Monday, September 20, 2010

Oh, The Ignominy of It All

This is a phrase Dad said a lot toward the end of his life, and now Mom says it. She also says, "Old age isn't for sissies." Her moments of clarity about her situation are surprising to me because they are in such drastic contrast to how she is during and after her little strokes (T.I.A.s). We say the aliens have visited her because it feels so other-worldly to both of us. She says it is like dreaming with her eyes wide open and when she tries to express what is going on, it is a word salad of utter nonsense.

I watch the tiny rise and fall of life as she sleeps.
I think the end will come like the boyfriend I'm told will appear when I'm not looking for him.  I know this is a spurious comparison and probably in bad taste, but Mom's departure is on her mind and everybody who attends to her. I'm glad severe is part of persevere because no one is going gently into this good night. Even though she says she is ready to go, I see her raging against the dying of the light.

I see her perk up when visited and fed by my angel friend, Cathy.
I think I look alarmingly like my mother in features and age.
I delight in the animated expressions between brother and sister (Uncle Dave is 95).
I muse constantly about the meaning and grace of all this. I have felt unable to look at or write on blogs for over a month and then several blogging friends inquire about my well-being and I feel propelled toward expression again.

I have an encounter with a friend who is unable to accept my affection and gratitude and I struggle to not blame, grasp and justify either of our behaviors. What I make of the people who appear in my life, as well as the circumstances, thoughts, emotions and contradictions is up to me. I realize the sweet kiss of freedom is a concept in my mind and I can surrender to not knowing how my life will be used. I realize that trusting thoughts, events and people has been disillusioning and part of my story (always the Drama Queen). Most of my story has been a lie of protection and safety. I remind myself of favorite lines from books that encourage me to not identify with whatever is bothering me, but to engage in what is effortlessly present. "Freedom is the essential nature of consciousness, and consciousness is the source of individual awareness." from The Diamond in Your Pocket by Gangaji

No condition can be labled ignominious when looked at with the natural curiosity that develops when old concepts are released. It is just a thought. I can change my thoughts (but probably not Mom's). I can stop searching for something to rescue me from myself. I am free.

(Top picture taken by Dad while serving on his mission in Germany. All other photos, taken by me)


  1. See, this is the very reason why I miss you. Just perfectly exquisite...

    My father railed too, right to the end. He was restless and fitful and his last true recognizable words to my brother were "oh sh@%... as if he finally knew he would have to succomb. This from a man who didn't use profanity ever. Dad went, Kass, after we thought he was just resting more comfortably and we gathered in the other room without hovering over him...

    Free, yes, and beautiful. Tucking you and mom into my prayers and please know I am thinking of you.

  2. Oh so nice to hear the Kass that was becoming silent. I was missing you as well.
    I had rather thought that it was because of your caring for your mother. You've expressed this so poignantly and It's the first thing I read this morning as soon as I saw your name pop up.
    xoxo Kim

  3. How lovely to hear your voice again. I, too, guessed it was your caring role that was keeping you occupied, but that didn't make me miss you any less. Love the photograph of your mother and her brother. And the one of you bright eyed and clean faced, and not at all old.

    I hope you feel better, lightened, for expressing your self.

  4. You are sharing your life with someone else, a mother that shared hers to raise you. Many of us forget about this part of our life and fail to see the pleasure in helping a parent.It is only after many lose this part of their life that they wish to have it back and realize how valuable it can be.I am at the end of family, I have survived past siblings, parents and relatives, but see different parts of them in myself.I like the TIA description. Nice to hear from your direction.I took the pic you liked on a walk yesterday.

  5. I know those moments well ... and yes, my mom said the same thing, "not for sissies" and indeed it isn't

  6. yes this is why we miss you. i thought you were silent because you were processing life with your mom. in your honest appraisal of life as you know it (and as you've admitted to not wanting to quite not know it), you offer a brand of strength and courage i hope you will come to realize. it's easy (of course) for me to see and feel it from here.

    about 18 months ago a good friend called to ask for help with his father. i flew out the next day and we spent the last week with his father. the power of acceptance humbles me and i feel this in your words, kass.

    that photo of you and your mom! so much life and love! and the photo of your mom with her brother- just looking at these photos ground me more.

    and then, that last photo. kass, you respond to life and earth as an artist. such a gift.

  7. Good that you feel like blogging, at lest briefly. You have much to experience and will have very much to say at a later date. It is an important experience for you.

