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May Her Name Be for A Blessing June 28, 2008

Posted by voolavex in dying.
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I have said all the goodbyes I can

I know that good and happy memories are

the best and most enduring expression of love

So this is what I remember about Barbara:

 

She came to love me and I loved her.

We shared our good times and bad, holding onto each other.

She listened. Patiently

Her advice was good.

She made me want to follow it.

 

She loved her children Marcella, Jeff and Begona without question

She was sorry about your middle name Marcella

She was glad you stopped looking like a rat Jeffrey

And she was relieved too.

She did the things she learned were right once upon a time

Sometimes, often, they were things that were not good for her.

Old habits die hard.

She did things she knew were right too.

And I learned those things from her.

 

She had a wicked and dry sense of humor.

She laughed with ease and she smiled

Even when there was little to smile for.

We laughed together a lot.

 

She didn’t like diabetes and she didn’t like

restricted diets.  So she cheated.

She liked Hostess Cupcakes.

She liked to eat everything a good Jewish girl from the

Bronx should never eat and she relished them all.

She will not be barred from Heaven for a single bite

The Lord always knows a good person when he sees one.

 

She believed in promises.

They didn’t always work out the way she imagined.

She cherished the friends who

kept faith with her

Charlotte especially.

 

She loved my cat Elliott and he loved her.

They both gave life a good work out.

I hope he is close by today

And stays beside her in their own forever.

 

But the one she loved and cherished most is Satya.

Every coo, every song, every tear, every smile

She adored Satya.

It was a joy to watch her be Nana,

And she felt it was the best part she had ever had.

If they gave Oscars for Best Nana, my money would be on Barbara.

She was a great Nana.

So that is how I hope you remember her

I think she would be very happy for that

 

Remember her as your dearest friend,

as Jeff and Marcella’s mother but above all else

as her most beloved Satya’s nana

 

This is how I will think of her

My friend Barbara, whose very existence brought

such pure light to my life.

My own personal light, still shining, still keeping me warm.

 

May her name be for a blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With love to everyone who loved Barbara

Chloe Ross

June 27, 2008

At

Mt. Sinai Cemetery

Los Angeles, CA

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And Die in Despair April 14, 2008

Posted by voolavex in dying.
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No one wants to die.  Even mentioning it creates magical thinking for many and therefore could make it happen unintentionally.  Best not to even think of it.  In fact,  best to think it out of existence because no one really knows what happens when you die.  Who would volunteer for a trip with no brochures, no return ticket and no tourism minister?  It is either so damn great that there is a confidentiality clause as soon as you sign in or it’s such a hideous nightmare that no one wants to invite anyone else there.  You are on your own.

You’d think.

Being born is a huge deal – the operative words are:  “push, come on, push, it’s coming, push, here it comes” and slick as a Willy out comes the new person – greeted by family and friends and ready to take on the world.  Women love to talk about labor – how long they suffered or how fast it went or how bad it felt or how well they did.  It’s just a subject that never seems to get old. For mothers.   And to make it even better – when you are in labor – assuming you are due – the medical community eggs you on;  puts extra stuff in your IV  to speed up the process and if need be, cuts you open.  Or both.   Getting born is a time sensitive enterprise.  And it can’t happen fast enough.

But try to die.  Not suicide or murder – just regular, “time’s up, time to die”.  You cannot die when it’s time.  The process of passing away is so complicated, dragged out and hideous, that unless you go in your sleep without a sound – your own personal end of life is going to be harder than hell.  Imagine if you can, a person who is going to die from various causes thwarted every step of the way by everyone.  Doctors, nurses, relatives, friends, even strangers impede the process like a relay race. If you think back to having a child (if you are woman or a man who participated in the event)  here is the analogy:  every time you got ready to actually expel the baby, someone stepped in and made you stop.  And they could do this as often as they wanted. And you have to play along.

