Tag Archives: end of life

Afraid of Dying

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a beach to illustrate the life and death cycle.You’re afraid of dying, you say, afraid of dying alone mostly. I wish I could tell you how this thing called death works and what dying means. Or where we end up in the end. I wish I could alleviate your fears, and tell you the best comes after life, that there will be music and bright lights and long-lost loved ones welcoming you. But I’m still trying to convince myself there’s more than nothingness, that after we die we reach some eternal heavenly state of consciousness, if not an actual heavenly place.

All I know is that for eons of time, trillions and gazillions of other beings before us have made this journey of conception, life, and then death. That this is part of a great cycle. And that maybe, possibly, death is not the last stage.

What if we think of this life-death cycle as a beach? Over the course of your lifetime you crept along the sandy shore, and then toddled, walked, and eventually waded into the water where you swam and dove through the waves, never noticing the tide gently dragging you out ever farther. And now every breath takes so much energy and struggling. Yet you keep swimming until there is nothing but ocean and sky, and soon you become part of them both. It’s like when you were born. You had no choice in being born, no control. You yielded to the forces pulling you into the then unknown world. Now it is time once more to be carried along into another great unknown.

You will not be alone at the end. There are those who will be honored to sit vigil with you and make you comfortable at this sacred time. Let’s call Hospice. Allow people in. I will come myself when I can, wearing my red-beaded necklace, the one like yours, because greeting death with red beads seems both gutsy and appropriate. I’ll hold your hands and listen to your memories, or to your breathing. Maybe I’ll rub your feet.

And finally, when you are gone to the great wherever, I will always love you and remember you. Whenever I wear those beads I’ll think of you laughing boldly in a bevy of friends, immaculately bedecked with makeup and perfectly matched jewels.

 

What can you do to assuage a loved one’s fear of dying?

Free to Fly

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops daylilies and hosta plants, and birds flying free in a garden of grief.“You should write some final wishes. Just in case,” I’d told my daughter, like I was asking her to make a shopping list. It was back in November 2010, before her stem cell transplant. She was going to kick cancer. So, except for handing me her healthcare proxy, “Here. You can have this,” we weren’t discussing death or dying. In fact, I’d often scolded her for living her life like it was an endless party, like it could never end.

Marika’s final wishes were found the day after they pulled the plug on her life support. I was the one who’d had to sign the papers. That night, alone in her room, hugging her belongings, I found her poems. And now I have to wonder: did she have any idea what a gift this poem would be?

FREE ME by Marika Joy Warden

Free me.
Let me be.
Spread my wings for me, for all to see.
You hold me, you’re holding me
Back too tight, I can’t break free.
The cells, the cells of red and white,
They’ve given flight to my family,
But not to me, because I’m free.
Free, up above the world I know,
Away I’ll go, don’t hold me so,
Don’t hold me back. I’m stuck in black
And darkness here. The light’s so near!
Just do not fear. I can go now.
Some way, somehow, I’ll learn to fly
I’ll reach the sky, float over you,
Look up, it’s true. You’ll see me there
With regrown hair and regrown hope,
Surpassed the slope that I slid down,
Down to the ground, but now, no more.
For now I soar above the sea,
No catching me ‘cause now I’m free.
You have freed me.

Leaves of daylilies grow skyward like wings lifting in the wind. Hostas raise hundreds of leaf-hands in search of the sun. It’s June, five years later, and I’m whirling in a sea of fragrant honeysuckle. Singing as I pull weeds and water new plantings, I watch every bird and butterfly, each duck and goose that flies over the pond. Fireflies. Damselflies. Moths. Which one will linger, circling over me? Which one will land and look my way?

Preserving Family Memories

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an image of her deceased father from an old VHS videotaped recording converted to DVD.On a small computer screen, in a blurred DVD converted from an old VHS recording, bleared further through my tears, I watched my father laughing. I’d last seen his face in 2009. He wasn’t laughing then. At the end of his life, he was angry, ready to go. Done.

Now in the recovered footage, My father sat in a row alongside his siblings and in-laws. The seven of them smiled nervously, lined up in front of a video camera in 1993. My father, always fascinated by cameras, seemed amused to be on the other side of this newfangled movie-making instrument. Within minutes, he warmed to the camera and to the questions his niece and daughters were posing to the group. He laughed, talking on past his turn. It was hard to shut him up. I’d forgotten what he was like when he was happy. The video zoomed in and out, focusing on the group, closing in on him.

Videotaping aging relatives. We’d all noticed the changing population at the family reunions. “To preserve the family history,” my cousin Brigite, the one who came up with the idea and produced the project, had said.

But for me, years later approaching Father’s Day, fixated on the fuzzy computer image, it was the preservation of my father’s bright face and the sound of his laughter. And of all the pixelated memories of being my father’s daughter. For days after, I talked to him, and walked in the warmth of his smile.

 

 

What memories are brought up for you by viewing photos or video footage of your loved ones who died?