About 1 pm today, I lay down on our bed. I could feel how much effort was in my system, so I let it all go, just lowered down into the realm below effort, desperate for rest. And felt my death there, a palpable thing. So tired, I couldn’t imagine doing anything, even the thought of calling for help was too much. I looked into death, my death. Tears, grief, but even that was too much effort. I thought of people I love, and people who love me, and realized that I, in that moment, didn’t have the energy to do anything at all.
I eventually called Eric and shocked us both by how weak I was, I am. He said he had to finish a meeting, do something else, and then he would head home. He knew it was real. I called my dear friend Anatta, who was here in about 5 minutes or so. She held me tight; it felt like I was leaving out of every pore, I needed an anchor. She knew exactly what to do and kept me safe.
1. Here’s what I learned about dying, today. It seems to me that there is some kind of glue that holds us all together, me and everyone else, all beings. That glue, whatever it is, is beginning to loosen in me, and I can feel that happen. I guess when that glue is gone, we die. It’s connected to life force, to chi, to our “give a shit” quotient, to quote the author of Die Wise, Stephen Jenkinson. From all that I can tell at the moment, there is a little more space in my system as a result. Not a bad feeling, so far.
2. My niece gave birth recently. Her water broke, and the birthing process began. Once that happens, there is no stopping that baby! My sense today is that there may be a similar event that begins the dying process, after which there is no stopping it. Not sure what that might be yet, but I could sense it today, a presence, an idea, a concept that rings true to me. That did not happen, not this time. But its coming. I thought I might be able to live through this cancer, to live a long time. Perhaps I will. But at the moment, it feels pretty unlikely.
I spent an evening with Stephen Jenkinson a week or so ago, while he was in Portland. Me and several hundred others, at the Clinton Street Theatre. He talks about how we can love each other by putting language to dying, sharing that, bringing it into our culture as a natural part of life, learning how to do it, and loving each other by teaching how it is, how to do it. Braiding it into our lives.
People who see me often say, O what a great attitude you have, or you look wonderful, you look strong, or you sound great. What they are seeing or hearing is my effort. What I glimpsed today is what is underneath.
I am trying to stay mindful and to share this holy and marvelous and scary and heartbreaking process as best I can.