Death. A Sacred Right of Passage.
My mother is dying. Her kidneys are giving out, no longer responding to medication, and her lungs keep filling up with water, endless water coming from some bottomless underground reservoir in her body. The water doctors are unable to stop. They pump it out – back it comes again, filling up her lungs, threatening to kill. She is in constant pain. Incapable to move on her own, she is slipping in and out of consciousness. She is 84 years old. Sitting by her hospital bed I listen to her strained breath. Her eyes twitch as her arms fly up in silent gestures, then everything comes to rest. She is trying to say something, responding to images she alone is seeing, but what comes out is almost always angry and bitter. A curse, a mean remark, and then back to oblivion. Pain is bringing the unspoken to the surface. All pretense is dropped, exchanged for the freedom afforded to the ones dying. It is a terrible, drawn out way to go. Yet she is denied the quiet dignity of leaving her body on her own terms. Death, the ultimate healing, the sacred final right of passage, the encounter with one’s Soul, is not viewed this way in our culture. In our culture, we have successfully stripped death of all its mystery and turned it into something to be avoided at all cost. My mother won’t be allowed to simply let go. Over-medicated, she does not respond to treatments anymore. And yet the hospital is working around the clock trying to keep her alive. I speak to her in my mind. “Don’t be afraid,” I tell her. “You will be leaving your body soon. The body that doesn’t serve you anymore. All pain will end and with it all suffering. You will not die, just your body. “You must step into the light,” I tell her. “Remember, the moment you see your body as separate from yourself, just step into the light and you will be carried. The love will surround you, and peace, and freedom from pain. You will see the ones who left before you. It will be a grand celebration… . “Don’t be afraid, all is well and all is forgiven,” I tell her. I have made my peace with my mother years ago. We had a rocky, difficult relationship, but it’s all in the past. Everything is forgiven. I am telling the truth. All I feel for her right now is love, compassion, tenderness and great sadness. One should not have to suffer this way. One should be allowed to just let go. I keep thinking these thoughts because I don’t want her to suffer. All that water that’s filling her lungs each time they successfully pump it out… . Water, the feelings we feel or would not feel. The feelings she had denied and had stuffed into her organs, refusing to deal with them while there was still time. They are choking her now. Cutting off her breath, with her own body turning against her, holding her prisoner, as it oozes out the stuff that had made it sick, until enough of it is released so she can be set free. That’s how I see it. This is my understanding. There are layers and layers to this, but it is not my place to go there. “Stop scaring me!” My mother opens her eyes, suddenly conscious, then closes them again as I stop my meditative talk. She doesn’t want my reassurances. She has her own pictures of life after death, and she has a right to them. The nurse who overhears this thinks my mother is delirious. Perhaps she is. But not on other levels. “I love you,” I tell her. She moves her finger. Then moans and tosses in her bed.