Age:[ 41 ] Gender:[ F ]
Comments: One of my 3 brothers, my 21/2 yr old daughter & myself came from distant places and moved in with Mom & Dad fo r the last 9 weeks of Dad's life. My two other brothers, husband and my brother's partner came as often as they could and were very pr esent as well. This was a real family shin-dig.
Dying is Dull Work: A Family Recipe for D.O.D. It's a funny thing about the Bigger Questions-- we are often left to our own devices to find our way-- to seek out role models from literature, religion, &/or life-- or not. Family often volunteers guidance on the lesser questions (no doubt): don^Òt wear fuschia to your wedding; name the baby Ira; please, use the other stuffing recipe this year. But where are the family recipes for good dying and death? And so, Mrs. Lincoln, beyond that, how did you find the play? _________________________________________________ The blessed daliness of life. Fuschia, baby Ira and the other stuffing recipe realistically make up the bulk of life. Don't you think? I am fond of saying we die as we live. Meaning- as a blueprint to life-- if you attend to the truth, you're decent, you love, you keep a sense of humor, you try again, you "sin" once in a while and shake your own head about it (my friend, Judi, who is Catholic, would make me add this to the list if she saw it- so I'll just do it), and oh yeah: you don't take yourself too seriously all the time-- probably you'll die that way. Not meaning to be glib-- and knowing I probably don^Òt even need to point this out-- but, just the same, you will likely be sad to leave, unsure about later, maybe a little self-indulgent from time to time. You will feasibly have serious concerns about the ones left behind, reasonably be filled with uncertainties-- but it will be OK. It was OK. (Not the Pain Part~ that was unconscionable.) Dad made it OK by his acceptance and his gift of normal-making. He had this uncanny ability to let us in emotionally, to allow us to be right there however we could manage and to make it all normal. I'm not sure what he would say about this- probably that he went about his business and included those, as best he could, who wished to be present. From close family to outer-sphere acquaintances-- he made himself amazingly available-- and I believe truly that this was his vehicle for coping or finding his way-- to invite those interested parties to accompany him. Reliably, till the last, he made good use of E-mail, visits, letters and the telephone to communicate with his community. With an ample dash of stoicism, and, of course, wit. Don't get me wrong-- he was not needy about this; it always felt to me that I was getting certainly as much and often more than I gave. Kind of an honor to be let in at this essential level-- and let in so gracefully. So-- practice being vulnerable, child-like and available-- juxtaposed to, born out of, graced by or in spite of all that life experience you have inside of you-- collected lovingly, painfully, joyfully and monotonously over years. (I'm a "litany" kind of person- should've been Catholic.) And you will be OK. Does this sound like a reasonable recipe? And you know how everything I just wrote sounds simple-- I think it is? From all sides, it still hurts to say goodbye. It is still tough to recognize my place at the table with Dad's physical absence. Kind of have to move the chairs in- a little this way, a little that way- nope- still doesn't feel right. Maybe this part we cannot so much control. And maybe that's OK. But at the risk of being sophomoric, I think that's the catch: Acceptance and Simplicity. And I know I need reminders. Life so often bucks simplicity. (The Serenity prayer comes to mind here.) This is my way of thinking-- of course, not for everyone-- so on and so forth. None the less, Mrs. Lincoln gave the play rave reviews. ___________________________________________ Love, me Post Script: <><><> Oddly enough, this morning while leafing through a book of Zoe's (Poems children will sit Still for), I found the bit below as the introductory paragraph to the Nonsense Poetry section. Our family has always been BIG on nonsense, big on humor: the favored coping mechanism, the favored form of entertainment at family gatherings-- I'd venture to say humor is as good a gauge as any of our family's spiritual health. (please trust truth and forgive fiction- at this point- it could have been diced cucumber dressing that carrot.) This first incident is now solid family mythology: Psychologist at UNC Hospital Oncology Group: Describe yourself in three words, Robert. Jiggs (who has NEVER been Robert to anyone but those reading his name from a form): SIX FEET TALL <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Lise about to insert first rectal suppository: If you could roll to your left side, Dad. Jiggs: Somehow, this isn't what I envisaged when they held you up at the glass. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Jiggs upon being wheeled outside in his yard by 3 of his 4 children at a cost of limp-leaf fatigue and severe vomiting (but loving it just the same): Who's been taking care of this yard? Nathan, go get the wheelbarrow-- bring some compost to the front! Job, pick-up those sticks! barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark . . . Lise: Save your strength, Dad! Who's going to sit up in the stretcher and hold the door for the morgue guys if you're too tired? <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><<<><><><><><><><><><><><><> Dad's appetite diminished, he requested "One raw Baby Carrot" for dinner. Undaunted, Claire and Lise fixed nouvelle cuisine replete with finely chopped parsley encircling- and slivered red pepper crowning the anything but diminutive carrot. We served on a fancy tray accompanied by a full family wait-staff, a simple floral spray, candle and linen napkin. Dad didn't miss a beat. Deadpan-- he sat up, knife and fork in hand and had himself a feast. The boys took a photo of the cooks and their comestibles: nice to have it now. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Dad had an ongoing character: Mr. Buckethead. I think Job dubbed him that. Just for Zoe, really. He'd wear his emesis bucket on his head like a hat and talk to her in a deep muffled voice, "I am Mr. Buckethead." Or he'd say nothing and she would ignore him-- eventually pointing while shrilly pronouncing, "Mr. Buckethead!!" <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Jiggs with a slow smile: ^Ódying is dull work.^Ô (no joke) So I suppose I should have underscored humor-- because that was probably one of our biggest ingredients. Nonsensical/gallows/stand-up/dry/wry/and otherwise. * * * Mostly Nonsense If men are distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter, then children (and some gifted adults) are distinguished by their faculty of responding, without inhibition, to nonsense. And if nonsense needs defending, we will call to the witness stand Josh Billings, a favorite humorist of Lincoln's day, who says, "Good nonsense is good sense in disguise." __________________________________________till later- lck
Mon Aug 24 06:51:21 1998 back to other Contributions page