Sunday, December 18, 2011

Against the wall (day 53)

Greetings from our home, the first time I've been here in the afternoon in more than seven weeks.

Today seems to be "wall day" to me. Nancy is up against hers, and I'm hitting mine. My situation is pretty straightforward, I'm just exhausted, again. Janet (her sister) and Cindy (high school friend) arrived this afternoon, and they graciously offered to stay until Leigh arrives to spend the night. I'll need to hold our prayer circle tonight from a distance, perhaps just as another participant.

Nancy is struggling a lot right now, both yesterday afternoon and today, from when I arrived mid-morning until I left mid-afternoon. She wants to talk, but will not or can not make simple clear requests that I might understand by reading her lips. Rather, she will close her eyes, apparently deep in thought, then open them and speak a sentence, or a paragraph, that I cannot decipher. Over and over, for hours, we've been doing this dance. Some bits I can pick up; she's in pain, she doesn't want to die, get her out of here, where is Janet, when will Jim be here. When I ask her to slow down, go one word at a time so I can repeat and understand, she just won't do it. I did get a clear response once, "Shut the fuck up".

In the face of this, I’m stretching beyond what I know, to find compassion, receptivity, even look for gratitude for what life brings me. I haven’t lost my temper -- yet -- or even lost my sense of calm equilibrium, as I can see how immensely frustrating this is for her.

But even more I see her spirit in motion. Those of you who know her well, know that she is a force of nature, certain in her sense of what is right, stubborn, and slow to change. She wants to live, and that is where she is, who she is, her reality. Our buddhist chaplain resource, Denah Joseph, was kind enough to make her way to the hospital at 11am to visit, and facilitate an hour with her today. Mostly she brings Nancy back to her body, to her feeling, and it helps. And she also observes that what we do in our lives, who we essentially are, plays out as we move thought the end of our lives as well. Nancy may be up against her wall and her attachment to living, all the way to the end, whenever that may be.

I want to celebrate that, not make it wrong. Here are two photos I just got from a friend in her mystery school studies, in 1999, showing her working on a mandala, and the mandala itself. You can see all of who she is through these photos, her juice, her precision, her symbolic connection. The center of the mandala is an Iron Cross.

My internal mantra over the last couple of weeks is from Dogen, a 13th-century buddhist teacher.
I am attentively sustained by the profound presence of all buddhas.

I don’t know why this is my favorite quote in the universe. I just know that it serves for me to chant this inside right now. And yes, my friend the lump is here, right in my throat. Denah also observed that it’s hard to get a lump in your throat when you have a tracheostomy, like Nancy. Perhaps some of what makes it so difficult is the harsh reality of being penetrated at the fifth chakra, the unceasing force of a respirator pushing air into her body. I cannot imagine.


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