Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Speakin' of Death and Fairness

What with the growing concern over oinker influenza, I was thinking last night about something my dad said as he was succumbing to his mortal illness. Dad was 87 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma in November 2007. His sister, who was 90 at the time, had been dealing with lymphoma for a couple of years and was holding her own, so dad figured he likely had a couple of years yet. As it turned out, he had a lymphoma which attacked his central nervous system, according to the oncologist. This is a fairly rare form and it is aggressive as hell, deadly and debilitating. Dad had been strong independent and pretty healthy all his life. He was still working part time and had an active social life up until he got sick. He lived on his own and enjoyed several hobbies, including gardening, which he was looking forward to doing on a more limited basis the following spring.

I loved and admired my father. He had survived the Depression, active combat in WW II, over fifty years of marriage to my mother( the war paled in comparison) and a ne'er do well brood of screw ups that would have sent a weaker man to an early grave. He was relatively stoic man, so I was taken aback by his comment and actually disappointed when he said to me, "This isn't fair".
Jeez, I thought, babies dying of AIDS isn't fair, Tibetan nuns rotting in prison isn't fair, young Mexican adults dying of swine flu isn't fair. Getting sick and dying after a long and healthy life, that's the way it works if you're lucky! I could undestand saying "this sucks", "I feel shitty" , "dying of this stuff blows". All of that was true. But lamenting that it wasn't fair?
Of course I didn't say that, and I quickly regained compassion. He was suffering with a miserable, terminal ilness after all, and he felt like crap almost all the time. I guess a person's entitled to express a dab of self pity. And even if he had pissed and moaned all the way to bardo, I still loved him. But he didn't, and that was the only really self-pitying thing he said during the two months we cared for him as he died. I was reflecting on all this last night and reflecting on my own preparedness for death(one never knows how prepared one is until the knock comes at the door, nicht wahr?). And then this was in my e-mail this morning, and it was good.
Tricycle's Daily Dharma
Healing and Curing
Healing does not mean curing, although the two words are often used interchangeably. While it may not be possible for us to cure ourselves or to find someone who can, it is always possible for us to heal ourselves. Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.
–Jon Kabat-Zinn, from Letting Everything Become Your Teacher (Delta Trade Paperbacks)

I pray that we may all be healed.


ZenYenta said...

It's hard to find that balance. My mother could not reconcile herself to limitations in the last couple of years of her life. It sounds like she was similar to your father in that she was active and social and independent until she got too sick. I was afraid for her to know she was dying because even though she was older than anyone in her family had ever gotten she wouldn't be able to say good-bye to this life. As it turned out dementia set in before that could come up, so it was moot. But she was so full of life. That was what everyone said about her and it was true. On the other hand, despite being more religiously inclined than most of the rest of us, she never came to terms with the fact that life doesn't go on forever. As a result, far from healing, her last years were not the peaceful time we'd thought they could be, even though she was surrounded by family who loved her. To be able to do both - fully engage in life, and detach from it, too, is not so easy, I guess.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Not so easy, indeed. And it is hard to watch someone you love struggling with it. This is why I do spend time reflecting on it. I want to be able to let go.

handheaded said...

practice, practice, practice