Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Health and Wellbeing

The mind is the last to consent

Or, Semi-poetic thoughts about death and dying

The mind is the last to consent –
Alternative scenarios tease us
Surely this can’t be the end
Wispy threads dangle enticements
We could try this or look into that
Prayers for miracles multiply

Cheerful faces mask sad truth —
The patient is dying, yet anguish
And well-meaning hope sometimes
Impede consent to the obvious
Resulting in further digressions
That produce even more anguish

The end is upon each of us sooner
Not later, with or without goodbyes

To ‘give in’ to death may seem to be
Callous dismissal of those we love
Or loss of hope or lack of faith to
Demand of God great things with
Or without the patient’s consent

Worse, if I’m a medical person perhaps
Giving in means failure to do my job
Even though I may agree that this
Dying person is sick unto death and
We were not created to live forever
In these temporary earth-bound bodies

My hero when it comes to dying is my sister Diane. She chose to go on comfort care after living with ALS for ten years. When she learned she had ALS, she worked with trusted people to identify what she was and was not willing to endure, and where she wanted to die—at home.

Even so, in the end she had to consent to the criteria she herself had itemized. She had to communicate to her doctors and nurses, ‘Enough is enough.’ She also had to trust that those with power of attorney would honor her wishes.

So what does it mean for me to ‘prepare’ for death? At the least, it means living each day well, insofar as I’m able. Especially when it comes to self-care.

I wish that were enough. Unfortunately, given medical structures and practices here in the USA, it isn’t. If I want to avoid getting caught in an endless search for ‘health’ or extension of life, it’s up to me to take the initiative. This includes decisions, paper trails, agreements, and work with family and friends involved with my care and wellbeing.

I can’t do this alone. I’m reading books, and have family and a few friends with whom I can talk. Yet it’s up to me. Even so, there’s no guarantee my wishes and directives will be honored. We don’t always get to choose the time or manner of our deaths.

Blessings to each of you, and thanks so much for listening.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 June 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, Longwood Gardens, 12 June 2019

Longwood Beauties, June 2019 | Photos


I’m glad I’m not a debutante flower! It was definitely bee-courting season at Longwood. Not many butterflies yet, but more than enough buzzing bees and spectacular, multi-faceted even bizarre frocks on display. The bee above is coming in for a landing on a dahlia.

Herewith my prizes for the most unusual and beautiful look-at-me displays. Each is trying to outdo others in its class. The first two are in the outdoor desert garden area. Gorgeous colors and spikey warnings to stay away — unless you’re a bee. The third photo is a beautiful pot of succulents in waiting–not yet in bloom.

Moving on to the flower walk, here are a few more dahlias plus one bee that wanted to have its picture taken. The dark dahlia leaves were spectacular–a fitting backdrop for brilliant colors. Even the unopened flower bud in the second photo is gorgeous.


Mixed in with everything were flowering plants and grasses I didn’t recognize. I’d put them in the old-fashioned category–not the kinds of plants I see regularly in plant shops or grocery store displays.


The most abundant flowers in bloom were zinnias. Not the kind we used to grow in our yard when I was a child. The stakes and twine help them keep their heads held high.




I’ll do a later post on the meadow–alive with birds, bees and mid-June beauty.

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Monday!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 June 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 12 June 2019

Have we lost our way?

From the corner of my eye
They sailed by just outside
My kitchen window
Brilliant gold bodies rising
And dipping together
Through damp morning air
And today’s rain shower

Yesterday’s sunshine
Brilliant with gold petals
And fine feathers hovered
Gracefully in warm spring air
Drinking in the wonder
Of juicy insects and
The good earth’s bounty

Outside my window I hear
The soft chirp of birds
In earnest conversation
About nothing and everything
In general that birds love
To talk about behind our
Backs and without our consent

Is there salvation in nature?
Are we the only wise ones
Left on the face of the planet?
Or, heaven forbid, have we
Lost our way home to the
Meadows and ponds and
Buzzing of bees and insects?

Yesterday we took advantage of warm sunshine and breezes, and visited Longwood Gardens. This time we focused our energy on the Meadow, walking almost the complete perimeter. D took tons of photos, and I’ll have a photo post later.

In the meantime, I’m pondering how to take more dirt walks, as recommended by John Muir!

Happy Thursday! I’m glad to be back at it. Our granddaughters’ commencement and other wonderful activities here at home have just about sated me for social life. I miss regular writing and posting…..

