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a four hundred dollar bowl of soup

by kye on May 5, 2010

At this very moment I’m full of arugula, and tomato basil soup, and the awesome feeling of being an aliveness sitting here breathing.

My death is present here too.  It invites me to give what I can give at the moment.  Tonight what I could give was a note to the chef who made that beautiful soup and salad.  (The waiter came back later and said that things like that meant a lot, and the note was now posted on the back wall.)

Earlier today in Parabola I read this:

There is a story about a teacher who asked his students, “If I have five hundred dollars, and in the course of my life I give away four hundred dollars, how much do I have at the end of my life?”

The students eagerly answered, “One hundred dollars.”

“That’s what you might think,” the teacher said.  “But the deeper truth is that if I have five hundred dollars here on Earth, and I give away four hundred dollars, then at my death what I will have is four hundred dollars.  Because in the end, all you have is what you have given.” *

Because of those words, it came to me as I was eating that if I let the chef know how much his cooking mattered to me tonight, he would have, what he had given.  So I wrote the note with care, on thick paper I happened to have with me, to try to give him back the sense of specialness.

I don’t know what to call what I have right now, because of having written a note which shared exactly what that meal’s wonderfulness had meant to me. Whatever it is I’ve got, it’s worth a great deal more than four hundred dollars.

And the more I try to give it away, the more it grows.  It seems this kind of interest is compounded every moment!

* excerpted from John Robbins’ forthcoming book, The New Good Life


with each breath

by kye on May 3, 2010

The feelings of those who are caregivers to the dying can be challenging.  It’s important to have ways of working with these feelings and moving beyond them, rather than ignoring them.  When the feelings are dealt with, it liberates energy for coping with the situation, and evens out the ups and downs of daily life.

Here is an example of how it can look when I’m working, myself, with the feelings brought up in caring for my mother:

The last few weeks, sometimes I’ve been waking up breathing oddly.

I had thought maybe it had to do with limits that have been strained.  I cut back some, and the last several days my breathing had been fine when I woke.

Then this morning, there it was again.  So, I lay quietly in bed and began to explore it, curious.

It began to feel like some kind of fear.  I stayed inside the precise outlines of this funny-breath fear  …not swallowed up by it, but instead, experiencing it while also knowing that I am more than this sensation and this emotion.

It was what was here right now.  I also noticed more:  a sunny day with bright light pouring through the window; the sounds of traffic and birds; the feeling of lying in bed.  All this (and more) was my experience at that moment.

I began to notice that the exact way my breath was not releasing was not only an afraidness but was also a holding back of tears… the tears I had held back each time I went to see my mother, so that I wouldn’t distress her.   My body was faithfully holding those tears for me.

I let them flow as they wanted to.  My caring began to wake up and circle itself instinctively around my own back, comforting the teary one.  And now the curiosity became a tender ‘what’s wrong?’

In the presence of that tender attention my tearful funny-breathing fearful one could begin to open up about the fear.

…Oh!  It’s about my mother’s breathing!  She is having a tiny bit more trouble with her breathing now, and when she coughs her face looks pained.  I hadn’t realized how horrified I’ve been, watching her slowly losing her lung capacity.

I notice how afraid I am of suffocation, drowning, strangulation.  This fear is something I’ve carried with me going all the way back to birth and a cord-wrapped neck.   I’ve been laying this old primal fear on top of what’s happening with her.

My tenderness for the one who’s been carrying this, grows.

And now I remember what I actually saw yesterday.   She was asleep almost the whole time I was with her.  Except for when she coughed, her face looked very much at ease.

She never looked distressed.  I was still carrying the distress of a few weeks ago, mixed with my own primal fear.  But she was peaceful.  This teary one who was afraid for her, who had been on watch through the night with her… this one could rest from that particular labor.

My lungs opened, and I took a deep breath.

Right now I am breathing, I can breathe… and so can she.  What a shame it would have been to miss experiencing these precious breaths.


when words fail: quality of life at the end of life

April 20, 2010

As most of you know, my mother is somewhere in the process of dying.   When I first accepted medical power of attorney for her, we talked about how she would want me to make decisions for her. She wanted me to first consider her comfort and quality of life.  For her, quality of life […]

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you’re still brilliant

April 13, 2010

a joiku for my mother… Yes, you are brilliant. It’s not your mind that’s brilliant now, But your eyes, so direct.

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thanks for doing that

February 13, 2010

I just finished writing a thank you note to my mechanic.  The other night he spirited my cell phone out of a mysterious black hole under the driver’s seat. Why a thank you note for such a small thing?  …because he didn’t know the size of what he’d just done.  I wanted him to be […]

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rumors of my death are highly overrated

October 13, 2009

Last week I nearly lost my sister.  She was not a good candidate for surgery, in a life-threatening situation.  The hospital staff tried everything they could think of all week, to get the problem to resolve without surgery.  But it didn’t, and she was running out of time. So, Thursday night the surgeon went ahead.  […]

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raison d’etre

September 6, 2009

I turned fifty a couple of months ago. I feel younger than I have since I was a teenager, if by ‘feeling younger’ one means the feeling of one’s own vitality running high. But I don’t feel young. I’ve done too much; learned too much; lost too much. My father’s dead, my mother’s dying and […]

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