Thursday, March 3, 2016
There is an American Indian phrase that is used to designate the person who walks beside another, through out their life; it is, "the one who walks beside." This simple expression is clearly referring to a spouse, a best friend, a brother, a sister, etc., who, regardless of the kind of conditions or circumstances that surround the beloved person, will walk by his or her's side. This kind of relationship exudes characteristics of loyalty, love, support, protection, respect, selflessness: my wife would say, "they are attached at the hip."
This phrase accurately describes the relationship my wife and I had. She was the one who walked beside. I say "was" because my wife passed away, unexpectedly Dec. 11, 2015. My wife, Mary Lou, was not feeling well after Thanksgiving. She complained of stomach pains, thinking she had an urinary infection, which she had had several times previous. We went to urgent care, and she was diagnosed with a severe urinary infection, and was given three antibiotic pills. Mary Lou seemed satisfied that the pills would cure her infection, as they had on previous occasions, and she would be fully recovered in three days. The next day, Mary Lou wasn't feeling any better and complained of lower back pain and a severe headache. We went to see an orthopedic doctor who took x-rays of her lower back with the result that, other than some arthritis her lumbar area was fine. The next day Mary Lou was getting weaker. and we decided to go to the hospital emergency facility. She was so weak that she could not put on her socks and shoes, I had to put them on her feet.
It was 2;30pm when she was wheeled into the emergency room, and immediately the staff begin to take her vitals, Her blood pressure was over 200. Her breathing was fast and labored; they gave her oxygen. They dripped a drug into her vein to relax her, and to help with her headache. Their immediate tests did not reveal a satisfactory diagnosis. Next, the lead doctor decided to give her a MRI. After the MRI they moved her back into the emergency room, where we had to wait for the results. I was by her side as we waited for the results, she told me 'to go get something to eat.' I told her "I was fine;" there was no way I was going to leave her side.
The lead doctor came into the room with a diagnosis. With no empathy, she describes the diagnosis as, acute myeloblastic leukemia, she and her colleagues were certain of their diagnosis because Mary Lou's white blood count was over 300,000. The normal range of white blood cells in a body. is about 10,000. Mary Lou and I were shocked, This diagnosis, seemed out of the blue and way beyond our expectations. The lead doctor went on to say that they could do no more for Mary Lou, and recommended that she be transported to the U. of Minnesota Hospital where they have a greater capacity to treat that kind of leukemia. We agreed, and begin to wait for the transport ambulance. My wife looked at me and said, "I will not be the same," meaning she will lose her mental awareness with all the invasive drugs and treatments. I knew she was right. Next she said, "Pray for me, and not to your God, but my God." I said, "Yes I will," and added, "they are both the same God." Mary Lou began to call my name several times, I answered, "What?" she said that she just liked saying my name. Than she said, "You will have to be strong." That was a telltale sign to me that she knew she would not make it out alive, and that I needed to be strong for the children and grandchildren.
Mary Lou's blood pressure was still over 200, and the lead doctor dripped a drug into Mary Lou's vein that would help to reduce her high blood pressure The drug was working, Mary Lou's blood pressure was falling, but it fall too low. Now the lead doctor call for another drug line that would rise Mary Lou's blood pressure, but her right arm was full up with lines, so they had to use her left arm. They could not find a suitable vein, they began to move her on her side, then on to her back, through all that chaos, Mary Lou cried our, "I feel dizzy, I feel dizzy, I feel dizzy." I knew right than, after her last words were spoken, that she had passed, but the emergency room team continued to work to revive my wife with no success. They pronounced her dead at 6:50 pm.
While the emergency room team, (there were at least eight people) began to pack up their tools and sweep up the debris, a compassionate team member was consoling me and asked if I would like to have the hospital's Chaplin come to talk to me. My first response was "No," but I remembered that I had promised my wife that I would pray for her, so I consented to have the Chaplin talk to me.. The Chaplin was of the Catholic Faith, and read words from a holy book, and then he and I said the Lord's Prayer. To my great sorrow, I walked out of the hospital alone, without "the one who walks beside."
