Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Random Thoughts On Death, Dying, and My Own Struggle to Live




            Two of my friends have died this month, so I am taking time to reflect on death.  It is inevitable—the natural end to life, yet we encounter it with shock and surprise.  I confess that I don't know the answers to our questions about death and dying and am as shocked and surprised as anybody else when someone passes.  Why? 

            Once, when I was in a meeting about disability services, I commented that we need to have transition services in place for when the parent-caregiver of a disabled adult dies.  The leader dismissed my comment by saying, “Yes, they might die.”

            I countered this dismissal with a promise.  “No!  I can promise you with one hundred percent accuracy that every, single parent-caregiver will die!”

            My remarks were ignored, almost as if I was being obscene.  During my time working with state disability services, they never set up a protocol for dealing with this transition.  It would not take much to have a page in a file listing people to contact, resources and an action plan for when the caregiver of a client dies.  It would serve the client to have a plan in place.  It would save the state time and money to have a plan in place, yet this didn’t happen.

            What is it that causes us to look upon death with so much denial that we cannot make a plan and put it in a file?  For believers in many faiths, death is just a passage to eternity—a return to our real home.  Yet we want to deny that death happens.  Why?

           I think the answer lies in our own grief.  It hurts so much to be separated from someone we love.  I think the grief of separation effects both the dying and the survivors.
  
           Personally, I see death itself as a pleasant passage to what lies ahead.  Still, I am reluctant to leave behind my loved ones.  I feel compassion for their sense of loss and grief, so I grieve with them and fight to cling to life.

            Clinging to life was a choice and challenge for me during and after my stroke and during my cancer treatments.  Living involved some tough choices and suffering.  It hasn’t been easy.  In addition to the pain of illness, I was well aware of the presence of total love and peace just around the corner that we call death.  Turning the corner would have been so much easier than fighting to live.  I chose to live partly because of my love for my family, but mostly because of a sense that I have unfinished business here.

            During my struggle, I started writing Lies That Bind.  In a sense, it was the story about my struggle to live, and the conflict between my desire to be with the One who loves me unconditionally and my attachment to those in this imperfect world.  This is not a sugary sweet story about life and death.  It is a passionate story about love.  I came to understand death as part of our passionate life love-story.

            I used adultery as the central theme in Lies That Bind because our society treats the topic of death much as it treats the topic of adultery.  We know adultery is a betrayal.  I think under much of our grieving, we see death as a betrayal.  Our loved one has abandoned us. 

            Just as Jake and Celia in Lies That Bind needed to unravel the lies that separated them, we need to unravel the lies that cause us undue grief when someone dies.  Death is not abandonment.  We need to remember that our loved one still loves us and we can still love them. Yes, we will miss our loved ones.  Still, they have made a natural passage whether we think it was timely or not.  We need to learn how to deal with this transition, to have a plan in our file. 

            How do we grieve?  How do we find wholeness when part of our life has been ripped away?  The answers to these questions will be different for each person, but we need to answer them.  The answers to our questions about grieving involve telling our-selves the truth and finding truth.  I sense that the answers involve living our passionate life love-story and recognizing that love is the eternal spark that each life passes on to the next generation.
            

17 comments:

  1. Thank you, Delinda, I look forward to reading your book and seeing it all from your point of view. Thank you for sharing this with us, today it is very needed. You are special to me!

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  2. You're such a wonderful writer and with your gift you make your reader think twice about things that most people wouldn't waste a second thought on.
    This is a very thoughtful and impressive blog post, Delinda. You're a wonderful person - and very sensitive in my eyes.
    Thank you for sharing

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  3. Delinda, you have provided some wonderful food for thought in your posting. The subject of death and dying seems to be one most of us avoid and seemingly place on a back burner for discussion at a later time. It is inevitable without a doubt but the connections you made today made me take a closer look at my own feelings and examine the perspective by which I have always defined that final moment of earthly life. Thank you for taking the time from your own personal grief to share this information. We will all miss Sandy but it is up to us to ensure her dream lives on.