  8. it is hard to accept others taking care of me, and to not be able to do the things i use to do.

    and it is hard to be the one taking care of someone.

    i can imagine the visitors and the helpers are very welcome change.

    it's not that people don't love one another, it is that they do.
    for if a person did not care, they could just forget most of the stuff.

    i am sorry about the friend that can not do certain things, i know that it is really a hard thing to not do what comes naturally to want to do. sometimes that makes the relationship very hard to continue.

    i imagine that you could use some time off from the constant caregiving. the pressure of that can really wear on a person.

    sometimes people need permission from the people that are close to , like kids and family, that it is okay not to fight, to be able to let go, that who is left behind will be fine and that they can go on home to Jesus.

    and they don't realize this.
    but, after they hear it, they let go.

    it is so amazing how much we humans hold on to things, and forget we are even carrying anything, until we let it go.

    that is how it is for the caretaker as well. they don't realize how drained they are becomimg.

    so, take care.

  9. Kass, you might want to read my comment to your comment over at my place before reading my comment here. That way it's all in order.

    Very, very good bit of writing.

    I dare say that I think you might have hit upon my problem with some of the feel-good platitudes that circulate in the blogosphere. It's not that such platitudes are necessarily wrong but that they're reductive, a trivialization of the human experience.

    Welcome back.

  10. Such a tender and intimate look into a life well lived.
    In spirit where I spend a lot of my time our loved ones are but a thought or memory away.
    Big hugs for you Kass, I've missed you.

  11. So nice to have you back, I was really missing your blogs.
    Hard time you are going through, but I know you will find what you are looking for. Keep strong and faithful and don't hesitate to get in touch whenever you may need it.


  12. You know I don't pray, Kass, but if I did it would only be to wish you more of that light through your window as it seems to hold, with all the tiny particles of dust, the very essence of what it is to love and to know we can't clutch on to our loved ones any more than we can grasp it.

  13. I always enjoy your eloquence and your way of putting things, so honestly. I think these pictures are wonderful. The older I get, the more I realize what a great beauty every face is.

  14. this is why your presence is sorely missed. you bring a clarity to your experiences that uplifts us all. no, getting old is not for sissies. neither is caring for the old. it does, however, inform our lives in ways we never expected.

  15. Kass, it's wonderful to hear from you again. Please don't stop writing.

    Ah 'the ignominy of it all'. I know the phrase well and have felt it of late, as you may detect in my recent blog posts.

    I can well understand that my recent writings in conjunction with what you're going through with your mother do not make for uplifting reading.

    I have not yet told my own mother of 91 that I broke my leg. I puzzle that I do not let her into my new state of disability.

    It's not that I want to protect her from worry. She would not worry,I suspect, not about me, not about a broken leg - too trivial.

    I fear my motivation in not telling my mother about my broken leg is more sinister in some ways - like wanting to exclude her from my life.

    I'm not sure, but your post has reminded me again of the tenuousness and importance of these links and that despite our ambivalence towards our mothers we must honour our connections.

    You write so beautifully here, Kass. I am in awe.

  16. The wheel turns and it is often a tough ride.
    It's great to hear from you however bitter sweet things may be at the time, you aren't losing sight of the sweet.
    Thanks for taking the time to share with us...

  17. It’s impossible not to identify with someone who is dying. They’re showing us how it will very likely be for us. This must be especially true when the frail old person looks like we imagine we will look in twenty or thirty years time.

    In my poem ‘Losers and Winners’ (p.93 of This Is Not About What You Think) I’m talking about that struggle to win, to not go gently into that good night as you say. With that woman every breath was fought for and won. But I wanted to reflect the indomitable spirit of the woman. She wasn’t fighting for breath, no, it was all a game, she was trying to see who could hold their breath the longest and she won.

    You do need something else in your life though. Death is for the dying. Yes, we have a duty to attend on them but they also expect and need us to make the most of the lives we still have left to us. Your mother’s dying cannot be your life. She would be unhappy I’m sure to think that she’s dragging you with her. Your time will come. But it’s not now.

    So much as been written about death and dying you might think you have nothing to add, that it’s all been said, but that’s not the only purpose of writing. Every kid in the world sits down and does the same sums because we all need to come to a personal understanding of why 1+1=2. You can read all you like about the deaths of others but it’s something we all need to make sense of for ourselves even if we all come to much the same conclusion, that death sucks.

