Last Words I have been privileged to witness:
“Baby Girl, if you hadn’t woke me up, I don’t think I would’ve woke up.”
“I’m not feeling so well, I think I’ll just go on out to the car.”
“I’m going home today.”
“Wven I see him, I tell him, you guhd girl.”
“Will you miss me when I leave in June?” “No.” “Oh come on, you know you’re going to miss me.” “No I won’t, either, cuz I won’t be here.”
“Mommy’s going to be okay.”
“I do wish you would just listen to Sarah Palin.”
“Oh Lord. Be with me.”
“I put on my new watch today because I’m going home.”
“She’s with me all the time now, and she won’t leave.”
“Did you see her?”
“Catch you on the flip side.”
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
“I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“I’m just tired now, so very tired.”
“I think I’d rather go with that one there.” (pointing to the ceiling)
“I see it.”
“When you get married for real, you can wear this ring.” (removing her wedding ring)
“He’s sitting in the chair over there, waiting for me.”
“The doctor said I’m going to be just fine.”
“Tell my babies I love them.”
“Who is that man over there?”
“The little baby is crying over there. Go pick him up and bring him to me.”
“You’re an angel, aren’t you?”
“Turn around. I want to see your angel wings.”
“I’m going to take a long nap.”
“It will be better in the morning.”
“I just saw my Mommy. She told me she loves me. But, she was always deaf and mute. Her smile was beautiful. I’ve never heard her voice before.”
My mom has been dead 9 years, and…she used to record and send me movies, which I rarely got the chance to watch.
Its amazing and very hard for me to admit, how many things my mother sent to me, that I basically treated as trivial, and overlooked. You know, it’s just a kid movie, not my thing, I’ll watch it later. Only later ended up being way later.
The first I watched after returning home from the funeral, “The Last Mimzy.”
Then when she was gone, I put them away for a long time, so way later got even later.
I found her book of poetry, which had a poem written to me many years ago. She’d read the poem to me before, but never included the title, “To Tanya, My Daughter,” so I never realized it was a personal apology to me until after her death.
I’ve been gradually watching one of the movies here or there of late. It seems, they each express a sense of her experience.
Yesterday I watched, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”
My mom had Multiple Sclerosis, and was often confined to the house when I’m sure she would have preferred to be on a family outing, maybe. I recall she was unable to go to the Cherokee Nation the last time, or the Pow Wow, (but insisted we go) because the walking and heat would have caused an exacerbation that would have taken her down for days or weeks. Only, she wouldn’t say this was the reason. Instead, she would create a big scene and imagined slight, and then refuse to go in an angry storm. I’m sure she felt herself to be a burden at times, both physically and emotionally.
I wish I’d seen the movies while she was here, but even so, I think I would not have received the messages in the same way then. She was not one to admit weakness.
I’m sure there is a lesson in here. I guess, someone can be aware of a thing, yet be unable to, or unaware how to, address or change it. So things go denied, are left unsaid, and then time runs out. My mom was never a burden, physically, but because of her perceived sense of being a burden, and her own feelings of worthlessness, she was often a burden, emotionally, creating scenes that were very unpleasant. In fact, she was very valued and adored, in spite of herself.
I guess the lesson is, to ask for what you need, to be willing to have the difficult conversations for clarity, and to not put things off, consider everything a gift, to be opened, immediately.
Still uncovering jewels here.
I had the most heartwarming conversation with a lady who suffers with Vascular Dementia. She is very resentful and bitter because she has spent her whole life caring for others, and has worked hard to have a debt free home, and now has been court ordered to stay in a secured community.
She was found sleeping in her car in an antiques mall parking lot late at night, her license was taken from her, and she has no memory to help her understand why she needs a secured community.
She tells me she worked for a phone company in marketing and used to drive staff to training in neighboring towns. She states she has never even put a scratch on a car! She says she went to Presbyterian Church and never missed a Sunday! She cared for her first husband as he died from cancer. She cared for her second husband as he died from Alzheimer’s. She cared for her daughter as she died from a bug bite after returning from a high school trip overseas. She raised three successful, professional sons.
My wisdom for her is no different than for you or me. “You’ve done so many wonderful things in your life, but what are you doing today? I don’t know why you are here, but I know there are no accidents. You are here for a reason, someone here needs you, perhaps you are here to teach me something.”
She hopes to be released at a six month assessment. I tell her…”if you get kicked out in six months, I want to be there to give you the boot!” She says I better make it a tall boot! I tell her, “but….if you are kicked out in six months, I wouldn’t want your time here to have been for naught.” You see, I am trying to help her find a new purpose for her life, and acceptance of a situation she has no control over. I do not want her to spend her days bitter, on her sofa. I want to see her living today, laughing, not dying today.
