Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Defying the odds

Patio has defied the odds once again. They said Mike and I would never make it out of high school, but she proved them wrong, and a week ago today we brought her to Bruns House hospice, where she was sure to live for only a day or two - yet she breathes on. We haven't stopped guessing how long Mom will live, but we now accept what a folly it is to believe what we come up with. If we had enough time, we might even come to really surrender, and stop guessing all together. Or not.

When I travel in India, I'm frequently confronted with great poverty and suffering, often in the form of beggars. They range from the irritating nuisance to the unmitigated tragedy, with everything in between, where you're tempted, for your conscience sake, to think that they're not really as bad off as they seem (and sometimes that's true.) In my first travels there I thought had the perfect response: pretend like they're invisible. Don't acknowledge their presence, act like you can't see them, and never respond, because as soon as you say "No" they think you're negotiating. That wasn't very satisfying somehow, and I've made it a practice in recent years to not look away. I try to look them in the eye, engage them in some way, maybe only with eye contact, and then choose to give them some coins or not - usually not. It can make travel a little harder in some ways, but much richer as well. It's tempting to not want to see the suffering, to distance yourself from it, because when you see it and allow yourself to engage with it emotionally, it can be painful.

That practice seems helpful but like little league compared to this: look into your mother's eyes as she's gasping, laying on her deathbed, and appearing like she's suffering and aware of her suffering. (Is it still suffering if you're not aware of it?) She's better right this minute, so it's easier, but last night Mom was agitated and not breathing very easily, and it is so hard to see and be with. Like seeing the beggars, it's tempting to step back a bit emotionally, and not really engage. It's a challenge, but I'm making the effort to not look away.

I've heard a saying, "The thought of your mother is not your mother." I would add, "The thought of your mother dying is not the same as watching your mother dying."

Today is Wednesday, and on Monday afternoon we had more family arrive. Mom's sister Geri came with her husband-the-saint Gordon, daugher Patty, and daughter-in-law Marilyn. They drove up from the L.A. area, and with Geri in a wheelchair and in ill-health, it was a monumental effort. Also, Mom's brother Daniel drove with his wife Bonnie the 720 miles from Salt Lake City. Bonnie was just in the hospital for a week only a couple of weeks ago, so they made a huge effort as well. It was some minor miracle that Mom was still here, after what we originally expected. So we had, if I can count, 18 family members at Mom's bedside to say goodbye to her. And since they averaged about 100 times each saying "I love you," I figure Mom's heard it about 2,000 times this week! I think she's starting to really believe it. I joked about faking my own deathbed/hospice experience so I could find out how many people love me. The more I think about it the better it sounds. (Now when I AM on my deathbed, you may not come, but you won't know if it's real. Shoot, that may have backfired...)

The whole family surrounded Mom's bed and sang a church hymn that Mom likes, "How Great Thou Art," and it was very touching. I told the "crowd" that Mike and I had expected to be facing this just on our own, since it happened so suddenly, so it was such a special treat to be with so many people brimming with warmth and love for Mom.

Yesterday Geri and the gang drove back to L.A., and Dan and Bonnie drove back to Salt Lake City - less than 24 hours after arriving. It was a beautiful and selfless act for them to come. Char's large family needed to go back as well, and after an afternoon trip to North Beach in San Francisco for the day (which I went on, too!), they made the long haul back, only three days after they arrived. My arms are open wide with gratitude.

I will try to post daily to let you know how Mom is doing. Thank you all for your love and support, and I apologize to everyone whose messages I haven't replied to. We really can feel the love for our dear Mums, and she can, too. We don't have to wonder about that - she's told us.

Too much love,

p.s. As I've been writing this, Mom has been sleeping really soundly, and breathing smoothly and easily. It's such a relief.

Photos (and more are here):

Many more photos are here.

Posted By Dave Adair to for Pat Adair, and the people who love her... at 7/02/2008 01:57:00 PM