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  4. May I respectfully suggest that you obtain a copy of, 'End of Life Experiences. A Guide for Carers of the Dying' by Sue Brayne and Dr. Peter Fenwick. This booklet was produced in association with the Clinical Neuroscience Division of the University of Southampton. Peter Fenwick is know to me and is a senior neuroscientist who is held in high esteem by the medical profession.

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    1. Dr. Peter Fenwick speaking at a conference in Stockholm on death and dying:

      http://www.tjpalmer.org/2012/11/30/peter-fenwick-toward-a-science-of-consciousness-stockholm-2011/

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  5. Your words were truthful and helpful to many. You have a wonderful understanding on this subject. Awesome job!

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  6. Delinda ~ Your thoughts about death and survival are honest and thought provoking. It is all such a mystery. Although I feel the afterlife holds something very special, it is still sad to think of leaving this beautiful earth and all it holds. That's why it's important to live each day to its fullest.

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  7. This is beautiful Delinda and provokes much thought. I have always felt that death is a sign that there is a Heavenly Father and an eternal home because one lifetime is just too
    short a time span to finish loving somebody.

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  8. I met a young couple while I was training for Future Initiative Communities and they said "Mom died, we got all her furniture and my brother. We didn't know what to do. We found this organization and we love it." The brother is a delight and living in an interdependent housing program, working at a YMCA and looking forward to getting a smaller size dog. He is happy, has his own apartment with a community builder on site, is purposefully independent with his brother and sister in law active in his life and very much alive. The young couple is happy. At the end of his mother's life after his father had passed the young man had become his mother's caregiver. We must braid in the cords for life's continuum - none of us know when we will leave this earth. The braided cords function as strands of individuals who participate in our lives weaving in and out - some stay for their life time others are our fishing partners.

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  9. Well spoken, Jodee, and thank you Delinda for a thoughtful discourse on life and dying. We never know, until too late just how quickly the life of a loved one can be taken from us--so often in brutal ways that leave us in shock for days, years, often for as long as we live. Your words jolted me into realizing why Sandra's death hit me so hard that I could not function for days--still can't. It took me back to when my 14 year old daughter was ripped away from me out of nowhere on a sunny summer day. Losing someone to disease is hard, but it gives us time to adjust to the fact that we may lose our loved one, and when the time comes, we are better prepared to cope with the loss. Not so with the senseless deaths like my daughter whose death was sudden--struck down by a DWI, with a severed spinal cord and no chance of survival for very long. Yet I held on to her as long as I could. With Sandy, and so many other losses, it's as if God just reached out of Heaven and plucked her and her husband from this world in the blink of an eye. And we stand by, stunned.

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  10. Sorry for being so late but for the longest time I couldn't post on ANYONES blog, now I know I need to be signed into google to do so.
    Your right about the parent-caregiver. I grew up in an adult foster care home, and we would have to endure the task of helping these patients deal with the death of a loved one who would come to see them regularly or provided for them while they were there. I loved these people, I used to love to sit and listen to their stories about life and that was when I was 10 years old, it never got "old". But within those stories were the times they shared with a loved one (spouse, mother, child) who had passed away. It astonished me at how well some of these people handled it. I really miss them, and I hope my being there for some of them helped. Death is a fact of life, and while we may feel it's abandonment, it truly is not and we have to realize that the loved one did not CHOOSE to leave us. *Unless suicide.
    And we have to be happy that they were able to be with us as long as they were, and reminisce of what they brought to our life or taught us.
    It's hard not to go thru the stages of grief, but I try and leave the anger part out and so far it's worked for me. God Bless.

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  11. Hi Delinda haven't heard or read any posts from you lately, or am I looking in the wrong place?? Take care and hugs.

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  12. Hi Delinda,

    I have a quick question for you regarding your blog, but I couldn't find your contact information. Do you think you could send me an email whenever you get a chance?

    Thanks,

    Cameron

    cameronvsj(at)gmail(dot)com

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