Are you going to live today or are you going to die today?…the only true decision there ever is…which one will you run with? We have this conversation daily as she doesn’t remember from one day to the next. I tell her I don’t know what the judge will decide in six months, but it helps me in these situations to remember I only have to do my best, do the next right thing. I tell her we are only responsible for doing the next right thing, outcomes are Gods department.
She tells me this morning…”today I shared the breakfast table with the new lady…and she ate all her breakfast, and smiled and thanked me. It made it all worth it…to see her smile!” Her deep faith seems to have helped. Then she smiled and thanked me for my advice. I smiled and thought…your smile and thank you make it all worth it.
She was writhing in pain from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. In the fetal position. None of the medications were able to touch her pain. I walked in and knew, and I said, “Oh…She needs to be held, like an infant.” The care manager on duty said, “I’ll hold her.” So I bundled her up in my arms, and wrapped her in a soft blanket, and placed her in the care managers lap. The care manager wrapped her arms around her. She tucked her head into the care manager’s shoulder, under her chin, and she fell asleep. I kissed her on the cheek.
Seconds later, I am told that he is not doing well, either. I look at the med-tech on duty, and I don’t know who told me this once a very long time ago, but I recall the words often, and I repeated them to her (and to myself), “Okay. Now we have to find that place deep inside us, so we can go…and do it all over again.”
Her son tells me how she was a field nurse in WWII, and used to tell him stories about being charged with carrying the soldiers from the field…and sometimes there was no help to be had for them…and she could only hold them in her arms.
Sometimes you just have to use heart medicine to fix things.
Another care manager comes up to me afterwards, and says…”I just saw eagle energy. You have the wings of an eagle, and you soar.”
“When searching for our Mother in the air, or in the cosmos, or in the wee morning hours, we musn’t forget to look under our feet, for the foundation she has given us is a solid one.” – Hope Edelman
Yeah, eagle energy.
So…we exit his room, informed that sometime within the next 2 days, he will pass over the rainbow…
to the sounds of peppy music from the 50’s for the birthday bash.
I look at the med-tech and she looks at me. We quickly shake our heads slightly at the…distance between life and death. I raise my eyebrows and with eyes wide open, and one last shake of my head…
and mascara running down our faces…
we start snapping our fingers and doing the “twist” as we dance the group to the birthday bash and caution them to have fun and to try to stay out of trouble.
Then, hours later, in the late of night, I am sitting with his family. Grief and coping are such an individual thing. Some folks reflect on happy memories, and some folks set the grief aside for a time, to explore in private. So…I go in to check on the terminal agitation of the gentleman who will soon transition. His daughter is almost finished with her PhD in Sociology…and so ensues a conversation into relative sociological theories.
Again, that distance…between life and death…is so infinitesimal, yet profoundly infinite. The emotional roller coaster has left me half numb now, centered…so we discuss Marx, and Weber, and odd things like the sociology of language, and sitcoms, and such…and there are giggles and exasperation and inspirations while profound helplessness and resignations loom all around.
At the Edge of the Woods
I wish I had answers but I only have stories.
An old recliner, I sit at the edge of the woods.
I was once comfortable.
Lest you forget.
A man died in my comfort.
Smiling that day.
Proud of his gay son.
Shall we sit a spell and reflect,
He liked to golf and save old things, polishing his shoes with a careless whistle, sipping tea.
Lest we forget.
I heard a nurse say,
“He was so happy you found love!”
Tears ran down the son’s face, and he replied,
“I was always afraid to ask…”
You have curled up to sleep in me,
And the cat, purring on your lap
A gift from a son,
I sit in silent snow talking.
Someone said I have no value.
Snowbirds beneath my skirt, a secret feast on cookie crumbs and a story.
Lest we forget,
How to stay warm in winter.
I wish I had answers but I only have stories.
Things you never heard me say.
It was September 23rd, and I entered the room of the frail German man…
He was declining quickly, not eating or drinking, this man who only weeks before was caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s, and who, now, would not allow himself any care in return.
I ask him if there is anything I can do for him…
Then he asks: “What day is it?” and I tell him it’s September 23rd. He says: “Can you write it down for me? It is my father’s death date. It’s very important.”
His father was taken during the German occupation and brutally murdered. His body wasn’t found for two years, and then, in a ditch, so no one ever knew his true date of death.
In the field, this is what we call a “sign,” when the threshold between here and there is thin, and the dead speak to the living.
I said: “Oh! What was his name?”
A beautiful smile appears, and in that strong, German accent, with emphasis, he says: “Otto!”
I say: “Oh, my fiancé’s father was German also, and he has passed on as well.”
“Wvhat vus his name?”
Trying to imitate his strong German accent, with emphasis, I say: “Osmar!”
