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Archive for July, 2008

When I was young I learned quickly from my family elders and from the community, that death comes in packages of three.  At first hearing this I counted “one” and I would wait a good length of time, and then “two” with an equal pause and finally uttered a last count of “three” to see what would happen.  I was soon told it wasn’t the counting of numbers, but the real death of people.  I was stunned and though I had not experienced “death,” I knew it wasn’t something I should take lightly.  Over the next few years I tried to understand and couldn’t.  Then, almost overnight, my special, buddy, my Grandpa died.  All I knew was that he wasn’t there and I felt a pain of loneliness in me.  Following Grandpa’s death two other people weren’t in my seven year old world.  I asked my mother where they went and she said they had gone to join my Grandpa.  Then I knew they were gone forever and  they were #2 and #3..

The past week has been filled with anxiety, memories, thoughts, questions, anger, love, protection and worry that wistfully put me under a spell of dismally low spirits.  Regardless how I tell my self that  that if death came in threes then it would be a myth or a play on the odd  number three, I still can’t ignore the count.  IF someone I know dies, I immediately wait for #2, exactly like the people do in the little town I came from.

Now, I know that Shadowlands’ husband died two weeks ago,   Two weeks later M’s sister died from pancreatic cancer.  I pray that in two weeks no one else will.  When I think of the dates, exactly two weeks apart, makes me nervous, particularly when my Mother’s doctor told us this week he doesn’t want to give her further treatment because he thinks it will not be effective.  His words still ring in my head and I find them so presumptuous.  How can a Doctor think he, not the patient or family, can tender this decision rather than asking what the family and patient wish.  His decision is tantamount to a death penalty, without any other possibility.  Regardless, we need to rectify this action and it probably means finding a new doctor…

The death of M’s sister brought to mind the importance of getting everything straight while you have time, energy and health during your twilight years, if you have never tackled the problem before.  The major issue here is having a Will and a Medical Power of Attorney. I thought everyone did this, but I guess I was incorrect.  My Mother and Father had a will since the 1950s, occasionally with attached codicils as time passed.  M and I have had a will since 1970.  In fact, we have changed the wills three times just to make sure every detail is covered.

If you don’t have a will you should have one.  If you are married or with a partner please keep it a joint will and state what you want, whether everything first passes to the mate and then trusts, gifts, etc., are handed out, or you need everything in a particular way because of trusts or inheritance taxes. The latter can kill your heirs if you are not careful!  Making a will also solves the problem of making sure you have an executor that will handle all of your affairs during the immediate time after your death.

Next, do not ignore how you wish to be buried.  Make arrangements for yourself.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  If you don’t plan on moving then there isn’t any reason why you can’t have a plot, prepaid burial, etc., all arranged.  After you do then let your next of kin know what your preferences are and how they are arranged.  It’s a good idea to give a copy of all signed documents to a friend or relative to keep and then give to your family if they need them.

I mention these things because they are important and if you don’t take care of them you can cause your family endless hours of stress and grief.  Lately I have remembered that my preferences for my demise has not been updated for a very long time.  Years ago I only wanted to be cremated and the ashes strewn dramatically over the Iowa countryside where I grew up.  Now that I am older I am not so sure that maybe what I feel the most comfortable and I tend to be a little less dramatic now,  I need to consider this as an important matter, because if I should die before M, which is unlikely, then I just might be strewn to the wind!

And so I return to my melancholy spell and think about the three’s and hope that it is just a myth.  I don’t want to deal right now with another death, particularly if it is as close as my Mother is to me.  M. said to a friend on the phone that we (meaning our families) are in the “Year of the Dead”.  M. whispered, thinking I might not hear, (Not likely since I have very good hearing), that he has two brother-in-law that are close to death, then he drops his voice even more to say my Mother and then mentions a friends Mother.  As he was whispering I was counting and I didn’t like getting two sets of three’s.  I suddenly saw a long journey into a final darkness that sent shivers up my back.  No, God could not mean two sets of three within a short period of time, would he?

I used to discount all thoughts if they included God “did mean or didn’t mean” something would happen.  Now I think he has a big thing to do with everything.

Maybe I should send a simple prayer to God and just ask him to help me rid my mind of the three’s and above all forget I ever heard about the “Year of the Dead”.  If he was kind enough to me then maybe I would no longer feel my melancholic spell and sunshine would fill tomorrow!