  18. I don't think the boyfriend such a spurious comparison. You describe her fluctuating condition very beautifully.

  19. I, too, have sent loving thoughts while wondering how you are, how Mom is. You have a writer's soul, and your expression of it is beautiful. We all feel touched when reading such sentiments. You continue to amaze me with ever expanding depth.
    xoxoxo So glad to have had these many years of friendship.

  20. Kass, I'm so glad to see you back and sharing your thoughts, That is important right now. Sharing these photos with us is truly special and I do think there are certain characteristics you share with your Mom.

    This is an extremely difficult time for you, I know. I've been there as well. That last photo brought a profound memory back for me that I really have not shared with too many people.

    I am not really a religious person but when my Father was dying, he was at home in his hospital bed and basically was asleep most of the time. This was the day before he died. I was in the room with him when all of a sudden he opened his eyes and they were fixated on the corner of the room near the ceiling. I looked over and there was nothing there. I kept asking, "Dad what do you see?" "What is up there?" yet he never even saw me because he was looking to that corner.

    Long story short, I truly believe that he did see the light. As non-religious as I am, there could be no other explanation.

    So, my friend, know that though the end is near, your Mom will be in good hands.

  21. Oh, Kass. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  22. VICKY - I love hearing how your father railed at the end and how he went resting comfortably.

    I appreciate knowing I am tucked into your thoughts. I am astounded by the empathy of my blogging friends.

  23. KIM - I know I went silent for a while, but there is something tangible that reaches out across the miles and through the internet that is a powerful draw. I hadn't realized how much I needed the support of the blogging community until I received it.


  24. ERYL - I do feel better and lightened, for expressing myself. And also for being heard by people I feel a strong connection to.

    Thank you.

  25. OUT ON THE PRAIRIE - This is such a sweet sentiment: "...sharing a life with someone who shared hers to raise you."

    I like how you see your family through parts of yourself. You are quite a poetic soul.

  26. S. ETOLE - I know you have been through what I am going through right now and many of the words on your blog have encouraged and supported me.

    Thank you.

  27. SHERRY - You're right. It is quite a process and there is power in accepting "what is." I never would have guessed it.

    I'm glad you like the photos. I was amazed when I saw how the light streamed in the window that one day.

  28. JUNE - Thanks for your encouragement. You were the first to inquire as to my whereabouts and I appreciate your interest.

    Thank you.

  29. N. DAVIS ROSBACK - You said some amazing things here about letting go and about aspects of love that I had not thought about in quite that way.

    I appreciate your understanding and compassion. Thank you so much.

  30. KIRK - Yes, I read the comment to the comment back on your blog, and no, I have not given up blogging - I just become overwhelmed.

    I'm interested to know more about your take on the feel-good platitudes that circulate in the blogosphere and their reductivism and trivialization of the human experience.

  31. TAG - Thanks for missing me. I've missed you too. Tenderness, intimacy and spirit seem to be your specialties.

    I accept your hugs. Thanks.

  32. GABI - I enjoy reading all the uplifting quotes on your facebook page. Thanks for inquiring after me. It got me writing again.

    I'm glad you know I will find what I'm looking for. We do strengthen one another in this strange sphere, don't we?

  33. RACHEL - This is one of the most beautiful wishes I have ever received: "...light coming through my window as it seems to hold, with all the tiny particles of dust, the very essence of what it is to love and to know we can't clutch on to our loved ones any more than we can grasp it."

    Thank you for this.

  34. JULIE - I'm glad you like the pictures. I agree about faces. They're amazing and you capture them so well in your paintings.

  35. STANDING - That's a pretty nice thing to say about my presence bringing an uplifting clarity.

    Thanks for inquiring about me and keeping in touch through facebook.

    Yes, I have been 'informed,' as you say, by many surprising things lately.

  36. ELISABETH - For you to encourage me not to stop writing is a nice thing to read.

    I enjoy reading what you write on Brook Hopkins' blog. What a small world!

    Don't think I mean to be critical of your broken bone posts. Not everything has to be uplifting. I was just not happy to hear of your accident or pain.

    Interesting that you have not yet told your mother that you broke your leg. Why would you tell someone who you feel is not invested in your well-being? I think this is a healthy exclusion.

    I'm not sure how we can best honor our connections. I think we just bumble along and do the best we can.

    For you to be in awe of my writing is a huge compliment.

    Thank you.

