First it was my father-in-law, March 16th. Then it was the mother of one of my favorite clients, June 10th. Then my former mother-in-law, June 16th. And today, the father-in-law of one of my husband’s best friends.
We have entered that narrow passage of time during which our parents and elder relatives are disappearing into the mist. We’re all walking to the water’s edge, waving good-bye, as the tide recedes, and while it is out and we stand quietly, eyes on the horizon, we say to ourselves that we still have time to do what we need and want to do. But although the tide has pulled back from the shore and is moving away from us, lulling us into a state of calm, in our deepest selves we know that the direction will shift at some point, and the tide will eventually return, taking us with it.
Strange thing, mortality. In a few more months I’ll turn 57. When my dad was 59, he had open-heart surgery, a quintuple bypass. When my mom was about ten years older than I am now, we began to notice early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. And ten years after that, she was dead. Four years after that, and dad was gone, suddenly (thank god) stricken with what doctors refer to as a ruptured “triple A”– an abdominal aortal aneurysm.
My husband’s friend’s mother-in-law had been suffering from dementia for years, something the family had not been able to acknowledge. So her recent rapid decline in health–multiple UTIs, a heart attack–seemed to me to be clear signs of impending death. But even I was shocked to hear that she died this afternoon, less than a week after being discharged from the hospital. Thinking back on it, those medical events were surely distinct indicators that her body was shutting down. She was done. I’m sad for the family, but relieved for her. It must be something like being born, but in reverse. The powerful forces that push us into the physical, material world return for us, albeit invisibly, to pull us out. It’s hard work.
Blessings on all of these recently departed souls. And meanwhile, we must do our best to tend to the work of the living, with all of the loving-kindness and mindful awareness we can muster.
Peace to all.