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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Observing The Other Side Of Life

"I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit."
~ Dawna Markova

I don't believe in Death, but in rebirth. Even still I can not help but feel helpless and full of grief when I visit aging relatives, terminally ill family/friends, or attend funerals. In fact, I am afraid of these situations, not because I am afraid of death, but rather afraid of the feeling of helplessness that overwhelms me when I am faced with it.

Yoga teaches us that we are all connected, what I do to/for you, I do to/for myself. I know this to be true for me, but when there is nothing I can do to help and am left with the position to "watch" the aging, illness, dieing, or what have you, I tend to avoid these situations. Avoidance=Guilt as I resist what I am observing.

Today I sit and blog because I am procrastinating having to travel to a funeral for someone on one side of the family and visit my aging Aunt and Grandparents on the other side of the family. To top this off, I'll be seeing a dear friend who's light is almost gone from her eyes due to substance abuse and care-taking of a child who may not live past age 7.

In most situation I am a helper, not an observer. I tend to observe and follow with action.

In the situations above I feel helpless and I become the observer fraught with guilt.

I went to my 1st funeral in Kindergarten for a neighbor named Mr. Purty. I did not understand what that meant, I just knew he was no longer there when I walked over for a visit. Around this same time I found a dead squirrel and I tried to bring it back to life, but could not, so I buried it, just like they did Mr. Purty.

I come from a huge family, so I have since been to many funerals and hospitals and I prefer the ones where they celebrate the life of the person rather than focus on the death. These deaths have all been due to age and I wonder if they lived like the quote above? That is worth celebrating.

I have also had 3 friends die very young from cancer or complications from surgery due to cancer. One was one of my best friends from high-school & Freshman year roommate in collage. I traveled from Dallas to Houston to see this friend in the hospital and finally when she was at home on hospice. I remember clearly sitting with her parents and them planning her funeral while she lay in the next room, while they should have been planning a wedding or some other event for a young twenty-something. I also remember clearly reading the "do not resuscitate" papers on the kitchen counter. I wanted to run away from this. The last thing I did for her was spoon feed her a dream-cicle flavored snow cone (she died two days later). The other two were twins of a friend I consider family. The first twin was actually present when my friend above died. Right after she died he found out he had cancer and died within a few months. I went to see him in the hospital several times too. I will never forget the face of his mother at his funeral or the screams she let out over his coffin. His twin became ill with the same cancer his twin had a couple of years later and then passed from complications of surgery. I had not seen the family in years when I attended the second funeral, but his mother had the same look in her eyes and tremble in her body when she hugged me. The brother of the twins (one of my dearest friends) felt helpless and guilty through each brother's illness. He too struggled with just observing.

So, here I sit reflecting on the many deaths I have witnessed and realize that I have the same feeling at each funeral, whether I knew the person well or not. Is it because I have always believed death to be more of a re-birthing, even when I was raised to think otherwise? If I believe this, then why do I feel the need to move beyond Observer to more of a care-taker position? Why do I embrace guilt as a punishment for my lack of care-taking abilities?

As for aging and my Grandparents and my Aunt, every time I see them I feel sad and helpless. My inner child remembers them differently and wants them back the way they were. My Grandparents helped raise me and my Aunt never had children, so she always treated her nieces and nephews as her own. I adopted her an as an honorary Grandmother years ago. Last time I saw my aunt in the retirement home she said,"Get me out of here!" and then bit me. I left (without her) telling myself I would never go back. I am going back tomorrow and she is in even worse shape now and has since moved to a nursing home. My Grandparents are a whole other story, but when I see them I am happy-sad for lack of a better word. I could help them so much more, but I choose not to. Observer guilt setting in.

In any case, it is time to stop procrastinating while I live a life I can be proud of. I am proud of myself for facing my fears for the next few days and my intention is to be okay with being the observer. I'll do my best.


T said...

You got it sweetie!

I remember at my dad's memorial service, everyone kept saying, "Its weird that he's gone."

Yes, it is weird because he is not gone.

Our spirits continue on and though it is difficult to witness a spirit in transition, we must remember that it is the body that is struggling. The spirit knows its peace and remains there until the body gives up its fight.

Love you. I will be thinking of you.

Yoga Poet said...

finally had time to read this. Sorry you had to go through all that. I agree with T. I think as long as you carry on the thoughts and memories of a person they will live with you always.

You are stronger than yo know De.