Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Waiting on Death III

And so, we come to the third part of this trilogy on waiting on death - my own wait on my own death. Waiting for mom Machunas to pass away made me more acutely and also a bit more painfully aware that is at least part of what we are doing because of my health reality. Oh, we all always know that we are all going to die - some day. But, something happens to you - your psyche changes - when you know that the death you are facing is more definite, sooner, than that which we all know will be our reality. Once the diagnosis gets spoken, read, interpreted the screen or stage on which life is lived changes - things are more colorful and less depending on the day; scenes seem to last longer or are shorter depending on what unfolds during the day; encounters with friends, family and even strangers take on more meaning or less depending on ....

A ministerial friend recommended Rabbi James Kugel's book In the Valley of the Shadow as we sat and talked in one of my favorite sermon preparation and reflection spots a few weeks after his retirement and my disability, or incapacity leave (I actually detest those words as a description of this time!), started. In Kugel's book he recounts his own journey with terminal cancer. Early in the book, he notes feeling as if "the background music suddenly stopped (31)" when he was informed of the state of the disease within his body. I think it's an apt way to describe what happens. For me, it has seemed as if I am trying to live life as fully as I ever have but always with this sense of effort rather than effortlessness which I think was the way it was before. Always there is this different backdrop offering the staging, the way we do things, what gets said or not said while we are being or doing.

Now, I'm not sure I was aware nor was anyone else aware that effortlessness was the way I went about living life before knowing how much more "in my face" the end of this physical life is, but it certainly is how I would describe it from this vantage point. I've said on more than one occasion "I love life - this life" which I think is a part of why living in the here and now seemed to me to take such little effort. I still enjoy life - I want to and plan on still enjoying life as much as possible - which probably has a great deal to do with why I make the effort, and sometimes it takes real effort let me tell you. When everything you do or say takes every ounce of energy you have, well you never can forget with what you are dealing and with what the end result will finally be.

And so, we "wait for death" still not wanting it to come quickly but measuring its "nearerness" with each deteriorating muscle and loss of function, perhaps more noticeable to me some have suggested because of how much in tune with my body has been my life.  "Ready to die" spiritually and mentally (I'm not afraid of death itself or the hereafter whatever that looks like), but not physically and emotionally (I don't want this life to end and I'm not thrilled with the process of the journey to get to that final hour). Thus, while the "wait" might be longer than we first assumed to be my reality, it's a more welcome wait for now than that which we endured during Leona's final few days.

So, that's it for now, but we know that is not it. There are more things to be said, decisions to be made, life to be enjoyed and endured, tears to be shed, laughter and beauty to be experienced, evil to be faced (I'm writing this the morning after the senseless bombings at the Boston Marathon), etc. You'll excuse me if I slow down these posts a little now - three in one week is probably a pace I can't keep up and you'll soon tire of if I do. Maybe I'll post a few short sermons instead.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you brother! I waited until the entire Trilogy was up before I read it. It has resonated and reflected much of what I experienced with the passing of my Parents and Mother-in-Law. Had I paid more attention to the class on Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross' book, I would have recognized my dad was saying good-bye. I knew, three years later, when my mom passed, and when 20 months later, Terri's mom passed. I was asked/privileged to do my parent's eulogies, and the entire service for my Mother-in-law. The latter two were under hospice care, and I can NEVER say enough about them. Hospice work is a calling as much as any pastoral call. Thank you for you words and reflections. I continue to keep you and Dorothy in my thoughts and prayers.