Its has been over two month now since Mary Lou passed, and although I am still emotionally fragile, I have partially processed the experience. I would like to pass along my understandings to you, with the hope that they may bring helpful insights for you in matters of death and relationships.
(Insights Within Matters of Death) There is a great ambiguity that is true for all humans, whether you like it or not. This ambiguity is a super, imposed effect of living a human life. It is an unseeming, unreasonable condition beyond our intellectual reasoning power to understand. The ambiguity within human life is that, the very nature of our existence is forever changing, on both micro and macro levels. Everything, as the ancient philosophers said, is constantly in flux. As we move through this changing nature of life, we become anxious and fearful, and in order to combat or some how control this perpetual change, we use our consciousness and intelligence to stabilize, status-quotize, the bombardment of changes attacking us. This constant combat puts us under great stress.
How do we use our intelligence and reasoning power to bring our lives into a semblance of stability? We do it by assigning a value to our sensations and experiences. For instance, for every sensation or experience we assign a like, dislike, or neutral value, along with their related behaviors and emotions. As we move through our lives we create a grand grid, where all experiences and all sensations can be properly fixed. When new sensations or experiences arise we have only to match their relative correspondence to that particular part of the grid, and fix it in. Ironically, even though we have labored hard to stabilize our lives, "change," is immune to our self created grid, and relentlessly marches on. There is an apt saying, "If you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans"
It isn't until you have noticed, "...the eternal footman hold your coat and snicker," that your entire grid begins to crack Just like driving your car in a Winter snow storm, brings a high probability of getting stuck or into a wreck, no matter what your car's worth or its technical capabilities. Winter snow is the great equalizer, but the greatest equalizers of our human condition are, old-age and death. So, no matter what we do, think or say old-age and death will come to us all. This inevitable condition of our lives brings us the greatest ambiguity. In our quest for control and stability we live our life how we would like it to be, rather than living life exactly as it is. This distinction has more subtlety then there appears; give it some thought.
Over the course of human reflection certain distinct elements have been identified in the make-up of human beings. Humans are composite beings, and their composition can be identified and classified, yet these elements represent more than their naming and ordering. Christian teaching breaks these elements into three: body, soul, spirit, with Hindu and Oriental teaching breaking them down into, 5, 7, 10, or 12, elements. When physical death accrues there ensues to the body, not a lose of life , but a lose of individualized coherence (the breaking down of the composite elements of life). In other words, the once individualized unity of the body, after death, becomes diffused; it becomes diffused without the dominating control of a centralized inner government, (the hierarchy of elements). In truth, physical death is not an autonomous force, a "purblind doomster" that destroys life, but paradoxically, it is life which is the cause of physical death. Life's unfolding field of consciousness spreads beyond the capacity of the physical body to contain it, consequently the body, over a period of time, deteriorates to the point of being cast off; this entire process is what we term physical death.
The moment we are born into this world, the countdown to our physical death begins. This inevitable preconditioned effect is not emotionally, psychologically, physically, or spiritually, easy to absorb. At this point in our evolutionary development, we are primarily link-in to the material world. We are building our egos, as the poet Delmore Schwartz writes, upon "the scrimmage of appetite every ware," We grow our ego while at the same time strangling our higher selves, our souls and spirit. Death is our constant companion, therefore, find a way to embrace death as a companion, then understand it as a natural process and to surrender and let Universal Nature take its course.
Here is a poem I wrote that may give you a little perspective, its called, "Does anyone know what it is like?"
"Danny's dead! It can not be. I played
handball with him two days ago. He seemed fine then."
He died sitting in his chair in front of the T.V,
reading the TV Guide.
Two days ago I had a friend, today he is gone. The
unsettling part of that idea is that I am in the same
death march line as Danny. His death moves me
closer to my death.
