Death gives advance warning of its arrival; can we ever really be ready? Like a sudden highway sign on a long drive this message put me on notice, I wore the words like a second skin, I sniffed the air like a cat. Our companion since birth, death’s form is our steady shadow lagging slightly behind or looming large ahead. Eventually, we will merge; dying to live we are born into death.
Death disguised as cancer was just beginning to infiltrate my world, stealing friends and the wives of friends and finally my mother. My mind was furiously caught in a web of theories, philosophies and traditions regarding the treatment of death. Feeling attached through love and enslaved by grief, logic insisted that I follow the trail and find a truth to set me free or at least one that sets me straight.
In the culmination of your life’s relationships sits this most profound place of isolation and vulnerability where you long to trust someone with your life. Even faith has form and reliability but trust is a freefall. Will basic goodness find me worthy and lovable – that’s the scream of the mind in our private darkness. The glorious staff empathized, comforted, soothed and listened. In humane and compassionate terms, they unraveled our despair and laid the groundwork for coping and coexisting with the stress and the mystery.
Eventually we could no longer tool around in the wheelchair pretending to go places – and every song had been sung. We were somewhere else now. We were as close as you can get to the fire – the inner flame. Her spirit was seeking the ocean of bliss and began the upward spiral to the portal of her crown. I said my goodbyes on Friday evening before the morphine drip was implemented.
That shall remain a singular and indescribable experience. As throughout this pilgrimage, the sacrosanct sobriety of spiritual practice was the glue that kept us and the bridge that carried us – together. Thus we entered our vigil. My mother appeared adrift in a drug-imbued cancer-ravaged vessel. I tidied her room. I spoke to her constantly. We monitored her body as the circulation withdrew from her limbs.
She was dying. The somber sound of the heart rate monitor and the stench of yesterday’s woman filled the air. Our future together was diminishing and strands of time were being woven into an heirloom – a keepsake.
Each breath was now a sacrifice, her last gift to me, moments as rare as unblemished gems, moments of rarified unity – a shared and bonding silence together.
This is when our hearts may encounter resonance; love can time travel permeating our collective karmas with the sweetness of absolution. This was a chance to become familiar with profound stillness – where we may always find one another. It was within these moments we were to find peace.
I woke up the next morning to discover her still breathing. From a faraway place my mother willed herself present to make her passage before our eyes. What happened next I can only liken to an eclipse of the moon. Amid tears and silence and encouragement from my spirit as my father stood right over her, a shadow crept up her neck slowly upwards across her face – her eyes which had been locked into a glazed half-open stare blinked in slow motion. Released from their tortured position – two blinks, slow and soft, her eyelids looked so refreshed and relaxed. Just like the eyes of a doe.
A mist floated up past her eyes and out the top of her head – a mist of light. And she let go of one soft breath and then one more – her last. Good bye Mom.