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 June 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens Meadow, 12 June 2019

 

To the Gardener after reading Psalm 1

Your words, so beautiful to read,
Crush me beneath the weight of
Life already lived – a great muddle
Of garden-rich vegetables plus toxic
Stew of tongue and cheek hurled
My way, often from my own mouth.

At this age I’ve little left but memories,
Plus ever-present directives from
Well-meaning people and ill intentions
From the other kind. To say nothing of
My own sometimes distressed mind
And body seeking solace and reassurance
That I matter to somebody if not
To myself.

Here, then, is my request:
I long to start over as a small tree
Planted by rivers of clear, pure water,
Guarded and pruned by Your hands
Alone. If this is not possible, I would
Also settle for a long and lovely
Winter’s nap.

From one of Your elderly fans,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2019
Image found at JackMaxwellArt.com

Swimming together upriver

Swimming together
Upriver
Against tide and time
Searching for clues
Who am I?
Who are you?

Life dives deep
Takes us to depths
Unanticipated
Time runs short
Patience grows weary

A wise woman once told me
The best pearls
Are discovered
At the bottom
Of the river
Hidden and waiting
Eager to be found
Small gems worthy
Of a lifetime of
Living and dying

Reading and thinking about death has made me acutely aware that each day matters. Not that each day didn’t already matter. Still, I’m now more focused on each day than on each week, month or year. Especially when it comes to life with D. And, indirectly, with our children and their families.

When I look around at friends and family members, I see how many have lost spouses to death. We have time some of them didn’t have. So for right now, life is fiercely about the two of us. It isn’t about what might happen at the end, or how long we might have before death. Instead, it’s about the difference it makes today in our relationship when we read and talk together about death.

I grew up in a family that didn’t talk easily about death. The focus was always on the here and now–especially how to be a good girl and make the family proud. It was also usually about ‘them.’ That would be whoever just died, what she or he died of, how shocked or not shocked we are about this, and when the funeral will be held.

Of course these and other things are important. Yet I’m finding this discipline of reading and talking about death more encouraging than I expected. It isn’t always easy. Still, it’s a relief and an unexpected adventure.

So far we’ve barely scratched the surface. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to find a friend or family member and give it a try.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 June 2019
Double exposure taken accidentally the day we became engaged; Tybee Island Beach, Savannah, Georgia

Yesterday evening’s storms

Yesterday evening’s storms
Raged chasing downdrafts
Through lashing treetops
Caught off guard too late
For Hail Mary’s drowned by
Torrents of rain and thunder
Setting teeth and bodies
On edge

Racing to the attic
Our cat takes refuge
Beneath the bed and
Crouches wide-eyed
Between boxes of blankets
And soft pillows the stuff
Of comfort

Pink peonies flail in the
Back yard ripe for blooming
Yet tumble prostrate to the
Ground defeated without
Dancing in spring breezes
That arrived this morning
With bright sun and blue skies
As though nothing happened
Last night

Today was a quiet day spent on as few tasks as possible. My body thanks me. I fell asleep at the kitchen table this morning while pondering the poor peonies. To say nothing of thousands caught up in this spring’s wild tornado and flooding season, and last year’s fire storms on the West Coast.

No matter what you call it, we’re being challenged to think differently about our relationship to this planet. In my (sometimes) humble opinion, the planet we call home is talking to us bigtime right now.

Hoping for a less dramatic evening and night,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 May 2019

Small gifts of grace

On my way to the garage
A small thin cup-like piece
Of bird shell cracked and broken
Rests on our driveway
Beneath the holly tree
Where resident catbirds set up
temporary nesting quarters

Hours later and bone weary
I turn off the engine and hear
The unmistakable notes of a
Lullaby sweet and calming
Borrowed tunes full of grace
Soft and gentle from a catbird
Keeping watch from a nearby tree

I want to be a catbird when I grow up
Simple beauty singing made-up songs
Of quiet sometimes raucous joy
For everyone and no one in particular
Offering small benedictions to
Broken hearts and weary travelers
On their way from here to there

God bless us every one on this weekend of Sabbath rest and remembrance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 May 2019
Photo of a SE Pennsylvania Catbird found at reddit.com

Writing about Life and Death

Dear Friends,
I have death on my mind these days. Not without life. Yet it’s different, this discipline of writing about death.

Just over a week ago my Fitbit One fell into the toilet! No kidding. No resuscitation. And no easy replacement. I’ve used a Fitbit for approximately ten years. Never once did it jump into the toilet. Until now.

