I wish I had an elegant way to dive into the topic of death, but right now it seems to elude me. And yet, I am thinking about it quite a bit these days. Usually with a prayer involved.
It seems we have this odd relationship with death. An odd relationship that evolves over time. When we are younger we feel immortal. We don’t really invest a lot of time or energy thinking about death. It is something that we think we will deal with later. But the truth is we all experience the loss of people we know or love even when we’re young.
Yet for our society, death has become something we try to avoid. A discomfort or desire to avoid it at all cost. We have created machines and devices, pills and potions and even environments to keep people alive. Some people are kept alive for years without any or very limited ability to use their bodies. They are alive and we think this is good, because death has been delayed.
I am having lots of conversations about death with my mother. She has been taken by surprise by her recent decline. When she is lucid, she wonders aloud how she “got so old, so fast”?
For me I wonder about her death. It appears her body is shutting down. Her mind is letting go. She comes in and out of awareness. Sometimes our conversations are sharp and alert. Others are weak and challenged. Is she in a dance with life or a dance with death.
Dementia is cruel. It changes everything. Conversations, routines, plans, dreams and desires are changeable. In an instant what was.., is forgotten. Even though it is a disease of the mind it affects the body. And it is hard, because the person dealing with it, knows it is happening. They know their mind is going… their memories fail them. First short term, then even reaching back into their past.
They can see their own deterioration… Yet there is little they can do to change the outcome. Perhaps there are exercises, brain games, or structures that can help to slow some of the progress of the disease. But it affects more than just their mind.
I can’t even tell you how many times I have googled dementia and the many physical ailments and challenges… Only to read how common they are for so many people who are living with this disease.
How much of her mind, body function and control or independence must she lose before her body finally give out. She still knows who my siblings and my husband are.., she knows who I am. She recalls conversations and relays details and then repeats them. She is weak and unsteady. And half the time it is not clear if it is physical, mental or emotional. Dementia distorts that.
I find myself praying for her death to come quietly without additional suffering on her part. For death to sweep her into an infinite embrace.
And then I remember that she is my mother and when she dies there will be no more conversations, new memories or interactions. I realize that even this loss is not enough to prevent me from praying for her release from this cruel disease. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to us. I know this in my heart.
Perhaps this is why I crafted the experience of witnessing and supporting her during her decline. So that I could come to terms with my own feelings about death. I am not afraid of death. For her or for me.
With Light, Love, and Laughter