Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Not So Bad Being An Angel of Death

Originally posted Thursday, June 16, 2005

In fact, it has its decided rewards. Death is such a natural part of Life. Lessee, how many people have I escorted along their journey to the Summerlands? hmmm. Papa Bergeron (alzheimers), Uncle Steve (A.I.D.S.), Ed (brain cancer), Ma (emphesema), Mommy (alzheimers) and now Uncle Bill (alheimers) and Papa (lung cancer) are currently on their journey. All in the last quarter century. I have yet to see the birthing when the soul leaves the body. I have not been gifted with that honor yet. It is such a privilege to spend the last months, weeks, days or hours with someone who is going thru the end-of-Life experience. There is much I can do to aid them, to nurture those who are no longer able to do for themselves. The outpouring of unconditional love, the clarity of priorities, the dark and crazy humor, the insight into the past and the heart of the one making the journey.

For instance, when people start their journey to the Summerland, life is filled with a series of absolutely hysterical, macabre vignettes. It's kinda like raising children. They do the goofiest things.

So - I help out with the neighbor's Uncle Bill. He has advanced alzheimers. He has pretty much forgotten how to walk, so he's pretty much confined to his room. He has a hospital bed, one of those fancy motorized easy chairs that stands you up, a tv with a remote he battles with. There's one wall with windows, floor to ceiling shelves on the opposite wall and opposite his bed is the closet with two mirrored sliding glass doors.

A couple days ago while watching tv, Uncle Bill noticed the other guy in the room. *snort* So he's been keeping this fella company. Doesn't matter the guy doesn't answer back. He just chats along. Y'see, he "sees" himself as a much younger man, so he doesn't recognize himself in the mirror!!!Yesterday, when his neice went in to check on Uncle Bill, he jerked his thumb to point at his roomie and asked her, "Has he eaten yet?" Poor woman. I have no idea how she kept a straight face. She replied, "No. Would you boys like some lunch now?"

Alzheimers can be sad. But, like all end-of-life experiences, it can also be a time of fun. Once you get past the need for the person to be the same as they once were and understand that they are reverting back to their very basic personality, you can start to relax and have fun. I "lost" my mom about a decade before she journeyed to The Summerlands from alzheimer's related problems. It took me a couple years to finally give the Mom I once knew up and discover the enchanting child she was becoming. Once I reached that point, we had a lot of fun together. The only time it was truly sad was during those flashes of lucidity that catch you broadside. When the person you used to know peeks out and wails. What I remember from the last ten days of her life and hold most dear was when I asked her if she would like some pudding. Blessed child, her face lit up and she said, "Oh! I do so love pudding. Mommy only gives it to us for special occasions!!" "Well, Jo-Jo, what flavor would you like?" coquettishly, she looked at me and giggled. "Why, chocolate, of course. Could anything possibly be better?" *sigh* I miss both my mommies. The one who raised me, and the one I tended as she declined.

Meanwhile, Uncle Bill is oblivious and his flashes of lucidity are getting further apart. Barb, his nephew's wife, is learning to relax and accept him as he is each day. I've been able to help her realize playing with him and seeing the humor in what he does will increase his longevity and introduce her to the dear child this man was when he was somewhere between two and five years old. And he is a delightful little rascal. His nephew, John, is just there. He and Uncle Bill have always played together in that manly way a favorite uncle and favorite nephew do. It's a special bond and a beautiful thing to see. John has the patience of job with Uncle Bill.

During the journey to the Summerlands, many people re-experience events decades gone. Folks who don't deal with end-of-Life much chalk it up to hallucination or good drugs. But it is not so. It is a form of Time Travel. They truly are regressing and really are experiencing those events just as if they are really there. And who's to say they're not there? Time is only linear while we are wrapped up in these bodies and are dealing with Ego and Id. Once we let go (astral projection, dream, meditation), time is no longer linear. We can be anywhen as well as anywhere. From the end-of-life experiences I’ve been privileged to share, I have found this time travel to be as real as my current, mundane, day-to-day life. It was during this time of my mom’s life she “visited” with friends and relatives who remembered vividly seeing her either in their dreams or out of the corner of their eyes during their waking hours.

When you get to the stage in Life where yesteryear is more real than today, it is a time of great beauty. These times are very short and extremely precious. This is a time when we must listen very carefully and participate in these experiences as much as possible. This is the only time we will ever come close to first hand experience of whatever era that person was young in as well as assisting this person to rework whatever it is they need to attend to. Also, there are no secrets during this time of life. This is when the scandals or the rest of the story come out and, if you're not ready for this honesty that slips out in snatches of mutterings and broken paragraphs, it can really tilt your world. I know. I've been faced with my mother's demons as she went into the hallucinatory stage of starvation and I had to rework and repair my evaluation of loved ones long gone. Attending someone's journey to the Summerlands is a gift rich with pain, joy, tears and laughter.

Be not afraid of this when you are with those close to the veil. They have, inevitably, relinquished their independence and their control over their lives and are now wandering through Time reworking, reliving and reviewing. Do not put yourself into their shoes as you will be there soon enough on your own. Instead, live utterly in the moment. Allow yourself to completely sink into the pool of bittersweet happiness that comes during this stage of life. By sharing in their reality completely, you receive such a gift of love and they receive the dignity they deserve. I once feared losing control and becoming a burden and have since realized it is inevitable we will become dependent upon others. It is a natural part of Life. As our bodies decline, our minds revert back to more pleasant times and, if we let ourselves, we can toss aside those things we can no longer do for ourselves and enjoy the freedom of childhood we have longed for ever since we grew up. This is a gift to us. This is the silver lining on the cloud of our tiring bodies.
And think: are we truly a burden? Look to those who work in Hospice where they tend those on their journey to The Summerlands or those people who volunteer to care for others afflicted with alzheimer’s disease. Can you honestly say the people they tend are really a burden? Look closely into the staff who support these people, who love them, who love being there with them, who care for them so tenderly even as they grump? This time of life when the elders become childlike and childish again is important. There are those of us who need to nurture those who once nurtured us, to give back in return. I honestly can't say losing control is such a bad thing. And believe me - I am a control freak.
Think of the gift of doing for others - where you can make something happen for someone who is unable to do for themselves. Like - oh - giving someone you meet a $20 bill for gas when they're flat broke and lost. Or fix that bicycle for the neighbor kid. Or get that bag of groceries for someone who ran out of food stamps. It's a good feeling being able to do for someone. But - just as important - one must learn to receive such gifts with equal joy. For by allowing others to do for you, you enrich your own life while you empower them and fill their need to provide. The door must swing both ways.
And so - we come into this world helpless and spend many years growing, running free and learning. Then we nurture and provide for the bulk of our lifetime here on this planet. Then - it is our reward to once again achieve the freedom and responsibility-free time at the end of our life so we can come full circle and completely open ourselves up to Spirit. Remember, Jesus saying something along the lines about, "come to me as a child..." *smile*

Luke 18:15-17[15] People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. [16] But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. [17] I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

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