Archives for posts with tag: death

Thursday proved to be an emotional day or I should say, the end of the day culminated in one much needed release.

It was about the desk, letting go, attachment, faith in humanity; and it was not really about the desk at all.

“I’ll be right back, I just need to pull my car up.” I walked out of the Goodwill store with a bounce in my step, a large smile across my face. I needed this lift in my spirit. I put my bag of Goodwill finds on the front seat, pushed down the back seats and laid out the sheet that I purchased to transport my new desk.

I walked into the store, the smile from my face now a downward crescent, the two customer service men that had carried my desk to the front, were gone. “Welcome to Goodwill, can I help you find anything.” The door greeter stood there with a smile.

“My desk! It was just here!” Tears starting welling up, my voice became strained, and then I couldn’t hold it in; I was sobbing and asked what happened to my desk, explaining that I had just gone to get my car to pick it up.

“A man just took it. He said he was your husband and was taking it home to you to see if it was what you wanted.”

I looked at the men in disbelief. “But, I’m here alone. I don’t understand. Someone took my desk!” I’m speaking through sobs, tears pouring out of my eyes. I just keep repeating, “My desk. I just want the desk.”

Finally, I give in to the situation and tell them I’ll be right back. I need to move my car back and that I’ll get the receipt for a refund.

I yell to no one in particular, “what is wrong with humanity! Why would someone do this!” I’m shaky and my driving is not steady.

By the time I come back, one of the customer service men comes outside to meet me; he says he thinks there’s been a misunderstanding. I listen. He thinks that the man took the wrong desk.

The woman that rang up my purchase explained that there was a woman that had put a desk on hold and her husband was supposed to pick it up. She thought there was a phone number on the call log. She said she could refund me and call me later. I asked if she could call right then, that I really didn’t want to come back, and I still wanted the desk.

I stood up front near the cash registers in a corner, feeling exhausted, with puffy eyes, runny nose. I was just thankful that I hadn’t yelled; I didn’t swear; I didn’t say anything mean.

The customer service woman came back with good news. The wife was calling the husband about the mixup to tell him to turnaround to take back the wrong desk and get the right desk.

On this day it had been a week since my uncle passed away. For the past four month’s I would understand how difficult the caregiving process is, especially with such an independent spirit, as my dear uncle. We knew that his health was compromised, that his 87 year-old body had caught up to him, his heart was weak, that somehow, his days were growing closer.

As difficult as it was, I am grateful that I was there during his last stage of life, that I was able to help him speak to the right people in the hospital to make his pain go away and administer morphine, so that he could have his wish for the end of the chapter of his life and to do so with dignity and comfort. There are so many details that play out in my mind. But what stands out is how important it was to be there in the hospital during the last days of his life and to just be there for him in general. There were many quick decisions, quick actions in order to make sure he was without pain, and making sure the family was there so that he would be able to say goodby before the morphine slowed his heart rate to a point where he woudln’t be able to respond or open his eyes.

As difficult as this experience–this journey was, I have gained more from it than words could possibly convey.

I am honored that I was able to participate in my uncle’s care, that although we had our moments, because we always did when we didn’t agree, I felt that I contributed to his well-being. I know that each of us interacted with my uncle in different ways. I saw different sides of my brother’s–not always good; and I’m glad to have seen a side of myself that I knew was there, but that I had not had the opportunity to see in this particular juncture of life.

Goodnight, dear Uncle. I know that you are in peace now.

I’ve had this film on my mind for the past few weeks. When I first watched it, at least 10 years ago, the question it posed made an impression on me: If when I Die, I can select one memory to take with me to the beyond and relive that memory for eternity, what would I choose?

The film was stored in my mental river. I’m not sure what has drawn me back to this movie recently, possibly it was recharged by watching another Japanese film dealing with death and reading a handful of Japanese literature lately that brought me back.

The film is told, for the most part, through a series of interviews with the dead who have arrived at a way station. They have one week to decide on just one memory that the counselors will do their best to recreate on film for the dead to view one last time before they depart to heaven and live this memory for eternity. The counselors gather as much information as possible from each person in order to bring their one memory to life. In some cases, when a person cannot think of any memories, their tapes are ordered: one for each year of their life. They then sit down, watch and search.

