Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Death and Dying

Born to Die


Teach us to number our days;
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12, New International Version

I can’t help thinking these days about a theme in the gospels. Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. Not for political fame or religious adulation, but to die. He seemed to know what it meant to number his days.

Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem
Stubborn and determined
Abrasive and unconventional
Observant and angry
Weary and compassionate
Single-minded and welcoming
With his face set toward Jerusalem
From the beginning
Born to die sooner not later

I’m used to celebrating Jesus’ life and all the good and challenging things he said. I’m not so accustomed to celebrating his dogged, stubborn, insistent daily orientation toward death.

Jesus of Nazareth didn’t just happen to fall into the hands of his political and religious enemies. He knew who would betray him, yet didn’t try to stop him. Instead, he sent his betrayer out to do the deed. He met death straight on. Just as he was. Without machines of warfare, without fame or fortune, and without an army of loyal supporters.

“Teach us to number our days.” It’s a tough standard. I’d rather add to my days. Pretend it won’t happen to me today. Or that I’ll die in the best of circumstances.

We live in a time of global and local upheaval. Everywhere. What does it mean to set our faces toward death? I think it would mean setting our faces differently toward each other and toward nature.

I could sit back and say what will be, will be. The future isn’t mine to see. Still, what does it mean to number my days? And how does this change the way I live in the present, no matter how long it is before I die?

Writing about death (instead of ignoring it) is comforting. It’s also challenging. My hope is that the challenging part will bring more joy, gratitude, empathy and compassion into my life. Not just for myself, but for family members, friends, neighbors and strangers. We’re all in this together, though strangely alone in our deaths.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 April 2019
Photo found at nateholdridge.com

Before I die

In November 2013 I wrote the following opening and closing lines of Why This Blog?

I need to say some things out loud before I die. I’m not knowingly staring death in the face, yet I know my days are numbered….If I don’t tell the truth about my life, I will die inside. I want to live, and I want my children and grandchildren to live.

I didn’t know it then, but this blog isn’t just about the truth of my life as I’ve experienced it. It’s also about my death. Not that I know the day and hour. I don’t. Still, it’s closer now than it was in November 2013—the month before I published my first post.

I just searched my posts. So far, not by conscious design, I’ve written about death 175 times (out of 1398 total). It seems I can’t let this topic go.

I find writing about death is comforting. I didn’t grow up in a family that talked easily about death or dying. Nor have I been part of a community or church that focused on this, especially as part of life.

I’m not a morbid person by nature. I am, however, keenly aware of my mortality. Not just because of my age and health issues, but because of the increasing disruption and unpredictability of life on this planet.

So what does it mean to die? Not just at the end of life, but along the way from here to there. And how does that change my daily choices and relationships? Especially with my family members, beginning with D.

These are a few things on my mind these days. Which is another way of saying I’ll be posting more pieces about death. I’ll also post other things as well–my take on the current state of affairs in the USA, photo posts from adventures with D, poetry, the occasional report about life with Smudge, and whatever else wants to be written.

Thanks to each of you for visiting, reading, and sharing your experiences from time to time.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 April 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser in the Portland Rose Garden

Searching for what we’ve lost

Sit with it
Let it sink in
Recall the day and hour
The occasion

Sounds and faces
Sunday meeting clothes
Dressed up but not too much
For his memorial service

It’s already late in the day
Hungry for time
We linger with each other
Searching for what we’ve lost

Are we ready for this
What will we do now
His passing long anticipated
Sinks with the setting sun

How are you
I’m so glad you came today
I thought this nightmare
Would never end

Written after I looked at family pictures from my father’s memorial service. I wanted to distract myself and stop the tears that welled up. Instead, I decided to write it out.

My father’s dying was long and tormented. Chiefly due to his stubborn insistence on doing things his way, even though his body wouldn’t go there anymore. I often wished he had gone first, before my mother. But that didn’t happen. He was 96 years old. I was 66. The year was 2010.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 August 2018 

ready for harvest


Ripe and ready for harvest
The meadow lies before me
Still standing yet stripped
Of all but essentials

The sum of my present life
Waits for release into new life
Seeds dropped here and there
With no guarantees

There is no cure for death
The goal toward which
Every heartbeat has driven me
The home for which I long

I feel only loneliness and sorrow
At leaving behind loved ones
And this beautiful threatened world

D took this photo on our last visit to Longwood Gardens. No more stunning meadow flowers, and not so many joyous birds and butterflies. Instead, it’s full of late term life, ready to give its well-aged beauty to anyone willing to spend time looking and listening.

