimmer in the light

we heard  click clink click clink

11 children

and  click click

married 56 years

counted spoonfuls of Popsicle, shirts cut up the back, beads on a rosary,

stitches across a quilt

parsed 80 words in a poem, studied 90 images in a video montage

counted breaths and arpeggios of time

between breaths  A stone falls away

from the board and we glance guiltily down

at the piles of colors, glance up to catch a bird

we counted on God  Flitting

and on each other  Outside the open window

under a vanishing sun

61 days? 70 days? 90 years?

click click clink click

our game ends gently

who won?

yesterday

Eileen

After this visit, I drove away along tree lined autumn parkways, past the French Meadow Bakery and the CC club, through downtown, toward home. I put each of my babies into colorful nighties, under yellow orange green sheets in lively rooms. I wondered, one day, will they blow a kiss to say goodbye? Will they cry out for me, 90 years from now?

suitcase

Getting There Takes Some Time

Eileen sleeps the sleep of a traveller

Fitful, pulling at her own translucent limbs

transparent skin gathered up and quilted together by scabs and small bruises

at 93, this is life

imagine

at 23, this life

applying final touches to pursed ruby painted lips

she blows a kiss to mother and then away, down the steps, a man there waiting,

or a gaggle of girls There is a war on

Friends admire her raucous laugh, tease her for dancing clumsily, share secrets

she will take to the grave

Now, frail and pointed, a body uncovered and empty, she carries only these

Eileen reaches out Cries out for Mama, for Mother

She accepts a stranger’s hand, calms, lets go a tear which travels

over her desert cheek in a sideways trajectory

gradually finding its way along the cracks and fissures left there by time

Through plastic blinds, the moon blooms into fullness, a moon just made for traveling

Tonight Eileen will be traveling

 

Fly

By AdrielleRoyale Nature in Photography

By AdrielleRoyale Nature in Photography

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.

— Stephen King

 

 

What are You Trying to Say?

Just before you dropped the call, slammed the door, threw that plate across the room, what single thought went through your brain? Was it a well-composed, carefully crafted sentence, meant to influence and impact someone you care about? Or was it a kind of primal scream, meant to liberate yourself from the mental and emotional anguish of having to deal with… with… that idiot over there? Did it help?

What if time froze in that particular frame? What if that were the last dropped call, the last slam, the last plate in a cupboard that once seemed teeming with plates and cups and bowls? What if the person you wanted to influence went away and the discussion ended, abruptly, permanently, forever? What then?

Relationships end all the time. Family relationships included. Everyone knows about some broken sibling relationship, some father/son breakdown, some daughter who can’t stand the sight of her mother, let alone walk the same sidewalk together. It happens like that all the time. What’s the big deal?

I heard today about a grandparent whose children were factioned. (Is that a word?) At Grandma’s wake, they stood on opposite sides of the casket and never spoke. At the funeral, neither side spoke nor even chose a reading; they let the church volunteers take care of it, rather than try to hold a civil conversation, which they knew was never going to happen. There was no lunch following the service. The burial was silent. They parted once and for all at the gravesite.

Could they have heard each other out? Could they have asked better questions? Could they have let bygones be bygones? Some people experience horrific injustices at the hands of family members. I get that. But more often, it’s some little thing, some disagreement about who was supposed to do something and didn’t, or was supposed to say something and didn’t realize it, or whatever. Usually, if you ask around, the not speaking part was the result of something so minor that sometimes it can’t be pinpointed at all.

So, we don’t eat tuna hotdish together after the funeral. So what? So, what would Grandma want? What are these adults teaching their children? What minor conflict escalated to the point where whole families stood cold shoulder to cold shoulder, buried a parent, and left without a word? Relatives. Blood. Kin. This is how we do loyalty? This is how we do commitment? This is family? Maybe it’s no big deal. But maybe, to the next generation, it might be.

Image

In Memory

In Memory

She said, “I don’t know if you remember…”
I do. I remember little Abby.
Dark eyed, long-limbed Abby,
Standing just behind Leah’s shoulder, saying hello.
Climbing out of a kayak,
Playing tag around the campsite,
Asking for marshmallows and another piece of chocolate
By the fire.
In the morning, she will clamber back into the kayak
And sail on,
Drifting along to that place where people we knew as children
Stay young and sweet and safe,
Unchanged by time, unhampered by ill health,
Unforgotten, no matter how long it has been.