Tuesday’s Thoughts: The Farewells We Make

I have been on a few lovely meanders recently. I had hoped to share decent beach photos and experiences. I still intend on doing that. Just not now. I have had many good intentions the last few years, then had to change my plans. Alter my expectations. It’s the way it is: none of us is protected from a halt-and-change-route kind of life, and we have to do it many times, at that.

Within the next 12 hours my sister Allanya’s partner, Skyler, will be leaving this realm for the next. It was not unimaginable that it might be sooner than later–she has been unwell for years– but not this soon. And I was hoping not this way. Oregon has the legal option of a physician-assisted death. And this is Skyler’s decision.

Of course, I have been mired in quandry– as have most who are part of the extended family. And some numbness. I can’t begin to sort out all my thoughts and emotions regarding this determination after her being in hospice care a short time. I have been trying to make it somehow align with my view of living and dying in my confused brain for a couple of weeks; it was to have happened in July. Then the date was changed. Suddenly last week on the way home from our beach trip I was informed I had to soon say goodbye to her. Yet another family member.

There has been no time to “prepare” myself. How does one do that in this circumstance, really? How do we ever prepare for death of those that have taken up time and space in our days and nights, our hearts? There are many sorts of death, and have been mourning a few of them– in this country and abroad. And now at home. What do I do with the plunge into the depths of it?

I breathe fully as I awaken another day, and meditate, pray and walk, listen to music, write, reach out. Everyday things can reshape so much. Another human being can soften the blows some.

She–Skyler– will be the eighth person to die in a few years. Many of you know we lost a granddaughter only last spring. My family is shrinking each year, to the point where I almost wonder when another must leave us…It happens usually in the spring. Beauty arrives; death follows. It is a river of grief and I float in it more than I think I can manage, but it is a most human thing. We all must do it; we learn how to do it.

I don’t make any judgment of her choice, even if I understand almost nothing of it and I don’t like it. I can note that Skyler is in her eighties, has been ill and in pain for many years with many ups and downs. I believe she has thought of this long and hard and believes this is best. But it still doesn’t seem simple. It doesn’t add up right now in some meaningful way I can grasp or feel fine about. Perhaps one day, perhaps never. But it is just not my life or death. I have cared about the woman my sister has loved. I will miss her and cherish the good memories shared. But right now I am confounded as well as feeling the sadness creep in as I anticipate a very hard day tomorrow. And the others after.

I am much more focused on my sister, her impending gigantic loss and compounded sorrows. It’s a grief she has tried to fend off… even if she has also worked on accepting such a possibility for years. I will spend alot of time with her for a long while to come, driving across the city whenever she wants me there. I imagine packing lunches and sitting outdoors in the sunshine with her. Telling her stories and hearing hers. Walking her dog through lush grass. Crying, crying, and holding her. (Waiting for her laugh, triggering it. She has the best gutsy laughter. But that will come again later and not for a long time.)

The thing is, I soon gain medical power of attorney for the rest of Allanya’s life because she has dementia. I am five years younger than Allanya and yet I am now helping manage her life more and more. She was a powerhouse and I still feel that in her, her strength and intelligence. She is lucid and present and cheerful–until just lately–if also increasingly lacking decent short term memory. I will be needed in ways I cannot even anticipate, though she is living in a good assisted living residence.

I cannot know how she is truly experiencing this. We are as close as sisters can be, the very best friends. But still her mind and feelings are not mine; her life has changed in essential ways and will be more altered so soon. I cannot understand this wholly. We will weep and weep more. But I seek ways to build better bridges to her heart and mind so I may continue to walk with her during the coming years.

What this all means to me and our family goes far beyond this clumsy language. But I wanted to share this much; I know I am not the only person in these situations. We are called to be expansively loving and courageous and also strong when family members–or, yes, others–need us more and more. And so I will do my best to answer that call again.

If I don’t post here for awhile you now know why. I will write and post as I can. I have truly missed being here regularly, as well as reading more of your great blogs this spring.

I sure hope you seek and find the illuminating, small wonders, and grab and share every good moment with those you love, and just keep on keeping on. It is a such mammoth mess of a world…we need to survive heartaches the best we can and discover more ways to love life even more. To do good work and cherish what matters most.

At least, that is what I aim to keep doing, moment by moment. Tears are not the worst part. Not honoring life with compassionate presence and curious attentiveness may be the worst, I think.

Til next time…sending good will out to you.

2 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Thoughts: The Farewells We Make

  1. I wish you strength and patience over the future. Some periods of our lives are very hard.

    As we age, or at least as I age I find myself feel myself feeling myself becoming powerless or even irrelevant, with less control over my life. I can understand why people pursue doctor-assisted suicide, and why they most often do not follow through. Sometimes, most often, it is enough to know that we have some choice left. Even we have seen others die we love in pain, we are even more likely to look for an alternative.

I'm happy to hear from you! Tell me what you think.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s