Tuesday, June 5, 2012

That place

Someone who knows that my mother is receiving hospice care recently asked me, "Is your mother dying from Alzheimer's?" Though she doesn't know my mother or much about my mother's storied life, I understood her question.  "She is losing weight and has trouble with swallowing.  She sometimes seems unable to manage the steps involved in eating," I replied, and we talked further about what Mom can still do, despite the steady march of her disease.

What I wonder about is that thin line where living meets dying.  Once I knew a woman who was a mighty warrior.  Soon after an ovarian cancer diagnosis, she walked with head held high straight into the morass of treatment, and, almost concurrently, took intentional steps to ensure that 'the stuff of daily living' got attention.  This eventually included the planning for the passing of the baton to those she selected to carry on her mission.  She was blessed with intelligence, perseverance and a clear mind.  And when she was ready, she told us this: "Now I am ready to embrace the dying process."  Let me be clear: she was not throwing in the towel.  The towel had nothing to do with it.  She was done with the logistics of her life among us and was now ready to mindfully do the work of dying.  She told us what she wanted done with her body when it no longer would hold the breath of life.  Those who knew her well drew inspiration from her unwavering warrior spirit.

We call cessation of life many things: death, dying, passing on, passing over, crossing over, expired, transitioning. I understand that the line that separates living from dying is often without form, and I acknowledge that it encompasses more than the miraculous membranes that line our respiratory and circulatory systems.  I understand much of the mechanics and a tad of the miraculous.  But I have no idea how to qualify, define or describe that nether world between here and there.    And I hold fast to the wonder of that sparkling edge.


  1. I stand with you. - Jan

  2. Jen, I've read and re-read your words this evening. I took hold to your last sentence and remember like yesterday when my own mom transitioned from here to there.

    Although I've not met your mother, could I be correct in thinking she has a bit of warrior within?

    Hugs, Carol