It isn’t as perky as it was just a month ago. Still, it isn’t ugly, or a sign that all is lost. Rather, it’s a sign that life is brief and fragile, and that it’s important to love it while we have it. One way or another, death comes to each of us sooner or later. With or without time for last goodbyes or heartfelt conversations.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 November 2017
Photo taken by DAFraser, 28 October 2017
Daily Prompt: Panacea

The patient

The patient lies dying
Body wasting
Skin pale and taut
lethargic eyes stare
from hollowed out sockets
Faded remnants of life born in hope
disappear in deep shadows

A priest garbed in vestments
stands before a makeshift altar
Demeanor and voice concentrated
on the proper order of things
His hands grasp the sacrament of life
hanging heavy in this cramped space

A young altar boy looks on
Head and eyes slightly averted
Hands clasped close to his chest
Sad eyes try not to stare

Filtered through a small window
dying light descends into the room
touching the patient’s Madonna-like robe
with a gleaming halo of grace
This is somebody’s beloved child
Fragile and sick unto death
Beyond hope of survival
Now the center of attention
Seated in a chair of royal honor

Tender looks and hand of a caregiver
Rest lightly on the young child
A man sits in shadows
Body bent in despair
Head slumping on his hand
A small dog sits on his lap
Looking on with downcast eyes
The priest’s voice continues

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 August 2017
Painting found at Wickipedia
1888 Painting by Venezuelan artist, Cristóbal Rojas (1857-1890)
Rojas died of tuberculosis about 5 weeks before his 33rd birthday. 

Letting go my desire for survival

I’m missing the routines
that keep me steady
and grounded.

Living moment to moment—
So happy to be with her again,
my daughter.

A little off-balance in my daily life—
Grateful for a quiet mid-day
so I can write, eat, be with myself and rest.

The rain has stopped and the sky is brighter.
Still feeling the edge of cold damp air
on my hands, legs and torso—
Wore my wool undershirt today
and flannel-lined jeans.

I want to mother her—
The thought of end-of-life stuff
gives extra meaning and urgency to our visits.

Have I been faithful to her?
Always such a distance to travel
for such a small bit of time.

Is it time to practice letting go—for good?
Whatever that means—
I’m not sure.

I’ve never done this before.
Neither has she—
So many unknowns.

It’s hard to see through tears.

Just being alone for a few hours in this house
feels sad—too empty,
too quiet.

What will it be when she isn’t here—
Or when I’m not here?….

***

I wrote this journal entry during a recent week-long visit with our daughter and her husband. Our first visit with them since I learned I have Chronic Kidney Disease. Surprisingly, the words sing to me–sweetly and sadly. No rushed or distressed cadence. Just the leading edge of a reality unknown to me as a mother.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 May 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Survive

Don’t lose heart!

Renewal: urban renewal, spiritual renewal, book renewals (from the library), renewed vision, renewed strength, and renewed energy.

A-ha! Renewed energy! I long for it, yet experience it these days in tantalizing bits that often dissipate overnight.

From the day I was born in 1943, I began dying. Stranger still, everyone around me thought I was just revving up. Maturing. Developing. Becoming a mature, responsible adult woman.

Which means on my way to death. Right?

No one lasts on this earth forever. How dismal can it get? I’m not a pessimist, but I’m also not a gung-ho optimist, so finding my balance from day to day is dicey.

My tock is ticking down. Relentlessly.

Yet I feel more myself than ever before. More at peace with who I am, if not at peace with everything that happens to me. And yes, I want to be renewed. Who doesn’t?

Renewal hurts. Something has to go. Or be altered. Even then, renewal isn’t guaranteed. Especially if I think I’ll get back what I just lost. So that my life can go on ‘as usual.’

Things falling apart is usual. Making do is usual. Total restoration of all bits and pieces of me is neither usual nor guaranteed in this life.

This past year, things fell apart. Unexpected visitors (heart problems, broken jaw, Lucy pacemaker) moved in to stay. When I’m willing to stop, accept, and listen to them, they free my spirit and my writing voice in ways I don’t understand.

So I haven’t lost heart, and I pray you haven’t either. For me, renewal is happening alongside things falling apart internally and externally. Especially renewal of my inner-woman voice that leaps out of my fingers when I sit down at my computer.

Thanks for reading and listening!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 December 2016
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Renewal

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P1110687

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