Age defining & death designing

The storytellers in our heads are full of warnings regarding our processes.

From demands to “act our age” when we are young and free-spirited, to “grow up and act your age” when we are blissfully unaware of the expectations that we forget the bliss, our passage through time is littered with age-defining memes.

The same blissful lack of awareness brings into play the early death-defying actions. A small child’s first steps, a young child’s cape inspired leap from a tree. Acts driven out of fearless exploration of reality that are met with mixed outcomes.

As we progress through our years, we adapt our behavior though trial and error and adjust our construct according to the memes that were validated through rather unconscious association and unintentional programming by those around us. By the time we have developed what we assume is free will, we have accumulated a construct of reality based on all the input prior to our assumed awareness.

The thread of the past weaves into the tapestry that creates our now and becomes our story of who and what we are. Our imprints become our touchstones of reality as our self meets the world around us, each of us slightly different from one another in our interpretation of all that there is.

Throughout our lives we have some constants that are validated continuously. We have parameters for existence biologically, like the need for air and water and sustenance. These constants are so ingrained  – so hard wired that we might assume we spend little time addressing them and yet they can become points of obsession for some, resulting in mixed outcomes from eating disorders to vegan vs carnivores. We get messages from our own bodies to keep us in check with what works and what does not, but the definitions of what works for us as individuals is not the same person to person, nor are our reactions to the messages.

Death is another constant. We all are born and we all will die. Two events in every life on earth that are hard rules, steady realities, unbroken by differences. The circumstances however are as varied as the grains of sand in all the universe. These opening and closing notes of our individuality are great mysteries at either end of our now.

Now. Would our fleeting moments have meaning without our construct of interpretation?

MORTALITY – ewe!

It dawned on me that at the age of 65 I really probably would only have about 20 years max of good life left… by good life I mean healthy enough mentally and physically to be responsible for our own daily maintenance…. and that is if all goes well!

Yet I clearly recall my reality at about 16 being the same…. 20 years max. 40 years has passed since that bad math. At 16 I was told if I did not have more surgeries on my knees I would end up in a wheelchair by 30. Having been there, done that my 16 year old self said, live well die young”.

I did not opt for sticking around for more of that… instead I lived life and did what I wanted, saw what I wanted, and made a lot of choices I may not have had I been looking at the longer view. 

By 16 I had discovered that I do not like morphine or pain killers, they do nothing for the pain but leave you too messed up to complain about it.

I also discovered that I could drop a little LSD and go inside and look at the pain.

Is it hot?
Is it cold?
Is it deep?
Is it Big?
Where does it start?
Where does it end?
And then I could observe it as light and color and as an image my brain was creating to imagine it… my brain… the very system telling me it was pain, not pleasure. My neurons had a job to do… send a message so that I would stop whatever was wrong. The same network that has us pull our hand from the flame. But there was no flame, so what I really wanted to do was turn the volume of the alert, or better yet change it from an alarm zing to a better message… take the fear, take the chemical reaction from that message of fight or flight to something tolerable or maybe pleasant… at least not alarming. “It is only a sensation” not hot not cold not deep not bones screaming, all is well, false alarm.

Death bothers me way less than dying without design.

20 years is a blink of an eye with a young body, but atrophy sucks and has a way of sneaking up in inconvenient ways. I feel sort of blessed to have been physically challenged at a young age. I took it the same way I took poverty in my youth. This is something I can work my way past. As we age the story changes. We are told “well at your age this is to be expected”. I want to dismiss the story. I want to rewrite it my way. 

My best death experience with someone dying was orchestrated by my Father.
I was blessed to have a great relationship with him. In fact my Mom was a bit resentful of it. Sadly, neither of my brothers had that with him. The boys got discipline and learned mechanics and tool maintenance and discipline and respect and… I got to travel philosophy and religion and the universe.

There were way rough spaces… it was not all awesome – My Dad thought education for GIRLS was not as important as finding a man to take care of you… (harsh) I got good grades and had some plans…
Oh, and I was not angelic… they had to bail me out of cook county hospital psych ward when I was 16 – and that was embarrassing to them at that time in addition to confusing. They told people it was food poisoning and I was grounded for life except for visits to the court ordered shrink.
I had had my left leg surgery the summer before and graduated in January to have my right leg done before summer. By summer neither leg bent at the knees but I could walk… awkward but mobile.

 That was a trip…

 I had been to the art institute museum the week before and saw they were going to have a “Laser Light show” omg that demands acid? So one of my best friends Joey and I took the time to plan the great adventure. We would take the train and drop on the way just before reaching Chicago… that way we would be coming on when we got to the museum and neither of us would have to drive. What could go wrong?

Omg the Chicago train station is beautiful! And HUGE and the people are everywhere and the energy is kinetic! Zap zap zap! Wow! Joey would lean in and say “ act normal”.

Getting out to the street may have taken longer than we anticipated and it was a little dicey when we got there with a moment of which way do we go? Well we must go the right way so let’s head right. We found the lions after all.

Paying was a little like running int the school principal stoned but we made it.