 

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Preamble

Rhoda Goldenberg is my sister-in-law and was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer less than three weeks ago.  Unfortunately she had little time to ready herself for any upcoming passage she was to take.  During the last week before being admitted to a hospice, Rhoda frantically tried to insure that her daughter and granddaughter were cared for without her presence to help guide them.  Now, M., her younger brother, as well as her other siblings are working towards a trust for them.  At the time of posting she was not expected to live more than one or two days.

You are somewhere in a hospice on the sea, near Boca and most likely you will not be there very long.  When I think about it, I should have taken a moment to talk with you when you called to speak to M.  Sure I knew you had pancreatic cancer, but I also felt there was time, a few more weeks or months for me to tell you how sorry I am.  But that day, I felt I should let M. speak to you.  You had a lot to deal with and I quickly handed the phone over to him without taking one short minute to tell you how I feel.   A lesson can be learned from handing over the phone so quickly as I did.  From now on I need to remember to do what is felt in the heart at the moment you feel it and not leave it for another day!

I want to let you know I was glad to have met you and knowing you has been years of gaining an unusual experience in knowing someone.  I want to let you know how wonderful it was when M and I first visited you in Florida.  Dinner on the lanai was the best, as the cool evening breezes softly blew across the screened-in patio.  We sat there for hours following dinner.   The food (made by you and I) was always superb, the wine Sid bought was delicious and yes, watching M. eat the leftovers as we chatted was humorous.  Although, it wasn’t just dinner that was great, it was the idea of living near the ocean, being warm in the winter and being with someone that made me welcome and wanted.

During the past thirty-five years since we met, much has happened to our two families.   Your  Mother and my Father have died.  We each have gained and lost more pounds over the years than most people can.  We have shared many Seders, some with you present, but we haven’t seen each other for many, many years.  I know I couldn’t go to your wedding to Sid, nor has there been any time in the last decade for a trip to Florida.  Yes, we have spoken on the phone many times over the years and I know you quite well through our conversations.  I’ve been able to follow your life with Sid, how you raised Ari and all the troubles you continually have caring for Ruth and Sara.

I think the last few years have been the hardest for you as you cared for Sid.  But now, Rhoda, in your final days you need the care.  Thankfully, you went to the hospice on the sea.  I hope your room is balmy and bright with sea breezes that gently blow in the wind.  You, or no one deserves this particular, swift end to life.  But, it appears that the human body responds correctly,  to allow you to move quickly to your destination.   I wonder, I hope you had a bit of time to reconcile yourself to your own concluding passage.

But before you leave, dear Rhoda, you should know you will be remembered.  To some  people the best memories I have are the little ones like the ambiance of your first apartment, the diet muffins you could make so well, your ability to cook with flair, your ease in answering the many questions I had about Seder or other holidays, your knowledge of Hebrew made you my interpreter or translator when I needed to understand a word and lastly, your memory as a store house of family facts.

Now, Rhoda, you are journeying on your the last hours through your final darkness.  You have just left the many years you enjoyed within your own Crepusculum (the twilight years of your life) .  Thankfully you were able to spend many, many more years in your twilight than others.  I am sure that you and I expected you to have many more years ahead,  but that is not the case and so I must bid you a fond farewell.  I know you will continue to live in the hearts of your sisters and brothers and particularly mine.

To you Rhoda I bid good bye–

To you I will remember the smile on your face–

The shine in your hair–

The quickness of wit in your mind–

Your hands with your rings and the bracelet–

B’ Shalom dear Rhoda!  Peace to you!

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To reflect upon my own life is much more difficult than if I was asked to give thought to another’s worth. While I was in college, I became concerned if I had done anything that would let me be remembered after my death. Even more so had I achieved any lasting legacy for the far future to know me?

I asked that many, many times and now my reaction to that question is that it is unimportant. There are other concerns in my life that I should attend to, or begin to resolve. These are issues that relate directly to my elder years or that will help me feel fulfilled. I cannot guarantee that anything I have done meets some unknown criteria. If it does, fine, but then it runs the risk of history not recording the accomplishment. Often a special deed is lost or distorted and if it is a small achievement, it can be lost. I think I am far better off knowing the things I have done in my life have made me happy and that I have done some good for someone else and not worry if anyone else remembers or agrees.