  37. ALESA - Yes, bittersweet does describe what I am going through lately.

    This is quite poetic: "The wheel turns and it is often a tough ride."

    Thanks for still being here.

  38. JIM - Oh, voice of reality and reason - it’s so true that our identification with the dying is about US!

    I thought this poem of yours, ‘Losers and Winners’ (p.93 of This Is Not About What You Think) was about the struggle to win and how it was related to death. Whether 'she' was holding on to life (breath) or relationships or sanity....or whatever held her to mortality, it was a contest (a game) to the end. I thought she was having the contest with Death.

    You are entirely right about my needing something else in my life. I am struggling not to be consumed by my überempathy. You're wrong, however about Mom being unhappy that I might be dragged down by this experience. She has never had a lot of concern about what is in my life for me to learn and experience just for me. Her agenda has always been about how my life can benefit her. That's why this experience is so interesting for me - putting that aside and just doing what I feel is best.

    I love your analogy of learning about math and death. I think they both suck.

  39. DAVE - I'm glad you don't think the boyfriend thing and someone's death a spurious comparison. I'm hoping most people understand the duality of letting go vs.anticipating relief.

  40. DEAR FRIEND, MARIE - I have received your loving thoughts because you've voiced them. Thank you for your kind words. I, too am glad to have had these many years of friendship!!!

    Thanks again for your wonderful fresh garden vegetables. Mother enjoyed them too.

  41. POETIC SHUTTERBUG - I feel privileged to read about your feelings around your father's last moments of life.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with me.

  42. JAN - Thank you so much. I'm overwhelmed by everyone's kindness.

  43. "I muse constantly about the meaning and grace about all this."

    I think when I first read that line, I may have confused your musings about meaning and grace with MY musings about meaning and grace.

    It's just that I've experienced losses of all sorts in the last few years, and found that a lot of the old sayings just didn't do me much good. Loss happens, and it doesn't help, or at least it didn't help me personally, to try explaining it away. Even when it CAN be explained away, the hurt remains. The best thing you can say about pain is that it it's not an exclusive club, and we shouldn't treat it as such. It may, in fact, be the one thing that binds us human beings together as a species.

    Now I'm musing worse than ever!

    Again, welcome back.

  44. (I will go back and read the comments and responses, but if I did that now...well.) So glad to see you are back. I know what is required in providing whatever is needed to a parent (my mother, also) facing illness and beyond. My mother's TIAs first produced vivid and frightening hallucinations and even the hospital staff wouldn't come near her. In short order she was transferred to a much higher caliber facility. I charming to see the photos of your mother with you, with her brother.

    Way too many years spent feeling insufficient AND waiting to be rescued by something outside myself at last gave way to awareness of an eccentric sufficiency and the unlikely forms in which deliverance appears. For good or ill, I have never felt that I could pass for anything other than what I believed myself to be, that disguise was not one of my options. Few if any of us know how our lives will be used but when we pay attention, we know that they will, and for good that we could never anticipate. Love and heartfelt wishes.

  45. just dropped back by to tell you how good it is to have you "around" again ...

  46. So clear and acute a paralleling of cause and effect with my mother here, Kass, and of my perception of it all. 'I watch the tiny rise and fall of life as she sleeps'. Yes. When the time comes, may it be peaceful for you both.

    And I'm glad you're back.

  47. My heart was so happy to have you "visit" tonight ... blessings of peace to you and your mom.

  48. I enjoyed reading this, identify strongly with your experience. I have an aging mother too; but I meant, in terms of my own experiential journey; for instance, this: Most of my story has been a lie of protection and safety. - letting thoughts rule, as I have until recently (and still sometimes do, until I catch myself doing that). Loved this, and indeed, the whole last paragraph:

    No condition can be labled ignominious when looked at with the natural curiosity that develops when old concepts are released.

  49. Thanks Kass for visiting my blog!
    I know what you're going through concerning feelings...My Mom crossed in '96 and my Dad in '02. It was not easy to let them go....
    Sweet day to you!

  50. my thoughts and prayers are with you...sending positive vibes your way.

    such a tender moment captured between sister and brother (and you and your mom).

    one love.

  51. stopping in today to say Happy World Kindness Day! one love.

  52. this is so beautiful. you have been missed greatly! sending love to you and your mother... what a wonderful woman she seems to be. take care kass!

  53. Just pooped by to say "hello" and I hope things are as well as can be expected for you, X


It's nice to know you've stopped by. Thanks.