Tag Archive: death


The Last Long Haul

Last is correct. But long is not the right word, at least physically. Emotionally, perhaps. Mentally, sure.

Regardless, today I finished up taking the last of mom’s items from her condo. A cabinet. A planter. A patio chair and ottoman as old as dirt and containing plenty of it (and cat hair and cigarette smoke and what-not). Not a lot, but the small load was the last notes of the soundtrack to clearing her residence for the new tenants.

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The Clampets ain’t got nothin’ on me.

In each measure of this move-out, I’ve felt guided. Some would understand this as a presence of sorts, but it’s different than that. I don’t feel my mom so much as I see signs, notice things she’d like or find funny, or have pretty profound arrangements happen.

Take today’s load — fittingly and deliberately arranged as it was. So with mom’s Jeep (at right) already filled on the inside, I had to strap the patio chair and ottoman to the top. I went back to the condo to say bye to the tenants (also friends of ours — a great arrangement in itself, but that’s another story). When I came out to the parking lot, I couldn’t help but see the similarity between the top-loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Beverly Hillbilly truck when they loaded it up for the “move to Beverly … Hills, that is.

And of course, given the circumstances, I pictured a younger version of my mom sitting up there on top pf the car, not unlike Granny Clampet in her rocker atop the Clampet’s truck. See, now that’s something that mom would get a hoot out of.

I drove out of the complex, but an accident diverted me through the nearby mall. No biggie, right? Right. But I just so happened to drive by a Goodwill drop-off trailer parked in the mall parking lot. Peculiar — it’s not usually there. So I circled it and arrived at the obvious — this was where I was supposed to drop it off.

So I did.

The cabinet. The planter. The patio chair and ottoman as old as dirt and containing plenty of it (and cat hair and cigarette smoke and what-not).

We’ve gone through the remnants and taken to our house that which we want to keep. We’ve done our best to disperse (for lack of a better word) other things in the best way possible. Friends have kept some things. A half-hearted estate sale has scattered other items to the world. A few loads to the local thrift store unloaded many things that could have sold, but I simply didn’t have the energy to make that happen, opting for the pragmatic act of giving things away instead. A couple boxes to sell later occupy the garage. And a disheartening and disappointing auction took care of most of the rest. It’s hard to part with a lot of it, but it’s memories that are dear, not the accouterments. That fact doesn’t make if much easier.

Finely arranged “coincidences” such as today’s events do make it easier though. I can’t help but believe that mom or other ancestors helped arrange today final haul. Of a difficult situation, this was perhaps the best I could have asked for.

Thanks, everyone, for your kindness.

Day of Birth

It may be a sign of getting old (and not simply older), but for the first time in my life, I woke up on my birthday not remembering it was my birthday.

My mother’s recent passing perhaps had something to do with it. Maybe I was preoccupied. But even so, I recall that she always made a point of celebrating my birthday. Perhaps that’s why things this morning seem all the more vibrant.

Breathing in the fresh morning, I look left at the morning sun.

Good day, sunshine!

Rising up through the thick canopy of leaves, the sun appears like an archipelago of gold or perhaps a cluster of souls or maybe the lights of a busy cityscape.

As I step barefoot onto the back stoop, the air outside—although kept at bay only by an old screen door—is noticeably cooler, a memory of the night.

Looking into the yard, I notice the yet-unplanted azalea sent by Aunt Joan from California. Small, but filled with blooms and life, its pink color borders on blue. At least I would say so if I didn’t know better. Perhaps it’s the sleepy still in my vision.

Carmen stumbles in and offers the best rendition of  “Happy Birthday” that could be expected at this hour of a summer morning.

Some say that each night we die and are reborn. I’m not sure I buy that, but regardless, I know that each day offers a new beginning. That’s the best birthday gift one could hope for.

Berfday Berries … and Berfday Java, of course

Calm

Butchart Gardens in Canada — she always wanted to see this place again

All,

I apologize that I can’t contact you all directly, but email is easiest way to communicate my mom’s passing. If you’re getting this message, you’ve had some impact on my mother’s life either directly or indirectly. For that, thank you.