Even though I may occasionally complain, I know my life has been good to me. I have little wrong with me except many, many extra pounds! Early in my life it became important for me to be employed in distinctive positions, ones not in the regular mill of things. I accomplished doing that, but now wonder if I was doing that so others would acknowledge my success, or was I doing it for me so that I could feel better? Until I went to college I always felt I wasn’t equal to someone who was educated. So often in grade school or high school, I had problems with my grades. I had no idea how to go beyond that stigma. Even when I applied to Arizona State University and was finally accepted it was on the condition that I take limited courses the first year. After the close of the first semester the grades rolled in and I was astounded I had a 4.0 pt average for the semester. As I graduated from grad school, I still had a 40 average and I began to understand what my capabilities and intelligence was. That lack of trust in me marked why it was so important to me to have jobs people recognized as special. I never was able to understand that if I could do the job that it must have taken a little more something than pure brawn.

Throughout my life, withstanding any minor character deficiencies, I have been generous and willing to help someone. Unfortunately, this help and generosity has been limited mostly to my family, but occasionally I have given my time to help others. The last few years I have cared for my mother, as she passed from her Crepusculum and into her darkness. Constantly I hear how special I am that I can do this for her, or that I will do this for her. It is my choice to care for her because when I watched my Aunt and Father deteriorate faster in a nursing home than necessary, I decided I would never allow anyone else close to me to experience the same. Now, a few years later I know I have made the right decision. Caring for her has given me insight, knowledge and patience. Now, even when one of my S/O’s family members called to tell us that they were terminally ill, I offered for her to come here so that I could care for her. This is not an act of goodness on my part; I believe it is more an act of caring and a responsibility of what should do.

Possibly, I should list the flaws I believe I have. Probably I am one of the worst people you can communicate with on a one to one basis. I am one of those who doesn’t listen unless they want to and I am often too quiet, nor will speak my opinion. From early on I was timid and even today carry many of the traits of an introvert. In addition, I live in a continual gray cloud. For years I only knew that everything was fine until suddenly I was moody or uncontrollably down. I continued this way on into my early fifties. During my forties, instead of changing things in my life I began drinking. I went away as so many do, but never could control it. Finally, during another gray period I decided that I couldn’t go on this way. I packe our truck with my cherished items, hooked up the muffler to the window and passed out believing there wouldn’t be another tomorrow. The next morning I awakened, unbelievably groggy and slightly irritated I couldn’t even orchestrate this event flawlessly. By that evening M had arranged to have me started on antidepressants. The world changed in a day. The gray cloud lifted and now only occasionally returns. The new day allowed me to stop drinking immediately, go to college, receive two degrees, make plans for the future and be able to take care of my mother now. Unfortunately in the past fifteen years there have been times I stop taking the antidepressants for a couple weeks and each time I do the gray, overwhelming cloud overtakes me with such intensity that it reminds of taking my pill.

My memory is very selective. I may choose to remember you as a dear friend, but I will never remember your birth date, nor will I always remember to write or call when I should. If I remember to call it may take a very long time because phone calls are a little bit of a problem. I do not like to make phone calls. I hated making business calls and always had a secretary or someone else to make the call and then give the phone to me. My family was even included in the continual hesitancy to make a call. Today I am much the same. M makes most of my calls unless i am calling a family member or a very close friend.

As I grow older and think more about my future, I find I think more of the past and wish to relive them (never change them-just relieve). Once I asked my mother if there was a time in her life that she would like to revisit. Her immediate response was, “Why should I–tomorrow is better!” It was the first time I realized how much I tend to live in the past and the first time I understood how much her attitude has allowed her to continue to live. If she had not been able to enjoy her unknown tomorrows, she may have had less living to today! I see the lesson in her curiosity of tomorrow, but it is a lesson I most likely won’t take.

Now is is time that you may decide if I have even come close to reflecting upon myself. My life is mine and at the present time I am happy with the way that I am. Tomorrow I need to forge on in my journey to Crepusculum. During that time I know there will be many diversions, particularly as changes occur with my Mother. To those of you who read my posts and especially to you who are kind enough to respond then if you have a moment that I have made you smile, gave you a moment of thought, or let helped you resolve a problem, then I am happy and content!

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For Shadowlands

In the early days of my being on WordPress I visited another blog. Back in those days I am sure I fell upon the blog by accident since everything was unfamiliar to me. I remember reading the first post that came onto my screen. It was one part of a women’s account of her husband’s journey toward the sunset of cancer. Not only did I read about this journey, but while doing so I realized the bond between these two people was very special.

In the weeks and months to follow, Shadowlands has been supportive of my exploration of preparing to enter my twilight and I continued to read hers to be a part of their journey and gain from her some peace from her strength.

Her husband has taken his final journey and no longer will need to live with the constant, unrelenting pain of cancer. On the other hand Shadowlands will begin her own new journey. She has many, many wonderful followers that have been with her all this time and we will continue to be there for her.