As soon as your life is spawned on Earth so is your
death. Since your position in the line of death begins so
far behind, it takes decades to realize you'ar even
in line. However, the movement is relentless, closer,
closer, second by second. You call those ahead of
you in the line, "Does anyone know what's its like?"
No answer, only the steady movement forward.
Each generation marches with growing trepidation to
the precipice of death, and inevitably falls in. One by
one, another generation gone and marching in the rear,
the next generation.
Each calling ahead, as did the previous generation, "Does
anyone now what's like? If you do please tell me."
And as always, no answer, only the steady movement
towards the inevitable.
For more understanding see, "I saw the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker" 9-24-09 archives.
(Insight within Matters of Relationships) Let's reiterate what was said about the human elements that make up the life force of the human being, and then expand on them. We will use the three elements designated by the Christians: spirit, soul, body,(they are displayed hierarchically, spirit being the highest). The spirit/soul elements enter the body via a vortexual movement, through the crown of the body, and infiltrates all atoms, molecules, and cells of the body. This vortexual movement expands out wards in what is known as an aura; auric fields that surround the body. I know, I know, you are probably saying to yourself, "What does all this metaphysical stuff have to do with relationships." Please stay with me, I promise an explanation will be forth coming. (If this subject sounds interesting to you, a good resource is Jack Schwarz's book, "Human Energy Systems.") There are people that can see the life force vortex and the aura: Jack Schwarz was one who could see auras. He used that vision to help heal people.
We therefore, move through our lives interacting and intergrading within the full spectrum of our life force elements. In other words, within our auric field we are engaging and intergrading our physical, psychological, soul and spiritual elements with all beings, as are they engaging and intergrading their full spectrum of life force elements with us. So, we are relating on all levels, high and low, with all beings which we encounter whether we realize it or not. Lets give an example, boy meets girl, and there is an attraction. Remember this attraction occurs not merely on the physical level, but also on the higher soul/spirit levels. At the beginning of a relationship there is intense use of energy, ranging from all levels of life force elements. As the relationship matures, there is a movement towards the mundane because of our current, evolutionary position, leaning toward the material side. The soul/spirit elements begin to freeze, and the relationship settles into responsibilities and duties. Love, although still residing within the relationship environment, has low energy, having been suppressed. This is the time in a relationship when a hero is needed to step-up. The hero is usually the woman, because of her natural, caring heart, although men are also capable. The hero subdues the tension, anger, arguing, and positioning for who is right and who is wrong, with sincere touch, hug, kiss, or loving words. The hero might appear to be submissive, by losing her pride and assertiveness, but to the hero the loss is small compared to the quieting of the unrest, and the return of love. My great regret is that sometimes I would hang on to my anger, instead of moving quickly into love. I certainly knew better, but I was selfish and stayed in my anger; no good ever came of that desire.
As the relationship grows into old age all the anguish of younger days seems to blow away, like smoke from a fire blown by the wind. You begin to see from a higher perspective and to become aware of your world as it really is, rather then how you want it to be, or not; remember there is a dark side to life and if you labored steadily in that realm you would have built a powerful web, difficult to untangle from, In Pema Chodron book , "Living Beautifully," she says, "All the wars, all the hatred, all the ignorance in the world comes out of being so invested in our opinions. And at the bottom, those opinions are merely our effort to escape the underlying uneasiness of being human; the uneasiness of feeling like we can't get ground under our feet." Also in Pema's book is a symbol related by one of her teachers, that intends to measure the quality of a human's life. The symbol is a black rectangle with pin wholes of light puncturing through the blackness. Each pin whole light represents an unconditional act of love. The measurement of the quality of a human's life is by the number of pin whole lights in relationship to the darkness. The greater number of pin whole lights the higher the quality of human life, and the lower number of pin whole light the lower is the quality of human life. May the power of your love puncture the darkness like the morning sun.