Dying

My grandma is dying very quickly. She was diagnosed with lung cancer about two month ago or so, and we soon found out that it spread to her bones. I have planned to go see her two times, but both times ended up canceling because I wasn’t feeling well or it seemed so hectic to try to go down to see her and weave around the throngs of family there and try to talk to her while she was feeling bad and…. well, it just seemed to make sense to wait and she was doing quite well until just recently. And she is not doing well now. She can barely walk or go to the bathroom herself. She knows she is dying. She is 81 and has nine children and 32 grand children and feels that she has lived a good life. That said, I don’t think it makes it any easier for the family to watch her increased confusion, decreased ability to do adult things, her increasing pain, that fear that she has even as a Catholic that she can’t be sure what comes next. I can’t help but be angry that my mom has to take care of her again – my mom did so much taking care of my grandma and her brothers and sisters when my mom was a child and my grandma was sick then too. And of course it doesn’t feel good to be a little angry at someone who is dying, but of course I’m sure it is normal. What it really comes down to is that when people die, it just sucks. The process typically isn’t pleasant. The feelings it brings up aren’t pleasant. I know, I know. Not very ministerial, ehh? I mean, this a time to celebrate life, pass peacefully into a new place, and so on. But it just isn’t that easy, at least not for me. It sucked when my Aunt Carol died of lung cancer two years ago, it sucked when my Mammaw suffered for five years before she finally died, it sucked that a possum ate my sweet little kittens Wilbur and Lilly when I was 10, when Luke (another cat) got hit on the road, or getting that call in the middle of the night that my cousin committed suicide. I know I’ll need to develop a better spiel on this before I do my CPE with hospice (planned Summer 07), but sometimes I think people try to flower up death and make it a beautiful process and celebration of life and there really isn’t anything nice about not being able to go to the bathroom yourself or your bones being painfully eaten away by cancer. And ministers need to find a way to acknowledge the messy, horrible parts of death and not just make it some sort of divinity-school-land fluffy thing about beauty and hope and transition and cycles. It is horrible, in many ways. And I hate it that my grandma has to go through it and that my mom has to suffer too.

A short p.s. I am listening to Third Day which is a Christian band I listened to in high school and there is something comforting about it. Even though the way they sing about God is not quite how I would frame it, it is great to hear the passion and joyful aching about God’s love. And it reminds me that I really do relate to God language and it makes me more irritated about that speaker yesterday (see previous post) making fun of people who believe in God or talk about God in a certain way. In times of death and dying and deep deep darkness that doesn’t seem like it will ever go away, God whoever whatever he or she is has been a great person to be with me. And, even as I make fun of Revolve magazine (see two posts ago) I also need to remember that that type of spirituality, no matter how sexist and annoying I find it, can bring great joy and comfort to girls who ache. I just hope that in my life I can carve out a space for a God that is there for you when you ache, and even maybe a Jesus who is there for you when you ache, without all the other baggage about how nonChristians will go to hell and men need to be in charge.

Enough for today. As I wrap up Gracie (my kitty) has come up and licked my nose. Animals are so good at caring for us. That’s all for now. E

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3 Responses to Dying

  1. Jeff Giddings says:

    Elizabeth,
    So sorry to hear about your grandmother’s worsening condition, and about the pain it is bringing to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your grief, your uncertainty, your search for meaning. Surely death, like all other aspects of human existence, must have a deeper meaning, both for the one who is passing and for the loving ones left behind. The “truth” about what happens when we die is (almost) beyond our understanding (I say “almost” because I believe the very wisest among us may indeed be able to see all the way to the core) but even without that knowledge I think we can find personal meaning in the death of someone we love, and in our own death. As a Buddhist-inclined person, I can try to see death as the ultimate non-attachment and, in that sense, enlightenment. This doesn’t erase the pain but can perhaps ease some of the despair, doubt, and anger we feel in the face of the harsh reality of the process.

    Sorry, I didn’t intend to impose my own thoughts on you — which seems especially inappropriate considering how much I value your words every Sunday. Mainly I wanted to “lean closer together” as I believe you described it in your meditation this morning, and let you know that I’m thinking about you and that I care.

    Peace,

    –Jeff

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Jeff, Thank you so much for your comments. In my better moments, I take great comfort from the idea of death as ultimate non-attachment. I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s No Death, No Fear and have really learned from it.

    It was so nice to wake up to your comments this morning and be able to hear more from a fellow journey-er. I wish so much that there was a way to better get to know people in the church and I envisioned this blog as one little step in that direction. I have so much to learn from all the great people in our congregation, so thank you for sharing a little bit of your wisdom with me and “leaning closer together”.

    Much peace, Elizabeth :)

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