Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Too Shall Pass...

"Way over yonder
Is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter 
From a hunger and cold
And the sweet tastin' good life
Is so easily found
A way over yonder, that's where I'm bound..."
~~ "Way Over Yonder" Carole King

Readers, I offer my sincerest apologies for yet another long hiatus. As I mentioned in my previous post, life has a way of throwing us curveballs that, all too frequently, cause us to lose balance and fall... The key is to pick one's self back up and keep going.

And I will be the first to say I am struggling. 

As Milarepa, the Tibetan yogi and poet, once said,

"When you are strong and healthy,
You never think of sickness coming,
But it descends with sudden force,
Like a stroke of lightening.

When involved in worldly things,
You never think of death's approach' 
Quick it comes like thunder
Crashing round your head..."

At the behest of a dear friend, I have finally realized I am at a point where I need to share part of my story in the hope that it may help others who are struggling with the death of a loved one -- be they a spouse, child, parent, or friend.

My mother recently passed away. And though it was expected, it wasn't expected quite so quickly.

In the early 2004, my mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After seven bypasses and a valve replacement she did wonderful. No problems. In 2011, she had a major pulmonary edema that landed her in the ICU for several days, but she rebounded and went on to continue working and living the life she loved for several more years.

At the last, we were fortunate if she went two weeks without water buildup that would inevitably land her in the hospital. And despite the repeated hospital visits and stays, she continued to work. She worked all the way up to the day before her last hospital admission.

After years of water pills, her kidneys took a severe hit. Function was compromised and it sent her into kidney failure. It was the proverbial robbing Peter to pay Paul --- treat the lungs and hurt the kidneys or treat the kidneys and hurt the lungs.

Due to extensive fluid buildup and her body's inability to rid itself of the water, she suffered a severe pulmonary edema that forced the doctors to intubate her. She stayed on a ventilator five days. When the doctors removed the intubation tube, she lasted almost 30 minutes before her lungs began to fill again. 

As I sat at her bedside I knew something wasn't right. She was delirious. The doctor stated she was in what is called Sundowning -- a form of delirium caused from the combination of drugs she'd been on while intubated. He assured me that if she didn't have it prior to the intubation, she would come out of it. 

It ripped my heart out to see this refined, classy lady who raised me to speak of watching corn fall off the walls, petting dogs that weren't there, laughing maniacally at some joke only she knew, or experiencing sheer terror at the sight of shadow figures and people out in the hall who she thought were coming to get her. Then the pendulum swung the other way and she began lashing out. I tried not to take anything she said to heart b/c I knew it was the drugs. And then she sat straight up in bed and I heard that foreboding gurgle. I ran for the nurse and when I returned she was coding. I will never forget the look of sheer terror in her eyes.

I looked at her and said, "Hang on, mom... You're gonna be OK." To which she nodded, but we both knew deep down that wasn't the case. It was the beginning of the end.

She ALWAYS had a paralyzing fear of drowning. And at that moment she was drowning. The doctors looked at me and said, "She's coding. What do you want us to do." I was NOT going to stand by and watch my mother die like that. 

I said the only word that came to mind, "Intubate!" 

And so they did. But this time there was a caveat. A decision had to be made b/c she could not stay on the ventilator. And once she was taken off of it, there was nothing the doctors could do. Three days later, she was moved to Hospice.

For nearly two weeks I kept nearly constant vigil at mom's bedside. On the 13th day, that foreboding gurgle returned. She was looking right at me unable to speak. After three hours, she took her last breath. 

She was never one to talk about death. Like most of us, she didn't want to think about it. Period. 

But as my faith has taught me, death is part of the natural cycle of things. Without death there can be no life. 

As I watched my mother going through the death process it made me realize a lot of things. To watch it up close and personal happening to someone who you have been so close to, it really makes you reexamine those things that are most important to you... and I'm not talking about material things. 

In the weeks leading up to my mother's passing, she knew she was dying -- she just wouldn't vocalize it. I think part of it was to protect me. To try and stay upbeat that all would be OK, like she always told me. 

She begged and begged to see her brother who had recently had a stroke. I reached out to family to try and get them to bring him to see her. But was met with false promises and abuse. Each day mom would ask if he was coming to see her and the best I could do was to say, "I'm working on it, mom... I'm trying." She'd say, "I know you are, Precious." 

It is heartbreaking to know that as she lay on her deathbed, the one request she had couldn't be fulfilled b/c others were too busy with their lives. It brought home the reality that some people really don't give much thought or consideration to others until it hits them personally. I feel for those types of people. I hope they one day are able to find it in their hearts to practice what they supposedly preach and actually be there for those they say they love and care about. 

Everyone tells me how brave I was to fly (essentially) solo through to the end. I am blessed with a TREMENDOUS and LOVING group of friends (I call them my Framily) who stepped up and helped in every way they could. And the morning she passed, they were there by my side.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said, 

"Our prime purpose in life is to help others.
And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."

That was the way mom lived her life, as do I. And as they've proven, my friends live by the same creed. 

If mom's death has taught me anything it is that life is VERY short. To get distracted with the cravings of this world is a mistake. Family, friends, compassion and love are what matter the most. 

And so now, as I hobble my way through the grieving process, I have found it has made me embrace my faith all  the more. Regardless of your religious affiliation, I believe that all agree that death is something that makes everyone take a closer look at their own lives and how they live them. 

For those who have recently suffered a loss, I understand the void you feel. I understand the heartache and loneliness. The silence. The pain. 

There is a fable that states a Persian king once asked his advisers to bring him something that would make him sad when he was happy and happy when he was sad. He was given a ring with an inscription that said, "This too shall pass..."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said the best way to honor the memory those who we have lost is to move forward and continue on doing what they would want us to do. To live life to its fullest. To show compassion. To demonstrate love for all of humanity. To no harbor ill-will or anger.

I know mom is with me. I pray. I meditate. I offer thanks for the time I had with her. And I intend to honor her memory by being the strong, independent woman she raised me to be. I will celebrate her life and take refuge in knowing she is no longer hurting. She has found peace. And with that peace, a love that none of us could even fathom on this earthly plane.

As the main tenet of Buddhism, impermanence lies at the heart of all we experience on this earth. And as much pain as one feels following the death of a loved one, time heals. This too shall pass...

In Peace and Love,
Namaste <3