On Friday, it will have been a year since my mother died. She had pulmonary fibrosis, a disease in which the lungs gradually become scarred and hard, causing you to suffocate slowly. It was horrible to watch her struggle with its inexorable creep. She died a little over four years after her diagnosis.
A year and half earlier, my dad died from stage 4 prostate cancer, which he didn't know he had until two months before his death. He had been sick a long time but had chosen not to tell anyone because he wanted to focus on caring for my mother, as she had taken care of him through several serious illnesses over the course of their nearly sixty-year relationship. He couldn't hide any longer after the cancer ate through one of his vertebrae. He remembered the day he heard it snap. The pain was excruciating until he died.
The difference between my parents' experiences of dying was stark. Once my father learned that he had metastatic cancer, he struggled with the shock, fear, and grief for a few days. When he realized that he had no viable medical options and little time left, he accepted the prognosis with a sad calm and grace. He had always met life with dignity, and he did the same in dying and death. He was an orderly, organized man and a prodigious list-maker. The last list he made started with "1. Start dying process." Reading it made me laugh and cry at the same time. It still does.
My mother, however, resisted her disease and prognosis from beginning to end, not in a gutsy struggle to live a quality life as long as possible but with crippling fear and bitterness. She made her remaining time on earth a hell for herself and everyone around her. She couldn't accept the fact that she was going to die. By turns, it infuriated me, frightened me, and broke my heart, but I empathized with her fear because, unfortunately, I'm more like my mother than my father when it comes to coping with illness and being afraid of dying.
I now have their two examples before me, and I know which one I'd prefer to emulate. I've sometimes heard it said that in practicing detachment from the inner voice of the self through meditation over the course of a lifetime, we are essentially preparing ourselves for the greater leave-taking that death signifies. Regrettably, I have yet to become a consistent meditator, though I take up the practice again and again. With the arrival of the first anniversary of my mother's death, which reminds me of my father's passing as well, I will take today, Mindful Monday, as an apt opportunity to rededicate myself to meditation. Please join me.
Each moment dies to the next. What do you notice about the coming and going of this very moment?
for Mindful Monday
© March 31, 2014, post, Donna Pierce
Photo credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, 2009: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACitrus_Swallowtail_Papilio_demodocus.jpg
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