The stairs
There are many
They are not high and they are deep and worn with time
And if your knees don’t bend don’t worry you can rock this!

Literally… side to side up and up and the feeling was amazing to be TAKING STAIRS!

All the way up every flight until there were no more!

Out of breath in awe and full of wonder we approached the double glass doors before us.

They magically opened.

This was my first experience with automatic doors and I was on acid and had run up 4 flights of stairs after a long recovery and physical therapy that involved swimming with my duck and canned food in pillowcases over my feet…. no running no stairs no speed.
Reviewing the Art institute I think it was maybe 2 stories – but felt like 4…

Swooosh…

And there before us as we enter is two story high stone Christ on a Cross!

After a moment of inhale freeze I look to the side and there is a security guard. Arms crossed uniform, serious looking big guy with cop demeanor screaming from him. And I get the giggles and blurt out “Dude, I don’t think he’s going anywhere”

Joey grabs my elbow and ushers me out the door..

Come on Joey nuthatch was hysterical a. Op guard Christ on a cross…

Joey was more paranoid than amused. So we sit on a bench in the hall and he tells me I have to be cool… and then this woman walks by and she is wearing a ling coat with a pleat in the back that has puckered out in an odd way and with her gait and the pucker I giggle and very quietly make duck noises as she walks… and Joey says ok let’s go outside..

Down down down down down not as fun as up up up up up…

We settled on the edge of the fountain of women pouring water…19 I put one hand in the water and look at this skyline so much history right before our eyes, old to new, magnificent, artful, mundane exquisite buildings. Built by humans to do things in but all built by humans by hand with tools that humans made…

My hand in the water

Water, the thing we are primarily made of… every cell and yet those cells of us don’t decide to disperse into the fountain… my cells are me and they stick together they keep me together in this body in this form in this reality in this time. In this place…

I look up and I am under a tree in a meadow and a woman in a white gauze dress asks if I want to play the flute. I tell her yes but I left it at home. She says “ well then sing”.

I do! I sing “To dream the impossible dream” at the top of my lungs!

I am also apparently jumping and dancing on the edge of planters.

I also will not be invited back because someone has called the police… there is a costume change I notice so I divert to adlibbing a version of a west side story tune but my chanting dancing lyrics “speed freak something” don’t warm the players in cop uniforms.

I don’t recall the reality of them restraining me or finding the film can full of purple microdot and the last of the orange sunshine or the joints, all of which they dumped at the scene to the relief of Joey who was already seeing his life flash before his eyes in way nobody on LSD should ever see.

I do recall the floor of the paddy wagon… it had those big bump dimples like a merry-go-round.. I grabbed what I thought was the center pole as sound and time sped up in shrill twirl and I swirling with it… I knew I was dying but the process was harsh lights and razor straps across my skin.

Meanwhile back at the hospital I was resisting and screaming “I love you Joey” and they were strapping me to a gurney and drawing blood and inserting an IV and asking Joey what I was on, while he was having the worst trip ever… they called my parents and told them they had restarted my heart and there was a risk that if I lived I could be a vegetable.

Meanwhile my experience continued on a death theme. All the pain physically or mentally that you caused in your life you could account for through experience of pain in the physical sense… bring it! And bring it for all those I love and…

When I looked around I knew I was in a medical place. The cabinets on the walls.. the smell… I looked down and saw my feet crossed at the ankles with blood where the leather retrains held them and my sandals were still on and I had a cross made of nails attached to one… my arms were out straight and strapped as well and across the gown was a spray of blood that was drying… I looked past my feet at a small window in a door. It had wire mesh in the glass and suddenly it was filled by a face…

And when she entered my death dying experience welled up in me with joy and I said “ Wow, you are black and a woman!

She smiled and said yes and asked if I was going to be calm now?

The hospital sense returned so I told her my appendix was just fine, as I could not think of any other reason to be there.

Then there were two big black guys wheeling my out of that room up in am elevator to room like a gymnasium with beds on both sides and windows on both walls with wires in the glass that only opened at the top.

They paused at an open bed and looked at me and one of them said “please don’t fight us, we know you love Joey”. The woman in the next bed asked what I was in for and one of them said,
“ drug overdose”.

DRUG OVERDOSE?

Echo echo… the sky is darkening… the art institute… Joey… the train the time… drug…

After they transfer me they reattached the straps and I look up and see my parents coming down the long room getting Alice in wonderland larger as they approach. Mom has scowling face and immediately asks “what did you take?” The orderlies usher them away and they return numbed and complacent… I am numb and complacent as well.

A year and a half later I left Illinois and was out of touch with my parents for months at a time.

My relationship with my dad…during that last year in Illinois was interesting, I would come home late sometimes and find my Dad with my Philosophy books opened and we would have wonderful conversations.

Once I reunited with them after my traveling days to California, Arizona, California…every trip they took to California and every trip I took home we would have one night of conversation into the wee hours. I eventually told him about my trip… I also asked for his forgiveness for all I put them through.

Life the meaning of life,  religion, beliefs.

When I started practicing Buddhism he found a group to go to and tried it. Even though he was very involved with Mom in their Methodist church.

