Monday, January 18, 2010

Her Last Gift

My mother has been in my heart a lot, lately. More than I want to admit. The dreams keep coming, announcing her departure for a place of no return. When I call, she still recognizes me, but I can tell, she is getting worse. I have been putting on a good face. Rationalizing, here on this blog, and elsewhere, that there are some happy parts to her illness. As in, she no longer remembers enough to be anxious, like she used to. Or, I get to practice the Buddha's way and be in the moment, for that is all she knows now. I even have this elegant theory, that Alzheimer's is like going full circle, back to the darkness of the unconscious.

You can't fool the heart, however . . . or the body. My stomach has been in a knot for quite some time. And frequent trips to the bathroom, speak of my fear of the inevitability of this  irrevocable loss.  To deny it, is of no use.

Down the fear ladder, I go, and find, right below the fear of loss, the fear of suffering. Wise mind takes the relay, and summons the Four Noble Truths - from In the Buddha's Words, edited by Bikkhu Bodhi:
The noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
The noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving that leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.
The noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonattachment. 
The noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. 
Tonight I fully accept my mother's parting gift, the opportunity to practice love without the taint of attachment.


  1. my heart goes out to you...even though you do not know me...illness often offers odd blessings...but they are blessings none the less...recognizing this is an added gift.

    gentle steps

  2. Thank you Laura, for your generous heart and loving kindness. Agree that recognizing blessings from suffering is greatest gift of all.

  3. I hope that you and your mother will be ok. I have been thinking about loss as well in recent times over a pet that I love dearly. I know that this is no way near as difficult as what you are dealing with but somethings that help me is to think like this:

    That, if there is nothing that I can do to help, then the best thing is to 'Be there for them'. Really try to spend quality time with them. All living beings can understand love. If you give all of yourself and think of kind thoughts when you are with your mum, you will feel better.

    I heard a monk say in a dharma talk about someone who had some bad illness and that they couldn't do anything to help. The monk said that the best thing you can do is to be there with them.

    Personally if I was in your situation, I wouldn't assume that her consciousness has gone anywhere. Only that the body is not able to communicate in the same way as before. I believe that she is still there and would understand and appreciate you when you are there with her.

    I wish you and your mum well and that you both can get through this. This kind of thing will happen to every single living being that is born or ever will be. Knowing this won't make one feel good but what else is there?--old age, sickness and death come to all. But we must do ALL we can for those that we love and care about.

  4. Thank you for your caring words. Yes, being present for loved one, and also purifying love from clinging, that which leads to suffering.

  5. In June, 83 year-old "Lady Gwen" and her equally elderly siblings & friends gathered at a cafe' for a memorial service. Gwen's son had died after fighting AIDS since 1993. I crashed the party.

    We reminisced, joked, and laughed for three hours. Not a tear was shed, not a regret voiced.

    The very old have more practice at releasing attachments than they young have. The elderly let go easily.

    You can be glad that your experience with your mother happened, or sad that it's over. Be sorry to see the bird go, or delighted to see it soar.

    Yes, you can.

  6. Thanks Unicorn! You are very wise indeed . . . and so is your elderly woman friend. I have noticed that too. Older folks seem to approach old age and death with more equanimity. Maybe they have become more disenchanted with their failing body, and constant reminders of death around them, hence their lesser attachment?

  7. Marguerite, this thread leads to the natural conclusion, that life is a process.
    to each road a marker, walking the path with gentle mindfulness is sufficient.
    knowledge comes from experience, not necessarily from study.
    having worked with many patients, i can attest to the impredictability of cell damage. the only help i have known to sustain the affected and the tender, firm acceptance of the inexorability of the full course of life itself.
    i do hope you are able to melt into the common suffering, and allow sadness to run its free course through mind and body, to come home to your peaceful self. loving thoughts, your friend, nadine

  8. Merci, chere amie . . . your wisdom infused poetry and prose always warm my heart. I think of you often, and send much loving kindness your way.

  9. My heart is with you. My mother died, was it nine years ago, and had been losing her self to strokes way before that. She became very difficult for me. Now I realize how much she loved me, and I love her, and can't tell her that anymore. Not having her remains very hard.

  10. Thank you for sharing your tender feelings. I lost my father twenty two years ago, and I still find grief not far below the surface, when I look. A testimony of my love for him, as I am sure yours is of your love for your mother. I also do not forget how difficult he was, and I know, if he was still alive, I probably would not change a thing in the way I related to him. I find sometimes people tend to forget and over idealize love for loved ones, once they have died.