Someone I cherish deeply is in exactly this place right now;  stored in a constant care, old folk’s home.  She is dying but she cannot die.  She is lost inside herself and cannot communicate.  She cannot eat on her own nor can she eat solid food.  These are some of the things she will never do again: She will never taste a ham sandwich, clam chowder, pizza, chocolate ice cream or a Pink’s hot dog again.  She is not able to take care of her most basic needs. She will never flush another toilet.  She will never laugh again at the Golden Girls; she will never be a golden girl. She arrived at this place in her life from the ravages of diabetes and she is not going to get better.  She has reached the end stage of life.  When she does speak, she cries for help or says “no more” or simply “no”.   The people who care for her are extremely good to her. But the entire situation is a mine field of unspoken wishes, permission forms for medications that cannot restore her to health and a sad, circle of hope and hopelessness that  grow like a field of yellow weeds – beautiful yet useless.  This year she had flu shots and pneumonia shots.  Both these afflictions could kill her so we couldn’t risk that.  Last week a dentist came in to see about x-rays, crowns or dentures.  To raise her self-esteem?  No reason was actually offered because there was no good reason for any of it.  But we must seem to be hopeful and pro-active.  She is not on a respirator, but I know it will be suggested at some point – the inability to breathe without help is a part of dying.  We dare not even mention this.  There is a kindness and compassion that exudes from the staff where she stays.  Religiosity factors in, but more than that, it is a part and parcel of those who care for her and her family, who love her.  Even those of us who are   exempt for the idea of miracles. The others weigh the sadness of her death with the even greater sadness of her diminshed life now. As I see her and watch her leave us by small increments I ask myself – would I want this for myself and the answer is no. Major faiths decree that life is given by God and only he is allowed to take it.  Wars have been fought for dogma such as this.  People have died defending this faith against those who don’t.  None of it makes much sense. 

Dying is a lonely event.  We may not hasten it for reasons that have vexed mankind for eons.  We may not argue that the right to a dignified death is equal to the right of a dignified life.  We speak in euphemisms and ifs and maybes because any other terms are suspect.  Secretly some of us pray for the dying to die.  Openly we deny the very thought.  The criminal who is hastened to a pre-destined death may even have a reason for gratitude.  It may seem wrong, but it’s quick and final. The innocent merely get a life sentence without possibility of a decent death. And in all the time of mankind this question has existed and has never been resolved.    If we live in hope – must we die in despair?

So this is for the person I cherish and love.  Not an answer but an acknowledgement that when I think of her, this is what I think.  And it is a promise to her as well, that when she finally dies,  I will remember all the days we shared, the secrets we whispered and I will be as grateful for these memories,  as finally, I will be for her death.

Missing Elliott February 15, 2008

Posted by voolavex in Uncategorized.
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cat1.jpgcat1.jpgLast month on January 19th, our oldest cat, Elliott, passed away.  He was  just 18 years old and he exercised his prerogative to die.    He taught me that dying is a hard business.  And as much as I would love to believe he was fighting to stay with us – I know he had no concept of that.  He was merely taking his time and it was hard for him.  Old age and kidney failure were the cause of death – but until his last days he walked around, basked in the sun, drank water and broth, ate a little and slept a lot.  He weighed 4.5 lbs; down from his usual 15.  We hoped he would just go into that dark, good night at home, but try as he did, that good night remained dusk and finally it required our friend, our vet to help him over.  That part, though a difficult decision, was a final act of love and mercy.  He was in a coma and shutting down – but even so, his tiny, exhausted heart beat until the very end – in spite of a small sedative to ease him and a small dose of mercy that let him go. 

He had been mostly mellow in life – but death proved to outwit his laid back style and his stubborn streak emerged –  he was just not quite ready to go.  He spent his last night in my arms – surrounded by his sister and brothers and I hope he was comfortable – I held him like there was no tomorrow – knowing of course there wasn’t a very long one for him. His life-long, noisy, aggressive purr gave over to simply breathing and there we were, my face and his fur dampened by my  sloppy tears; Elliott wrapped in the same, safe arms that had first held him in 1990.   Requisat in Pacem Orange Cat.  You gave us happiness without end.  You convinced your new dad that orange cats were the best and you shepherded a house full of newcomers who could never have been as happy without you.  You had a pink, pig nose with its own special wrinkle that appeared when you groomed, an awful smelly breath (and many visits to the dentist), endless stripes and a face that insisted that  anyone who passed by, really, really needed to say hello – to which you quacked “meow” in return.  You did not scratch or growl.  Your endless patience when kittens sat on you and refused to move was epic.  You were the star of our building and the light of our lives.  As a little lad,  you spent many mornings upstairs with my godson, Oliver,  playing Ghostbusters; meowing loudly at his door to be let in, heading straight for the bedroom.  I liked to imagine you thought you were Dr. Egon Spengler.  You never stopped making us smile.  At one point, bags of catnip had to be taped to the ceiling – so amazing were your early skills at climbing and opening boxes.  Because you had been born around dogs you drank water like a Great Dane.  Your new dad called you Blocko because you decided between us was the right spot to sleep.  That was a short 16 years ago . Your long life, with few mishaps, led us into a sense of a forever that we have learned, simply doesn’t exist. But you left us far too soon Elliott.  And we still weep.  And we miss you.