As I began giving thought to the memories in my own memory bank–if this were real and I were in their shoes, what would I do? At first, a memory came to me easily enough. Then I thought of how much depends of what stage of life we’re at and whose in it at the time. But if I’m already dead, that changes.

Then after watching the movie again, I had a change of heart. I realized that it would be too difficult to select just one memory, and to be honest, after I started thinking about what one of the characters said, he reminded me that it might actually be a little sad to relive the same memory forever.

I identified most with an elderly woman in her eighties who reminded me of my grandmother. She had nice round cheeks that were lifted into a smile. While she was sitting for her interview, as soon as she heard birds chirping, she looked to where she heard the sound coming from, and all her attention shifted. She didn’t say much. She had a bag in her lap that she was taking leaves out of and setting on the table, one by one. She asked if there were any flowers in the garden. In the spring they told her.

After asking her a series of questions: Was she married? Did she have children? and being met with nods of her head to say no, the counselors realized that this woman had actually already chosen her memory. She had sort-of locked into her childhood when she died, so instead of the 80-year old woman we saw, she was actually a young girl inside. They show a scene toward the end where she is sitting on the bench swinging her legs with the happiest, most carefree expression on her face. That is one of my favorite moments in the movie.

There aren’t any special effects in this film; instead what you’ll find is a touching, sometimes funny, sometimes sad expression of the afterlife and an exploration of the memories these characters hang on to, the power of all of our senses; and in turn, how these expressions encourage us to reflect upon our own treasured memories.

**

After Life (known in Japan as Wonderful Life) – 1998
Directed and written by Hirokazu Koreeda

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I never imagined that I would part with my desk, but then again I hadn’t anticipated that there would be two of us living here at the time. It happened so quickly. It was a sign–a sign that I had been asking for, a sign that I was ready for love after having lost…I was prepared to live a solo life; then one day something shifted within my very being and I sat with myself and I spoke to my late beloved and I asked him for guidance–and the signs–they came.

One day, I decided that I was ready for love, that I was open to the possibilities and I set my intentions, I kissed it to the wind, didn’t brood on it, only let nature take her course. And I feel blessed, blessed to have gotten through the grief, to have a strong spiritual foundation and strong connection to nature, held together by something beyond myself, yet very much within my reach. Everything that I had ever come to believe in life–everything that I had become was put to the test. Losing a mother at a young age, then my grandmother, grandfather, two uncles. The most confusing and shattering to my very being–that tested me to the very core was of losing my late beloved to a sudden and unexpected death.

But, I got through it. His death brought me closer to myself, life was held up to me, offered in the palm of my hand, and pushed me to do a few things that I may not have had I not seen the fragility that life is and how moments must be seized.

It’s not something that I talk about very much, of course, and when I started writing on this page this morning, it was about the desk, and somehow he slipped into the page. I’m not sure what it is about the day; perhaps it’s the grey clouds–the contemplative rustle of the breeze against a primed sky, ready for anything–for any thoughts to reveal themselves.

I wasn’t using the desk. It was becoming a clutter magnet and so one day I stood there looking at my options, what could I reshuffle that I hadn’t already reshuffled? The only option I had never considered was parting with the desk. It was the constant. It was supposed to be my writing desk, but in the years we’ve lived here together in this cozy apartment, I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve sat at that desk to write. I need my own space when I write, and that tends to be in the living room, so I make do. Sometimes I sit on the couch, but I seem to do most of my writing on the low coffee table. I prop myself up on a pillow, lean back into the couch and write away. I’ve been sticking to my paper journals lately and have not been doing much computer writing.

Death is a strange creature. The very word, death, seems to conjure negative images and feelings, but as far back as I can remember, I have dedicated a small portion of my life to befriending death, of welcoming him into my life, of learning what I can of him–death in its many guises. Death not only of human flesh and beingness; death as parting of something or someone, death from the past–parting with anything that has such a hold on you that it makes you sick to think of what it would be like without it.

