Ritual as Grace

Mom passed from this life just after noon on the 5th of January. She took her last breath at 12:16 pm actually – I don’t know what caused me to look at my watch: too many television shows or some odd need to document. Not that anyone really cared. I guess in the geriatric, palliative-care business any time within any given shift is the correct time for the overworked staff. This timekeeper within is not my cynical self talking: just some side observer of life-events who happens to question inane issues and then tries to get me to listen to enough of the flow to be able to draw some form of an image and record it at opportunities like this.

The new silence in the room was replaced by stethoscopical visitations and questions about the mysteries of the body making particular noises at events like this and once it was determined that life in fact had fled the former home of my dear mother then a very well orchestrated series of private ministrations were performed to make the host presentable and available for those who wished to stay behind and commune in some way with some aspect of the remains of life’s mystery. This became an observer’s dream; for once olfactory senses acclimatized themselves it became very clear that life had not for one second abandoned the space we all had remained in. Now don’t get me wrong: life is life and can be many things but what quickly became apparent was not just that there was life in the room but I was truly amazed at the various forms and manifestations by which life appeared in this reverent space.

My wonderful granddaughter had earlier expressed a desire to be a part of the dying event and although I think she could have been ok with it in a clinical, kid curiosity sense (she’s pretty good with stuff like this) I think the more public metaphorical wailing and rending of clothes by others in attendance would have been a far greater mystery to her. Knowing is one thing: being is another.

Sadness? Absolutely. Just a little more please, I am not ready yet to deal with this? You have got to be kidding do you think Mom was in charge here? What the heck do I do next? Yes, definitely that one was visible in the form of awkwardness and visible mental discomfort. I think however the most visible of all the emotions was not that this was unexpected or that a miracle could occur to turn these events around but it was the absolute unknown. I know how to hover, I know how to comfort or at least pretend to go through the motions, and I know how to be the dutiful martyr at the bedside but I don’t know how to act when this is over. I could have talked it through in my head a hundred times and I could have clinically performed these steps courtesy of a book or through the words of others but because I never really wanted to acknowledge life in this new form, I am not prepared. I am not ready for this new now.

OK, so I am guessing about much of this but I think I have a fairly good observer’s lens and I think this pretty much sums up a large portion of the life in that room in the moments following my act of watch reading. Time stopped until the staff freed the spirits and permitted life to continue. Yet what was in that room and less visible, was joy and a sense of freshness in the air; there was lightness and through the act of liberation from the bounds of humanness the palpable quickly began slipping away. The drama in the room was far from a one-act play as there were so many dimensions and layers in the form of different shapes moving within this space and although I think that emotion became a blinder to some, these spirited and very purposeful friends and agents of the Divine were quite deftly going about their gentle business of coaxing the spirit to move free of its nonagenarian environment.

There was a party, there was a celebration quite similar to a grade-school child being welcomed into their new environment and I sensed that my mother’s trepidatious soul must have been tired but excited and probably nervous but willingly eager to allow itself to be welcomed into this new form of being. I have no real idea of the events or the actual activities but I could feel the energy and the excitement in the room and I also got the feeling that we, the clock-watchers and cloth renters, were being invited to share the joy and feel a gladness for the freedom being offered to one held prisoner for too many years.

A chance to observe, to participate in such a life event is a gift indeed despite being one that we would otherwise shun. There are way too many less-than-gentle forms of moving on from this life and these words of mine are far from a call to run out and line up to witness or be a part of end-of-life events. Yet how can we not be so very moved by such a gracious farewell and such a glorious welcoming into a new and rich form? I don’t know what really happened in the time I spent that day – I do know what I felt and sensed and what seemed to happen after I glimpsed the displayer of time. Yet, in our analogue world, life is weighed and measured in so many ways and the rhythms of our life force become the footnotes of a continuous story both here as we see and touch as well as those we sense and know. We wish for peace and it is peace I witnessed and in turn have received.

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