I would like to dedicate this post to her and her strength and to her husband’s memory. Shadowlands my heartfelt thoughts are with you..

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So many days (weeks) have passed since I have posted. I have tried to write, especially at night, I sat in the darkened room at the little desk. As always, my Mother’s life support motors continued to whoosh and play in synchro-nized tones as I sat in the dark. The computer screen dimmed to maximum so the darkness wrapped around and cradled me.

Even as I sat in this well-known spot, the words rarely came. Instead, a stream of empty-headed babble floated in and around my head and quickly I began to feel very exhausted which then lead me to give up and go to bed. One more night wasted. Not only did I not write, but also the time sitting uselessly in the chair robbed me of the time I should be sleeping. It felt like a vicious cycle as the wasted hours accumulated and the body’s exhaustion peaked at new levels that take forever to lower. I admit I am sleep deprived and it does take rest for the mind to function. The body is a funny thing and shows you what needs to be done as it takes charge when I attempted to type. Without realizing it, I fell fast asleep. When I awakened only a moment later, I noticed that I needed to delete the letters and characters I had rested my fingers on as the body shut down for the moment.

The lack of sleep may make me continually disagreeable and it may cause my body to eat more than it should, but it is not the only cause for my lack of words. Lack of words, the blank mind, it is a worry to me. In addition, so many times, as I sat trying to write I found the things that bother me the most encroached upon my mind. These worries moved stealthily to the forefront of my thoughts and for a while I felt that it didn’t make any difference what I wrote about, yet I questioned how I could integrate them into my journey to my Crepusculum.

In the short time I have been posting, not all I write is directly related to my queries of the twilight, but I realize everything has the ability to influence my thinking and help me understand how I might react to problems during my time within my twilight. Any interaction I have is a permanent part of my experience and my experience will guide me down the path of exploration.

But then, I wonder, what do you, the reader, think if I continually make detours to salve the mind and let my worries come into your lives. Will you see them as I do or do you expect much more consistency in presenting issues that I face in preparation for the next stage of my life? Now after five paragraphs do you question the validity of my not writing before now? I am sure it seems like writing to you, but to me it has only been a way that I can move from a state of blankness to a state of combining words…. a state slightly less than written text.

Surprisingly now, I need to tell you more. I need to let you know how these past days have been so undirected. I am tired, very tired, but each day I know, I must go on. As I continue on each day (M. says I am not completely aware of what I do) I hope that I can continue giving my mother the same care as I have been, regardless that her care requirements have nearly tripled. I also wish that she is able to enjoy some form of happiness during this time and while these thoughts are active, I stop and remember all of you, as well as the other people who take the time to write me their well wishes.

Then, without hesitation, I take a very long moment to send peace to Shadowlands as she watches over her husband, and I especially hope that her heart gently safeguards her through these trying days as her husband passes into the shadows of his darkness. Of us two, she is the stronger and I read in awe of how she continues each new day, rarely beleaguered before him, yet inwardly being overwhelmed and possibly alone.

Therefore, he and my mother, as everyone does upon leaving their twilight, begin another journey, a final, unidirectional journey into a personal darkness. Some may say a light may guide you through that darkness, but even if it isn’t present often a living person can help by always being by their side. I know Shadowlands will walk with her husband every step of the way and I have promised my mother that I will be with her, regardless how long the journey may be.

The promises, the care, the worries, the tiredness are all a part of my life now. Even though they may be problematic, it is my choice. These are easy for me, as compared to that final moment, the final good bye, that realization that I will never hear her speak, just as Shadowlands will never hear her husband’s voice again. Sure, the voice has been a part of my life; I can listen to it in my head at any time, but never again in the spontaneous conversation that has always been between us. Therefore, I think of a time during my mother’s last hospitalization that becomes very poignant. A respiratory therapist told me quite firmly that I need to grab a hold and deal with my mother’s death, She repeated this even louder and firmer as she left the room…………”Deal with it! NOW!” The words still echo in my head, but particularly that day left me speechless and almost childlike. Now, with time to do its work I can say I may need to “deal with it”, I have tried unsuccessfully for too many years and now I know that there is no way I will ever be prepared!

Maybe now, once again I can write. I made it this far and my mind continues to be a tiny bit open. As I think on what I have written, it only reminds me how important it is for me to settle so much about my care when I reach that final journey, because I probably won’t have anyone I know to make sure everything will be as I want. I will be alone to walk through the darkness on a unidirectional journey.

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