Wednesday, April 1, 2009

II: 27

Chapter 2, Verse 27

“Death is certain for the born.
Rebirth is certain for the dead.
Therefore do not grieve over
Something that is inescapable.”

Ram Dass:

“I saw in the course of my Mom’s dying the way we try to cover up the decay of the body, the way we try to mask this natural process. It’s part of our way of hiding from what’s happening. I remember visiting my Mom when she was very close to death. She had an infection in her gums, so her bridge didn’t fit anymore, and the nurse had removed it. I had never been allowed to see my Mom without her teeth. Now there she was, at the point of dying, and with the little bit of energy she had left, she was holding up a fan in front of her mouth, lest her son should see her without her teeth. Little vignettes like that show us how hard we try to push away the acknowledgment that the body is decaying.

Mom and I sat quietly together near the end, sharing moments of incredible presence, being silent together, holding hands. Others would come into the room, and they would all be involved in the hysterical denial of what was happening. ‘Gert, you’re looking so much better.’ Nobody would be truthful with her, because they were all so afraid of acknowledging death. Denial permeates our whole system, and all the relationships in it.

A young nurse once told her experience with a patient who was dying of heart disease. She talked about how guilty she felt as she entered his room, knowing she was going to live, while he, a man of her own age, was about to die. She said, ‘I knew he wanted to talk to me, but I always turned it into something light, a little joke, or some evasive reassurance. The patient knew, but as he saw my desperate attempts to escape, and felt my anxiety, he had compassion for me and kept to himself that which he wanted to share. And so he died and didn’t bother me.’

At one point, when my mother and I were alone in the room, she said, ‘Rich, I know I’m going to die. But nobody will talk to me about it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think you’re right. I think you’re going to be leaving your body soon.’ She said, ‘What do you think is going to happen then?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t really know. But I’ve noticed that as your body has been slowly decaying through this illness, it hasn’t changed anything very important. You are still who I know you to be, and I am still who you know me to be, and here we are. While all this decay is going on…’ Then I said, ‘And from what I have experienced, I have a suspicion that when you drop your body, it’s all going to continue in pretty much the same way. There may be some confusion at first, but when that sorts itself out…there we’ll be.’”

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