2016. A year that lived up to its destiny. In numerology, this was a ‘9’ year. 9 represents completion and that is exactly what this year has been for me. Endings, goodbyes, letting go of all that no longer serves me. Closing the circle on a journey that began several years ago.
On December 28th around 3:45 p.m. my mother took her last breath, as I sat on her bed with my hand on her chest. It was peaceful and sacred and felt completely natural as I sat with her through her transition into spirit.
I won’t go into all of the particulars, other than to say that hospice is such a fantastic resource and I predict that our next big national discussion will be how we die. Hospice plays such an integral part in the process and providing help and dignity, to not only the sick and dying, but the families who are often overwhelmed. The hospice folks seemed to magically appear, exactly when we needed them. It was almost mystical.
Five years ago, I would NEVER have even entertained the notion of sitting with my mother as she died. I would have found excuses and justifications for staying as far away as possible. It seems like that would be hard to admit, but I know myself and I can honestly say that I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t mature enough.
But, we change. We evolve, particularly if we are open to it and often, the universe conspires to change us and open us up via shocking events and losses.
Until October 2013, when I was almost 54 years old, I had not really had to deal with death. I feared it and dreaded losing my parents in particular, but in a compressed period, death has come and forced me to look at it.
Two dogs, a parent and a dear friend all passed in fairly quick succession before my mom began to fail. I can see now that every one of these losses served a purpose. I suffered and felt grief that I never thought I could bear. Each successive death brought back the pain of the others.
But, with each loss, I learned to cope and I also allowed my heart to crack open and my fear to dissipate. I delved into death and dove into death. As I survived the deaths of those I loved, I began to understand that death isn’t to be feared. It is to be celebrated. It’s a change of address for their spirits. And we all make that move one day. Death begins at birth.
My mother always said she hoped that she would die peacefully in her sleep, but rarely do we get to choose our mode of passing.
With the help of hospice, she did get her wish for the most part. Unfortunately, some painful and violent falls preceded that peaceful transition, but I believe that was her soul’s way of telling us she was ready.
I was the youngest child. Her last born and my siblings are all older; 15, 13 and 11 years my senior. It felt fitting that as the last born, I should be with her as she died. I was the last one whose heart beat with hers and I was there to feel her last heartbeats.
As I felt those last beats and watched her final breaths, I felt curiosity and relief and yes, beauty. I did not feel fear or revulsion or panic. The circle was closed. Her life was complete, as was my role in helping her die.
We moved back to Michigan in the summer of 2013. When people asked me what brought me back to my home state after being gone for 27 years, I couldn’t answer them. I honestly didn’t know. It happened quickly and with some invisible guidance that I just didn’t question.
I loved Colorado and I miss it desperately, but for some reason, we needed to be here. Now, I can clearly see the plan and the unfolding. I moved back to help my mom die. In the process, I lost others who prepared me for this mission. The other deaths forced me to come to terms with the impermanence of everything.
I also think that it’s no coincidence that our northern Michigan farm sits behind a cemetery. I’ve spent hours wandering through it, feeling the energy, pondering the notion that all of its residents used to walk the earth, just as I am now. Some died relatively young, but many lived into their 8th, 9th and even 10th decades and now they are a memory. As we all will be. And that’s okay. It’s not scary, it is the human condition and better to embrace it, than deny it.
And so, 2016 and I fulfilled our destiny. This was a year of completion. My obligation and commitment to my mother is finished; we watched over her, protected her and ultimately, fulfilled her wishes. She and my dad’s ashes will be combined and buried together sometime in the early summer. They are back together in the ether, surely dancing and laughing and holding hands.
RIP Mama. RIP Ember. Thank you 2016; you have been a gift.
If you feel moved to make a donation in my mother’s memory, I would love to suggest Great Lakes Hospice Foundation . Thank you.
It is the winter solstice; the day that the dark begins to lose to the light. The day that we begin the rebirth.
Yet, it feels the opposite to me right now as my mom struggles. But, I guess another way to look at it is that she will could begin to move toward the light, as it becomes brighter and brighter. It will become more and more inviting and powerful.
I think her soul is ready to go, but she’s stuck. Maybe the recent spate of falls are a catalyst to get her unstuck. We all pray that she just goes to bed one night and never wakes up, which could still happen of course, but it seems as if that isn’t quite the way that she will exit.
My dad orchestrated the perfect death. He died suddenly. He died outside where he was happiest, in the back yard. No worrying about his health or who would care for my mom. No extended hospital stays or heroic measures. Just a beautiful spring day and BAM!
My mom, who had more health challenges and hospitalizations than my dad over the years has held on to age 96. Her soul is leaking out as her memories and cognition and grasp of reality leave her. She is half in and half out and I can only believe that as she becomes more frail and unable to function, that light will draw her ever closer.
I was thinking about all of this as I had plenty of time to observe and feel out her situation over the past few days. I see very clearly now that my job is not to spiritually guide her to the other side, but rather, to allow HER guides to work as they will. Someone recently explained to me a theory that we all have various ‘exit ramps’ that appear in our lives; opportunities to leave this incarnation. We often manage to speed past them or maybe we put on our turn signal, but change our mind at the last moment and veer back into the living.
My mom has an exit ramp approaching and if I keep too tight of a grip and protect her too much, she will miss it. She says she’s ready. She often wonders why she’s still here. She may have zoomed past some other ramps, thanks to various earthly interventions on her behalf. Or maybe there were spiritual interventions on her behalf. I’ll never know, but I do know that she’s passed a lot of exit ramps in 96 years.
This time, I feel as if we need to back off and let her take that ramp. It’s time to stop the back seat driving and let her get off the freeway.
She’s been speaking of ‘going home’ for the past couple of months. Yesterday, when I asked her where she was going, she said “I don’t know,’ she chuckled. “Maybe hell, but I don’t think so. I’ve tried to live a good life and make good decisions. So, I don’t see how I would end up there”.
I told her that all of the people she loved are waiting for her in heaven and she replied, “I sure hope so”.
She keeps falling. I’ve been there to see her fall several times and it’s wrenching for me to witness her frailty, fear and pain. She has no control in her life. Of anything. And I caught myself over-controlling her when I was there. My motivation was to keep her safe and to avoid any pain. But,I can’t alleviate her pain.
Someone takes her to the toilet. Someone fixes her meals. Someone dresses and undresses her and shows up to give her pills that she doesn’t want, 3 times a day. Someone (me, usually) warns her of falling or hurting herself. What’s left? She feels completely alone, even when others are with her.
She enjoys our visits, but all I seem to do is sound warnings, with an occasional pleasant conversation, always about the distant past. That is where her comfort lies; the time in her life when she was vital and useful and strong.
So, it seems as if she is approaching that exit ramp and it’s time for us to back off and allow her to take it. If that means she must continue to fall and yes, hurt herself, then that’s how it has to be. Perhaps it’s the soul equivalent of jumping off a cliff. We don’t get to decide how we go, even as we’re on the ramp toward The Divine.
She’s ready and we have to see that it’s time to let go of her and allow the process to unfold as it will. We hate to see her physically hurting, but must consider that the psychic and emotional pain of remaining in her body is excruciating for her.