Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fragile existence

Listen to post:
How do you process your own mortality, perhaps our greatest fear?

Last week, when a doctor delivered some extremely pessimistic news to me about my mother, which has not proven yet to be true, it hit me so hard that when she dies, so will a piece of me. In his arrogance and unruly bedside manner, I think he has prepped me for when the time does come. Well, as much as one can be prepared. There’s something so basic about losing your mother. I’ve been so fortunate to have mine over 50 years.

What, exactly do we lose?
• Our identity.
• The one person that has known us longest.
• The one person who has always cared for us even in times it made us crazy.
• One of the few people who truly knows us.
• Our innocence in being able to be childlike with someone.
• Our ideal of invincibility.
• A connection.
• Someone who will love us no matter what.
• The person who came before.
• The person who carried us.
• Our daughters’ grandmother.

Life becomes more important when exposed as fragile. We take it for granted less. We pay closer, more careful attention. We live more in the moment. We become more grateful.

We also get stressed, begin to grieve, get caught up in care needs, tend to the other’s spiritual needs, sometimes neglect our own, pray, storm at God, are amazed at her power and deflated by our human stamina.

It’s such a tangled web, this web of transition. Through it, however, I am realizing I am more afraid of dying than death. The suffering, to me, seems worse than the escape. I understand not all dying is filled with pain.

Then I look at my mother who, admittedly, on paper, appears sicker than she is. Her cardiologist agrees. This is the fourth or fifth hospital stay in three or four years, yet the first real time I felt her life was in danger. But, maybe I have forgotten. I have never received such grave news from a medical professional. Fortunately, he is NOT her regular cardiologist. One week exactly after his awful phone call, the nurses who shepherded me through that difficult spot were elated at the change. One even said, “We do know Who’s really at work, don’t we?”

The day before her release, a nurse assisted my mom to some physical therapy steps as she said her thighs were getting like jelly from being in bed or sitting so long. She tried to do some fancy steps and even pretended to kick me. “She’s baaaaaaaaaack,” I joked with my sister.

She’s back – for how long I have no idea, but do any of us? – and I am ever so grateful. I will try not to take her presence for granted.

• When have I been confronted with death?
• What reaction did is trigger?
• What has (or would be) such a pivotal loss been like in my life?
• What has life’s fragility taught me?
• What has facing, or contemplating, death taught me?

one day
she’s driving my
11-year-old on errands

the next,
fighting an
infection in the ICU

never losing her
verve, also not
knowing the

her seeming
buoyed her spirits,
convincing us
all of

loving power

and our


  1. Life is so fragile.

    I think of all the people I know that fell so young ... with so much more life left in them ... yet gone in an instant.

  2. so hard ... my best friend died when I was 24 and he, 23 ... was traumatic. Thank you for sharing and reading. Blessings on your journey.

  3. Dear Cathy,

    I just found your site and will check it out more.

    You may appreciate the following quote from Dr. Hawkins' book, Healing and Recovery. I copied it from my website:

    "The way to overcome our own fear of death is to picture ourself as being on the other side, like a first-aid receiving station. We open our hearts and ask to be connected with the angelic forces and to become one with them. Now we picture ourselves going to those who are dying. We do it now while we are still in our own physical body, and we send forth that energy of compassion...

    We select somebody that we feel we could be most loving toward--a child in a crib, a teenager just hit by a car, somebody on a battlefield who is riddled with bullets, a mother in childbirth, or a person committing suicide. Then we picture the person for whom we have the most compassion, send ourself forth in our imagination to that person, and see ourself as infinitely loving. In a way, we are now more alone and yet more not alone than ever before because we can fully express all the tenderness and love that we have suppressed during our whole lifetime. Now is our chance to send it forth and be with that person...

    We think of the agony and fear of so many people. Then we go to them and begin to heal them by picturing ourself holding them in our arms, pouring forth the love through our heart...

    When the person says, "0 God, help me," because this is a universe of free will, they then open the door to this compassion that is being radiated forth by others and now by us. We are now by their side, and in every way possible, we nurture and heal them. We reach out to them and then lift them out of their body. They are safe; they are home; they are cared for; they are greatly loved by God. They begin to get the inner experience of the truth. We put our personal self aside because it is not needed here. There is no need for the personality, with its likes and dislikes, its aversions and attractions. Just be that energy that flows through the heart...

    If we are doing the things I have talked about, in the morning when we get up, we say to God, "To those who are dying, I send my consciousness, I send my love and my willingness to be one with them." It is like the forces of the universe then use the power of our consciousness and literally carries it to the person. At first it will seem like our imagination. It will seem like something that we are doing, but after we do this a few times, we will suddenly realize that we are not doing this any more, and that instead, we are saying yes to its being done through us. Because it is being done through us, we go into a state of high joy and ecstasy. "