Monday, May 7, 2012

Letting Go of Life

I have seen, in the last few years, demonstrated instances of individuals seeming to will them selves back to good health (if not back to life). I have also seen sad situations where cancer and other diseases have resisted the strongest will, taking a loved one before they were ready to give back any of their precious time here. I increasingly believe in the possibility that life or death is more than just a chance outcome that happens to us. We may not quite definitively choose but we may have a say. Certainly our influence on the outcome may not be equally balanced – choosing to stay may not "take" as easily as deciding to go. When it comes to the elderly especially, there may come a day when the other side with all of its unknowns becomes more appealing than someone's present state here. My 92-year-old grandmother, Ana, has been circling around that reflection point for a couple of years now. She'll say that she's ready to go, yet keeps fighting on. What an ideal place to be! She surprised me by deciding to have her leg amputated about a year ago and was herself surprised to conclude a few months later that it was worth it. Faced with the loss of her other foot now, she is getting ready to move on. She will be dying on her terms. Though it makes me sad, I see an incredible beauty in that too. What must it be like to have lived such a rich and fulfilling life that one would be content enough to "choose" to check out. Nona Ana fought as so many do – out of necessity, to survive. She taught me the wisdom of knowing when not to fight, and that acceptance can sometimes be the best course. How self-assured to trust in what comes next so much that it overwhelms the fear and apprehension inherent in that uncertainty. How beautiful to have that end come so gradually that it allows for heartfelt goodbyes with those you love. I wish that I might know the day when my work here was so complete that I was prepared to step into the next world in peace. I wish that how I die might reflect how I've lived. In Nona Ana's case, I hope that it can be with all of the stubborn strength, love and dignity she has shown throughout her life. Loving people are visiting her in these last days not because of what she can do for them now but based on the care that she has shown them throughout her life. For me that kindness and hospitality is symbolized by the world's best chicken soup that was waiting for me as my first meal after a long trip every time I visited. She is amazing and teaching me so much right up until this end – including this final lesson on trust. May the saints she's worshipped her whole life bring her safely home. And may there be a bowl of the most delicious soup (as she'd say, kako medezija) waiting for her when she gets there.

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