Alas! My faithful Fitbit One is no longer sold or actively supported by Fitbit. So I’ve moved to a lowly pedometer. It won’t produce the same data and analysis. It will, however, get me off my butt and moving every day.

My latest waking dream, posted with a poem called Portals, was also about big change. In the dream, I’ve left my familiar world and just arrived in a different space. It looks and feels like a transitional space. Think of an international airport only nicer. A place where people of all ages, races, nationalities and ways of life are mingling. I’m a beginner, yet at ease and happy to be there.

Here’s something else that’s happening. I’m playing the piano more often and enjoying it more. In the dream I find a room brimming with children singing, and adults out in the hallway singing along with them. I didn’t want it to stop.

Which reminds me of my visits with Diane. Each time I visited, I cried when it was time to leave. Every visit held moments of beauty, pain, and deep connection. Saying goodbye was painful. I didn’t want to leave because Diane might die before I returned.

That’s similar to the way I feel about playing the piano. It’s a sign that beauty hasn’t vanished from my life. Nor will it. Just as long as I stay ‘close to the bone’ and keep telling the truth. Even if I’m not able to play the piano anymore.

In the meantime, I want to know how all of this will play out in my writing. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says this:

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.

© Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, p. 3, published by Pantheon Books in 1994

One thing is certain. Each of us will die sooner or later. I want to walk and write toward death truthfully and with intention, open to voices of others, and especially open to my own voice and experiences along the way.

Thanks for listening and visiting!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 May 2019
Photo found at messynessychic.com

Conversations on Loving and Dying

Diane is on my mind these days. Sister #3 of four daughters. She died of ALS after 10 years of learning to live with it and with death. During this time I visited her regularly, and witnessed a chain of small and large deaths. Game-changers.

Muscle movement died off bit by bit. Some capacities disappeared overnight. This was death in life, taken in a thousand small and large bites. When she died, she was barely able to move her eyes and eyebrows—keys to communicating with family members and caretakers.

What does it mean to die? I don’t believe Diane died just on the day she never woke up. She died a thousand times over on the way from here to there. She learned to embrace and live with death. Sometimes with gusto. Other times with anguish and anger.

Recently D and I started reading and talking about Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying. It’s by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush. Ram Dass had a stroke about 20 years ago, and is still learning to live with death. His friend Mirabai Bush spent time with him talking about death, and then helped bring this book to life.

The book invites us into conversation about questions we often ignore. Especially conversation with the person we’re most likely to be with when we die. Call it getting ready to die by learning to let go of what holds us back.

Recently I wrote a poem about numbering my days. It takes wisdom to number our days. I can’t pretend death is way off in the distance. I don’t know when it will come. I do, however, know I need wisdom to make choices. What will I do and not do right now, given the time I have today?

Diane is my heroine for this kind of wisdom. She numbered her days. She decided what she would and would not do in the time she had left, and what would signal the end—time for comfort care until she died.

I don’t have ALS. Still, I have fewer years to live today than I had yesterday, and at least two health issues that will likely contribute to my death.

I’m relieved I’ve begun these conversations with D. They aren’t always easy. They are, however, always productive.

As always, thank you for visiting and reading. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write from my heart. No matter where it finds me on any given day.

Elouise♥ 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 May 2019
Image found at amazon.com

Lost

Aching for a day of rest
Quiet time. Down time.

I’m lost. Uncentered and
Unfocused. Getting through
Each day as I’m able without
Much structure or sense of
Movement. The world feels
Heavy tonight. I want to
Shut it out yet cannot.

Weather. Politics. Disasters
In the making. Addictions to
Addictions. Things falling
Apart display the seamy
Side of life and how little we
Understand where, how or
Why we’re going or not
Going.

Blatant. It’s not hidden
Anymore. No filters to drown
Out today’s terror or tomorrow’s
Warring madness. Caught
Without a plan or the humility
Of guidance or signs of care
For real people not on the
Power grid.

Then again, it isn’t new or
All that different than my
Post-WWII childhood. Just more
Open. Unapologetic. In my face
Like that horror movie I never
Paid to see.

They say we should hope.
I say hope is hopeless minus
Action. Yet here I am. Old.
Not sure I have it in me to
Resist injustice no matter
Where and when it’s found.
Help me find my way home.
I think I’m lost.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2019
Image found at wnycstudios.org

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