“Write it down!”
“You want me to write down Osmar’s name?”
“Yes! Write it down.”
I write “Osmar” under “September 23.”
“Whven I see him, I tell him, you guhd girl!”
Today he will be so happy to see Otto!
And I am one hundred percent certain he will put in a good word for me to Osmar.
Some goodbyes are tougher than others.
When I share the date with his family after he has crossed over the rainbow, they tell me the story of Otto, and how they have never known the date of his passing. They tell me this is very important information and they mark it on the gentleman’s calendar.
So… I will share this experience with you, and you make of it what you will…
My maternal grandmother awoke every morning at 4 a.m. She was a pistol with a zany sense of humor. She always told me when she died, I better have the coffee brewing at 4 a.m. because she would be coming back to have a cup of coffee with me.
She passed away when I was 19, after a week in hospital. My mother and I came home that night, and fell asleep talking in the living room, her on the sofa and me on the floor. At 4 a.m. I was awakened by my grandmother’s alarm clock. I said: “Awe…,” and went into her room to turn it off. When I returned to the living room, it dawned on me and my mother that my grandmother had been in hospital a week, and she had the type of alarm clock that would play and play until someone turned it off…we laughed and cried and got up and made coffee…sat at the table and talked all morning.
So…I’ve had the flu. I went to sleep as soon as I got home from work yesterday. I awoke about 11:30 p.m. and read my social work textbook, Facebooking in between. I went to make myself a cup of coffee…I know…who drinks coffee at this hour? I returned to my room with my coffee and realized…It’s almost 4 a.m….I better go to sleep!
I turn out my light and snuggle down into my pillow. Am I dreaming? I don’t know, but my grandmother is at the foot of my bed talking to me…I am telling her something about my little brother…and she is telling me something about checking up on him. She “floats” back out of my room. What jolts me awake is the idea: “Why is my grandmother checking up on my brother?”
So I dial his number…he is on a paper route…yes it’s nearing 4:15 a.m. now. I am telling him what has happened. We ask one another if it is a significant date? Not that we can tell. I ask him to check on his newborn baby. All is well with baby. As I am trying to figure out what it means…well, I must have hit “snooze” instead of “okay” on my phone because the alarm sounds in my ear…again. As I turn off the alarm, that’s when it hits me…
It’s 4 a.m. and I just made a cup of coffee…and WHY is my alarm ringing at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It’s only set to alarm on Monday to Friday!
My subconscious making the connection?…perhaps. My grandmother saying hello?…maybe so…
I am so confused at the moment. None of my life’s lessons are helping me. I don’t know how to trust anyone or anything right now. I try to listen to my intuition, but even it does not know the way. I wait for signs and read the synchronicity but even those seem baffling. I don’t understand anything right now. Nothing makes sense. It’s like death, but I don’t know what is dying and what is being born. It’s all wrapt up in grief and time, and holding on and letting go. “Don’t stay where you’re not wanted.” But I don’t know what to hold onto or what to let go of, or to hold onto nothing and to let go of everything. I think I have it figured out, but then it slips through my fingers, and I am lost again. “When in doubt, wait it out.” I don’t know the message, I can’t find the purpose. Wrapt up in responsibility, sacrifice, and joy. How to know when joy should be sacrificed, and to what end, and if ever, and for how long, but what is joy? When does sacrifice yield joy? Does it ever? Is it real? How do you know the difference between self sacrifice that destroys you or self sacrifice for higher purpose? How much do you sacrifice, for how long, if ever? Do you never? What does that accomplish? I do not know the way. I ask the question and wait for the answer but when it comes bearing fruit, it is transformed ever deeper and yields more questions without answers. Dead ends. What do you trust? And risk. I am methodical, I plan, I do not take risks, I do not make snap decisions, and yet that has yielded no better outcome. When do you jump, do you jump, where do you jump, what is jumping? I wait and wait, and time does not discriminate. What is time? What if there was no measure of time? How much time is time enough? How much time is wasted time? I walk in fog, exploring uncharted territory. No beginning, no end. I am looking for a box, so I might open it, and read the message written there, but what if it is a blank scroll? Is there a box? Didn’t I craft a box long ago? Who has taken it away? And safety. And experience. And joy. And why? The autumn and the quickening. Do I allow it to rejuvenate, once again, or do I snuggle under crinkly leaves. Rest. My hair is tired and wet with the fog. Is there time enough? Is it time? Cruel trickster, where are you hiding? Tell me Yakov. – Tanya
Yakov responds: I’m flattered that you ask me. i’m reminded of Alice Toklas who asked Gertrude Stein on her death bed, “Gertrude, what is the answer?” To which Gertrude replied, just before she expired, “Alice, what is the question?”