Late in 92 my dad was diagnosed with mesothelioma and told he had about a year to live.

I was raising kids alone and had to be at work at 6 am but could do with little sleep so Dad and I would talk at odd hours of his night. We discussed everything from regrets to joys to mysteries of life. I told him my beliefs that we are all a magnificent part of all that there is. When I close my eyes and say in the quiet of my mind “I AM” and you do the same. We are in that same space. You have to be out of your own way to be there. But it is there in the all that there is that I AM and so are you. Outside of time and space and beyond the dogma karma heaven hell and in between beyond the moments memories and mind noise. It is not a place to DO anything but know I AM.  I embrace all that there is I am embraced by all that there is.

I Am not limited to this body, I am not limited to the experience of others, I am not my mind noise. I am moved by vibration and light, I am as much the dew on the grass as it is me. I am being this as I return to now and this day and the confines of time space and physical experience but every time I go quiet and explore the I AM I am more sure I AM a part of the all that there is.

My mom took incredible care of my dad and they called in hospice when he was able to explain his quirks like hating to have water between his toes after bathing ( he was a frogman in ww11 and being damp was a trigger)

When my mom called to say it was time I got on a plane and went.  I slept on the plane falling asleep into my I AM space reaching for him there in the fullness of the void.

There was the energy of emotional overload and fried adrenaline in the house along with a peace and light and undercurrent of love that permeated everything and everyone. Mom was exhausted and I suddenly released that I had not been there for the day to day. I had been having my time with my dad in our world of exploring the universe, she had taken on everything else. But she was alive with it in a very wonderful way. I felt a connection to her I never had before. And while she slept I stayed at his side. Her grateful for the really sleep me grateful for the time… to talk to him with no one hearing, to ask questions and wish for answers as he lay still. And then a finger rose.

The Hospice worker had told me that she had told him he could go at anytime and had pointed at the dresser on which there was a calendar with a red circle around Valentines Day. I arrived on Friday, Monday was Valentines Day.

When his finger moved in the hand I was holding we began our last long conversation through a yes no signal system that I tested now and then to make sure I was not imagining and he was till tuned in. He was on morphine and I was in an imprint state and it was magical, frustrating, bittersweet and powerful.

That night and the next we had a dialogue painstaking slow. What I knew from his responses was that he truly was “coming and going” and he knew where he was going and it was wonderful. He wanted to take my Mom with him it was so good….  he was concerned about her being alone and did not want to leave her behind. I assured him we would take care of her and that there was not a way to send her with him.

He knew where he was going… it was not anything he could describe with yes or no… and I was lost in how to ask the questions… so being there was all that there was. My I AM and his in the all that there is. When I was not with him I was with my Mom and my “brother without papers” as she referred to Doug who came to live with his aunt and uncle next door to us when he was young and now was still coming over every morning for coffee with Mom and he did so for the rest of her life. His Uncle was a Mason and an amazing influence on all of us, spiritually, emotionally, quietly and deeply as a lesson in unconditional love. Doug walks that talk as well and is still my brother without papers. He bonds me to my brothers with papers as well… family is funny.

On the morning of Valentine’s Day 1994 the sun showered the room my Dad was in it golden light and Doug and Mom and I were in the room with him as well as the hospice angel.

Dad opened his eyes and smiled, Mom handed me the Bible to read the 23 rd Psalm,

 He closed his eyes and exhaled… 

We all just stood there bathed in light

Until the hospice work whispered “oh I forgot to note the time”

And then to doorbell rang.

Dad had been a crossing guard at an elementary school after he retired and the person at the door was dropping off a huge basket of valentines from the kids… many were hand made and all were precious and we spent the time reading them through tears as Dad left the building.

Tears still wet my cheeks when I revisit that day… sweet tears of abundant love.

I have been blessed to be close to many wonderful beings who have passed on and even more to have had the opportunity to be there with a few of them in that moment.

It is not for everyone, my brothers and family members of others I have known do not want to be there,  with anyone at that time.

All exits are not as graceful as my Dad’s but each has been full of love and light and awareness.

We enter with one thing etched on our experience to do list and that is to die, but we avoid the discussion and search for answers from others who also have not died, though some have momentary exits from which they return. We align with either religion or science or stories or anything that resonates…

 We discuss shopping lists with more details…

We obsess on memories rather than the amazing event…

When anything is in short supply it is difficult to come from abundance in the moment we are viewing it running out.

I think if our road leads us to an path of seeing the timeline and not the headlights of an oncoming train with seconds till impact, we are meant for this.

Your I Am has designed this.

What is your design for dying?

None of us wants to be a burden on those we love.
Caregivers and hospice workers and family members blessed with the experience will tell you in words that they don’t mind – they will do everything to protect your dignity with humility but my experience from a year of being in that blessed position (another story) is that it is so humbling and full of grace that is there are many times when sleep is needed and time is turned to goo – a nap of five minutes is enough.

Tears come when they need to and they are healing. Help shows up when required by the state of grace. Things go wrong and things go right but love is there and there is beauty in the transformation of what we think we are.