She passed away June 9, 2012, at 10:41 p.m. after her bout with tongue cancer. While this is difficult for the family, we’re supported by your prayers, kindness, and thoughts.

Her wish is that there not be a memorial service per se, but rather a viewing, lasting throughout Sunday. We welcome family and friends to visit, pay last respects, and recall good times. Please feel free to drop by the funeral home as your schedule permits and stay as long as you’d like. Family will be from early morning to late at night. We’ve a private room and comfy seating.

Fellow members of the Sukyo Mahikari Center are welcome to come give Light as is our custom; everyone is welcome to offer prayers … or not … according to your beliefs. Mom was nothing if not broad-minded. 🙂

I’d like to share some of her thoughts on life and death. Her view of death is that it’s a natural process, a part of life. Sad, yes, and difficult, but in parallel, passing away means you’re leaving a place, so necessarily you’re going somewhere. Seen in that way, death is a birth of sorts. Our belief is that it’s cyclical. Many faiths and traditions teach this in some form or another.

Her belief–and mine–is that accordingly, this birth is a positive thing, therefore an occasion for happiness. Sadness and joy contrast, but can exist together. While mom no doubt appreciates our love as evidenced our pain in losing her, I know that she wants us to smile, too. Perhaps it’s a little too much to say she’d want to put the “fun” in funeral, but regardless, she loves to see people happy. (And I think she would appreciate jokes and laughter as well.)

The funeral home is A.S. Turner & Sons:

2773 N. Decatur Road

Decatur, GA 30033

404.292.1551

Thank you in advance for your presence, prayers, and thoughts at her passing; these are most welcome and the most meaningful. Ever the gardener and most alive when in nature, mom would certainly welcome flowers. Two organizations were instrumental in her care and comfort during her illness: Emory University’s Winship Cancer Center and Our Mom’s Personal Care Service. Please join me in expressing gratitude for their kindness. And thank you for yours.

With love and gratitude,

Derek

Wave

I’ve avoided writing about a difficult topic for some time. Today I found myself writing about it to a friend. But in so doing, I found I couldn’t stop.

Click the image for relevant background music. She’d like this version of one of her favorite songs.

The act of writing–as it often does–helped me step back and consider the topic, the circumstances, and see things in a new light. And that helps. So I suppose that means it’s time to post this.

My mother is dying.

Mom’s cancer has progressed, and she is staying home now, sleeping/laying down most of the time, and not really taking in any nutrition to speak of. The ladies from the personal care service have been fantastic and are spending most of the day and all of the night at her place. A room at the hospice center would give her the same 24/7 support, but this is what mom wants — a few weeks, maybe days at this point per the RN.

I get mom to smile a few times daily. Her thoughts are clear since coming home from a respite stay at the in-patient hospice center a few days ago. Although weak, frail, and losing weight, she’s in a relatively good space for the shape she’s in.

It’s hard to see her this way. The little nutrition she gets comes through that Southern elixir: sweet ice tea. Yet, most meager sips merit a cough. For some reason, her pain has lessened, necessitating fewer doses of powerful narcs like Roxicet administered through her peg tube. What hair survived the radiation and chemo is white, close-cropped and nothing like her style pre-cancer. Clothes don’t fit her either. Buying some pajama bottoms for her today, I opted for the XS and think that those should work.

Regardless, the person who now appears nothing like the lady filling my memories is still my mom, a buoyant beautiful soul. That remains.

I think that cancer nearing its run is a bit of a blessing, insofar as you see the end coming. So you can prepare for it. It’s not unlike standing chest-deep in the ocean. Your feet are planted in the sand, the current swirling around you–but you can see the wave coming, so you can prepare. You make what adjustments you can and receive the wave.

Despite how well you’ve prepared, it will move you. So I think I’m ready for that. In the meantime, I have to keep my eyes forward, head down, and do what needs doing.

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