Posts Tagged ‘dying’

An elderly lady told me this week that she still feels like a young girl in her mind; it’s just her body that’s slowing down. My grandpa used to tell me, “I feel strong in my mind. I want to go outside and build something or go fishing, but my body just won’t let me.” Apparently it also happens in our youth more subtly, as the Navy Commander warned a young Top Gun named Maverick, “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” 

Listening to Springsteen this morning I caught a line I hadn’t really noticed before, 

“Let your mind rest easy, sleep well my friend
It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end”

Even if we find salvation, enlightenment, athletic prowess, or just a life well-lived, our bodies will betray us in the end, if our minds don’t go first. It’s just the way of nature. None of us get out of this alive, well not clinically speaking anyway.

Call me a Christian, a mystic, a romantic or an eternal optimist, but I believe we can live and die alive to life and to every moment. Jesus said, “even though he die, yet shall he live.” Some believe that’s about the next life, but it’s definitely speaking about this life too. He said, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” When Ram Dass talked about that verse, he said, “The trick is to die before you die, then you can really live.” To die to our selfishness, our small selves, our fragile egos, our isolation, our way. To die to our deception that old age, sickness, and death comes to everyone else but us. 

When we die in that way, then shall we live. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Rather than depress us, that simple truth wakes us up to the precious gift that life is, this day, this moment. 

Our bodies aren’t the enemy. We do what we can, when we can, and take care of them as best we can, but this is an awfully short ride in the big picture. Maybe it’s only a betrayal if you expected it to be otherwise. 

A response to a friend’s post at The First Morning on caring for his mother with Alzheimer’s: 

David, I don’t believe people can truly understand until they’ve been there too. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s also, but she appears to be further progressed than your mom. She is a shell of a person. Aside from eating when spoon fed, she is not far from comatose most of the time. It is painful and has taken its toll on my entire family, especially my grandfather. In many ways I too consider her to have already died, but she hasn’t, so we grieve but not fully. It’s sort of the funeral that never ends.

When I think of how long Nancy Reagan cared for “Ronnie,” I am convinced that she deserves consideration for sainthood. My family’s situation is not yours. This is my grandmother, not my mom. Like others in my family I can try not to think about it. My grandfather is there everyday. We don’t have to be. It’s a selfish means of coping. I cannot know exactly what you’re going through, but I empathize no less. I will offer my prayers for you and your family as well, but, truthfully, we don’t know how to pray at times like these.

Watching my grandmother slip away, as well as watching hospice patients and parishoners go through the long process of dying, throws what is left of my faith into a tailspin. Why? How? What? When? Life may have its sanctity but where is its dignity? Even then Jesus gives voice to our brokenness “why have You forsaken me?”

Knowing nothing else to say, having nowhere else to turn, we go in the name of the forsaken one and pray simply, “Have mercy.”