Tanya: You really do drive a hard bargain. I love you, Yakov. Thank you.
I wasn’t aware that the “distressing” near death experience is rarely shared…or that there are people who need to hear their experience shared from another living being in order to heal. I was recently informed my own experience is categorized as “distressing,” though that term seems an odd choice. As such, I will share the experience here, but I warn you, the experience itself has nothing much to tell. It is the before and after experience which makes the “event.” If you have questions, you are welcome to post them here in the comments section, and I will answer to the best of my ability. Because my near death experience happened over the course of several days, my post will be in several parts.
Prior to this experience, I never gave much thought to “near death experiences.” When I did hear something on television about it, I always imagined when people referred to “the tunnel,” they were happily, peacefully, calmly floating upright, on foot, toward the light.
My near death experience was a result of hemorrhage from miscarriage and occurred at home. I lost approximately one gallon of blood and am told there was not enough blood left in my body to carry oxygen to my brain. I subsequently had surgery and a transfusion of three pints of blood.
I was going to the front door to go out to the car, in order to be taken to the hospital by a family member. A call to the hospital had confirmed I needed to be there immediately. I had just made the statement, “I don’t feel so good.” As I placed my hand on the doorknob of the front door, and opened it, I felt myself sagging to the floor against the door, and I lost consciousness.
Though I had sagged against the door to my right, I felt I was on my back, and my head was bumping against the floor. This felt very similar to the feeling of being on a fast, bumpy, wooden roller coaster ride. I heard a loud roaring sound, which I liken to that of an up close locomotive train. I was “aware” and I was “awake” but not in my living room. I could not see anything of my house, but only the tunnel. This seemed to have happened immediately.
I felt myself shooting through a tunnel, feet first, at break neck speed. Outside the tunnel, was dark, and the space was filled with human creatures, that I can only call daemons (although I cannot quite consider them demons, either, they were in such pain) for lack of a better word. They were the epitome of all things horrible, gnashing, dark, and hideous. They were full of pain and they wanted to get a hold of me. I knew I was safe, however, that “they” could not touch me. If I had been dreaming, I would have been terrified.
Inside the tunnel, in the space that I was traveling through, was dark leading into a bright, white light, which was shining in through a hole beyond my feet. I was not traveling down or up, but rather straight through the tunnel, feet first. Though I was shooting at break neck speed, this was not a smooth ride. It was loud and bumpy. As I was nearing the light, and the noise and bumpiness began to subside, my maternal grandparents (deceased) were present. They were not present in physical form, but I could feel them there with me.
The next thing I knew, I was no longer in the tunnel.
I was up near the ceiling in my living room.. I could see my body laying on my back on the sofa. I was in the area of the living room ceiling at the end of the sofa where my feet were propped up on pillows, away from the head of my body. I could not see the face of my body, but only the side of my face, as there were medical workers surrounding the upper part of my body. They were working on me and they were very concerned and urgent. I believe, trying to remember these years later, there were two men and one woman around the sofa. I vividly recall the back of the male medical worker’s head. He had sandy blond hair, and it was a short cut. He was immediately in front of my body. One of the medical workers was standing along the back side of the sofa.
I recall thinking, “What’s the big deal?” I could not understand why everyone was so concerned about the body, because I felt fine. While I did not look down to see if I still had a body in my present state, I “felt” like I had a body. The body on the sofa was of no concern to me. I felt no pain. I felt no fear.
The next thing I knew, I was back in my body on the sofa. It happened in wharp speed. I immediately began to pull the mask off my face, and the medical workers wanted to prevent me from doing that. I felt absolutely fine. I pulled the mask off my face, and I saw my daughter (age 8 at the time) kneeling beside me on the floor, beside the sofa, on my right side. I knew she was very frightened. I touched her and told her, “Mommy is okay. Mommy is going to be okay.” I also told her, “I love you.” and “Don’t be afraid.” The medical workers replaced the mask on my face.
The next thing I recall is waking up in the ambulance as it was leaving. The medical workers were having to constantly pull the linens from under me and replace them with clean linens. I felt very bad for causing the medical professionals to have to do such a thing and I felt bad for making such a mess. I recall repeatedly apologizing to them, and I recall their responses were very kind. I also recall they continued to sound very afraid and urgent. I could hear the fear in their voices.
The next thing I recall is laying on my back in a hospital bed in the hospital. I wake up fully, and I feel “tingly.” I hear someone say, “She’s tapping out!” I know this is not good. That is the last of my recollection prior to surgery.
Because I want to keep my personal commentary and opinion separate from the facts as I recall them, I will post my opinion separate.
(I searched out a photo to include here, that best fits the tunnel as I recall it. I was laying on my back, with my feet aimed toward the light, in a tunnel that looked like this, only perhaps without the ridges.)