The days and weeks since my mom’s death have been quick to pass and full of lessons, if I am in the mood to listen and thankfully I usually am. I have made some huge changes in my life since her passing and I have been on this continual hunt for information and guidance on what to do next in life. I have discovered so many things in the past few weeks and one message that came through loud and clear is that life is truly short and should not be wasted or fretted away on meaningless drivel. Which is all relative to each and every one of us.
My mom knew she was dying. She never came out and said this to me but two weeks before I brought her to the hospital, we spent most of the night sitting up at her house while she told me her directives. She had it all written down, but wanted to tell me everything. It was a meaningful occasion for me because never before have I had to opportunity to sit with my mom and talk with her — especially without beer. I sat at the dining room table and she sat on the couch. She looked straight ahead and I watched her profile. She was pretty. I had never seen my mom as pretty. I saw where I got my looks! I never ever saw my mom in this light before and that night alone healed a thousands hurts that she and I had between us.
It’s not as if I am sitting around mourning the loss of my mom, no this is not the case at all. I had essentially been prepared for my mom’s death for about two years; I’m not sure if she had had a stroke or what, but she basically checked out a while back and I was waiting until she called me in for help. That day finally came and honestly there was no preparing for any of it — it was all very surreal and continues to reveal itself in my dreams and thoughts throughout the days and nights. I find myself crying over the silliest things and cannot stop myself. Honestly, I don’t mind getting lost in the tears. But I am always surprised by it.
The first week in the hospital my mom and I got along very well, laughing together when we could, although at this point the pain was starting to engulf her, so I just wanted to be there for her. Her screams will haunt me forever because she screamed for her mother almost continually. It was like a horror movie. Chilling. As the news of her condition worsened, she began to communicate to me with her eyebrows and then soon she became angry at the fact that she was dying.
She did not want to die. Not here. Not now. She was not ready. She got mad at me. I struggle with the guilt. It was happening. Her death. I just happened to be the only one there with her.
I’ve seen two people go off to hospice and both times these people were already in some type of coma to kill the pain or whatever they were experiencing. Not my mom. I had to tell her we were going to hospice and she almost stabbed me with her eyes.
The doctors told me we had one hour to say goodbye to her and I was the only family member with her. I had to ask her if there was anyone she wanted to talk to (I couldn’t yet say the word “goodbye”). “No! I don’t know! Noooooo!”
I sent out a group text that we have one hour to say good bye to Mom. In hindsight, this is beyond surreal — a damn text message. “Boys, you’ve got one hour to say goodbye to her, but the doctors say it’s too stressful for her to be on the phone, so send me a text and I will read it to her. Or call me and I will tell her your words. Say goodbye in your heart, because you won’t get a chance to see her again.”
I spent the next 45 minutes reading everyone’s text messages to mom. Everyone’s thank you’s and good bye’s. This completely shook me to my core. I have never sobbed like this in my life. When I walked out of her room because the guys from the ambulance had shown up to wheel her out, I realized I had not said good bye. There was still a little time, but I had no idea.
When she was in the ambulance, I ran up to the back of it and jumped up and down to look in the window. “I’m here with you Mom!! I will follow you!! I will not leave you! I’ll be right behind you!! I will see you in a little bit!!” On one of my jumps up I could see that she was smiling. At me. For jumping up and down. Like a clown.
All the people I saw in the hospital who were looking at death’s door were not ready for it and were surprised that it came up so soon. When my mom was in surgery or resting, I walked around and observed; spoke to some who were open to it. You know what they wanted to talk about? When they were in love. When their children were small. The first kiss. The first and last dance. You see old and sick people in hospitals but with some of them, their minds are still young and they don’t forget love and kisses and dances and children.
So on this Monday, April 1, 2013, I found myself strangely agitated and almost angry about my lot in life. Thanks to the books I have been reading and the overall general messages I have been receiving (or misinterpreting), I was quite annoyed about what life was not giving me. I was thinking about my own death — an unfortunate side affect of watching my mother’s death — and all the things I want to do and experience before I die. I grew extremely agitated throughout the day because of all the things I have given up in life over the past few weeks, I was getting *nothing* in return.
I want to experience an exquisite love before I die.
I want to hunker down and do satisfying work before I die.
I want to give back to causes I believe in before I die.
But love has done me wrong, the chip on my shoulder from getting fired twice in 2012 is weighing me down and the slow climb of financial reckoning is taking its own sweet time. I am fucking pissed off!
I went for a sunset run to blow off some steam and afterwards I set off to find something to eat and drove past the Blue Lotus Temple. I knew there was a meditation class this evening and instead of eating, I knabbed the available open parking spot in front and found a seat in the beautiful cobalt blue temple.
The subject of tonight’s class: preparing for your death. I heard things that made me double over. I heard nuggets of wisdom that made my heart flutter. I had tears streaming down my face when the Head Monk asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand.
“I have forgotten how to be mindful and I don’t remember what good deeds are; in fact I have spent my day being angry about what life has not given me yet and I don’t think is the way I am supposed to be. I don’t want to die with these thoughts in my head. I saw my mom being angry about dying and she thought she was prepared. Please tell me what to do, I feel like I’m failing at everything in life.”
“You are doing absolutely everything right; even the place you are at with your thoughts. It was a powerful gift to be with your mom through her death and now that you have helped her, it is time to help yourself. I will help to remind you what being mindful is and suggest good deeds but you will discover them on your own, just as you discovered this. Don’t be a Buddhist; be a Buddha and you will always stay hungry. It is not too late and I am glad you are here.”
So I spoke with the Monk after class. I felt so much better after we chatted that I wanted a Culver’s cheeseburger right then and there. So off to Culver’s I went, where I not only enjoyed a cheeseburger, but a strawberry milkshake too, as I read up on my decision to become Meagan the Vegan. Moooooooooooooo!!