My older brother used to cause me great stress in my twenties when he would tell me how he wouldn’t know what he would do if anything ever happened to me. “Move on. Live life.” That is what I would tell him now, but back then I just told him that he would be fine and that we can’t dwell on these things. And now I’m thinking, if we do dwell on these things, it’s best if it’s in a positive light. It’s best if we ask ourselves how can we live life, so that death, whenever it/he/she arrives is greeted in peace.

I’ve always had a fascination with death, not in a macabre way, rather as a way of life. With life comes death and sometimes death is life.

The desk is gone. I miss what it symbolized, but in its place we have moved the chest of drawers and it brings the needed order and balance that was lacking in our bedroom. Since then, over the past few weeks, we have let a few other pieces go and have found new ones–again bringing harmony to our little abode. I still have a bit of work to do, to work through some more of the clutter, but it feels as though, it’s coming together and I feel that the first step was imagining the space without a desk, without an object that I so identified–that represented a part of who I am.

I realize though, that what that desk represented is within me and that it can manifest wherever I am. I carry the symbols and the signs within me.

When I was a young girl, I was, in a way, my mother’s doll. I was an extension of herself–an extension of all of her hopes and dreams; it wasn’t always easy for many reasons, for the choices she made in life long before I was born and had to live with, for the anger she held inside and acted out on. I think she felt trapped; in many ways, I became the only thing that made her feel free, so all of her time went into me, even if it was haphazard at times.

When I search and search for words…I don’t remember heart-to-hearts, except once in the conveyance of a smile from her being at her most uncomfortable hour awaiting her exit from this world. I remember going to her sickbed at my grandmother’s home, two houses up. She could no longer care for herself; the pain was worsening, life was escaping her.

I had just shaved my legs for the first time ever. I was 13. The other girls were doing it. I showed my older brother; proud I was. He was 33. He yelled at me as if I had committed a crime, trying to stuff my womanhood back down into a black box. It was too much for him to bear seeing his baby sister grow up too fast.

I ran out of the house and up to my grandmother’s house to my mother’s side and told her what I had done and explained about my brother’s reaction.

All I remember is the loving smile that spread upon her face and made it glow, as she lay in bed, reaching her hand out to bring me closer. This moment seemed to make the pain go away. I had never seen her look as radiant and peaceful as in that hour.

It wasn’t until my adult-self had the opportunity to look back. I imagined that she somehow knew her girl would be all right without her mother; that in a way, she was at peace knowing she would not be here to watch her girl blossom into a woman.

That look–the love and tenderness in her eyes–is one of my fondest memories of mother and daughter communicating, not through words, but pure emotion, through the windows of our souls, as she lay on her deathbed.

I cannot be certain of the exact timing, but her cancer did worsen; she had given in to it. I believe she was ready to take leave, to end her pain and suffering.

She had to be taken to the hospital soon after that day. I had seen her in the days after with an unfamiliar and painful look in her eyes, and I don’t think she wanted me to see her–but this other peaceful look, it brought balance and far outshines the pain in my memory.

I remember being in my brother’s room, watching television late at night while he was talking to someone in the other room. When the phone rang, right as I heard my brother pick it up, I knew. She had died.

I know she continues to smile down upon me; and she was right–that look in her eyes, the way I read it now–she knew her girl would be fine.

This morning felt like a good day to pick a Tarot card, to pick a card to provide some insight or inspiration in general, not necessarily for myself alone, but possibly for other wandering souls.

The card that showed up was Death – XIII Trumps

The essence of this card seems to be captured in the following introductory quote for this card from The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols by Angeles Arrien. I use the Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot deck.

“The Death/Rebirth symbol represents the universal principal of detachment and release. It is through letting go that we are able to give birth to new forms. Cutting through old binding patterns allows us to let go of the old and give birth to new or unexpressed parts of ourselves.”

This is something that I would venture to say that most of us know to be true on some level, but why is it so difficult to put into practice?

I look to this card and can see where I may be in the process; and there, again, I see that even in writing about it, my words are tentative.

I find the card itself to be a source of light…

Death himself–a skeleton,
working his scythe, clearing the
way, making way for new growth–
transformation.

Unfold your wings and
Rise!

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