By Annie Stirling from the June 2010 Edition
As my joyful preparations for my own demise gain momentum, my wish for my Creator to release me from the grip of my torturous lungs becomes stronger and stronger. I am always surprised to be facing this dichotomy every morning when I wake up coughing with a fire in my chest and a willingness to do all that it takes to make me comfortable enough to stay in the gift of each moment.
I am amazed that so many of my friends and family think I should not WANT to die. It has become a family joke that I am just like our Mom who talked about dying for years even though the poor soul didn’t get to do so until she was 91. I have often decried a law that doesn’t allow us to be put out of our misery like we lovingly do for our pets. As I co-signed a contract with my landlady, Gloria and my friend,
Neil, that permits him to take over my apartment when I am gone, Gloria shed a tear and reminded me as does everyone in my adopted land of Mexico, death will come si Dios quiere (If God wishes).
Those who love me most, amaze me when they “should” on me these days. I “should” stop talking about dying”. I “should” get out more and live it up even though it takes days to recover from each outing.” I “should” not do so much.” I “should” practice what I preach and believe in the power of positive thinking”. I “should” walk more, do yoga more, exercise more, get more sun, eat more, take more pills, sleep more, talk less, do less…do more…write another book, close the door against visitors, put a sign up that says, “Do not disturb.” etc.etc. etc But strangest of all, I am told that I “should” not die any time soon.
I have two buddies here in Barra who are 24/7 on oxygen support also and both of them WANT to live on in spite of their challenges. I can only explain my wish to die by saying that although the one thing I know for sure is that I know nothing, I also feel certain that it is my body alone robbing me of the desire and perhaps the will to stick around.
If I didn’t have to suffer the agony that my lungs bring to me, I’m sure that I’d embrace life on this planet for years to come. Right now my lungs are burning and I am struggling to breathe. Someone is burning something in the kitchen below.
That’s the other thing. I have faith in one more certainty when I ask, “What happens when we do leave our bodies?” If the essence of me, (my spirit/soul) is just energy and energy doesn’t dissipate, it follows that life must keep showing up eternally albeit in a different shape or form. I can easily picture my soul
flying solo without the protection or even encumbrance of blood, flesh and bones.
Please understand that I am not ungrateful to my body. Although I’ve been sickly much of my life, my body has served me well for 76 years. Even my lungs have stood me in good stead simply by giving me the breath of life. Now that they’ve weathered too many pneumonias to count, mycobacterium avium, tuberculosis, pleurisy along with pericarditas, twenty some years of smoking and at present pulmonary fibrosis and bronchia stasis, my lungs are tired. They need to quit working for the sole purpose of keeping the rest of me alive.
Most of my body though aging is still strong. Through lack of exercise my legs and arms are weak of course but the grey matter that is my brain, while losing memory cells, keeps on inspiring me to write. My arthritic fingers and hands allow me to tap it all out on the keyboard and my aching bum and back support me on the bed most of the time to do my thing or sleep. When I read, write, google, watch TV, welcome guests or cuddle my Bichon, Timoteo, my failing eyes let me see and appreciate it all with the help of three sizes of eye glasses. My unaided ears are lulled by the ocean waves to inspire me while my still strong heart beats on. My appreciative taste buds still enjoy the tea and chocolate that satisfy my last remaining sin after lunch ever day. My tactile sense delights in the silken skin of my son, Jeh’s arm as I hold onto it for comfort and support in perhaps our last time together on this planet. He goes home next week. All my organs and other body parts though frail and less dependable are continuing to function to keep me here in this moment, even while anticipating the visit of my my daughter, Jan and my surrogate son, Rob.
I “should” address all those “shoulds” that I’m hearing. Of course they are simply echoes of my own inner judge:
1. “I should stop talking about dying.” In my experience, it is fear of the unknown that plagues us. When I consciously speakofdeath as part of the natural process of living, I am not afraid. Totell the truth, I am more afraid of living now when it means ongoing suffering.
#2. I “should” get out more and live it up even though it takes days to recover from each outing.” Though I love love love dancing and dining and socializing, it is becoming harder and harder to pull it off. I’ve given up sex as part of the natural process, why not all the other sensual delights? It takes so much energy every time I attempt a night out on the town. It is such a struggle to hang in. I see myself as becoming a drag for everyone I’m with.
Though obviously lovingly helping me just to get to and from places, they lend their arms and carry my plethora of paraphernalia (my portable oxygen tank, my plump little Timmy dog, my shawl or sweater and my bag full of meds, puffers, lozenges, Kleenex, prednisone and Melox). Every time I get to one of my favourite places now, I make it a point to enjoy every second while admitting that it will be my last time to even attempt to get there.
Recently I’ve gone to the Grand Bay to hear Trish and Gord perform; house parties at Wanda’s and Bill’s; Bananas and Roosters to satisfy Jeh’s enjoyment of having breakfast out by the sea; Maya’s restaurant to hear Simone and Michael sing; Sea Masters to hear Bonnie and Mark and Estrella for its opening. I even went for a wonderful cruise on Neil’s yacht to Tamarindo for lunch. I will be climbing the stairs to Sambuca for the third time this winter to celebrate Poet Bill’s birthday on Sunday. After each outing I promise myself I won’t be tempted ever again and when I break that oath, I live to regret it. While cherishing every moment of the experience…like an alcoholic drinking it all in with abandon, I am miserable the next day or even week. Sometimes I take codeine just to handle it all even though its side effects are nasty too. When my kids, Jan, Jeh or Rob or other loved ones are here, I tell myself it is worth it to push myself out of my bed but I am learning to accept the truth of my limitations and thereby avoid the consequences.
#3. I “should” practice what I preach and believe in the power of positive thinking. I wonder why people can’t think of death as something positive. Why wouldn’t the release from suffering be just as miraculous as birth is and as much of a relief as the end of labour pains? I am counting on thinking positively about death as an instrument of relief and release. What a joyful message to speak loud and clear to my Creator for Her to
lead me home. Trish and Gord tuned in loud and clear when they sang, “I wanna go home”.
A celebration of life often supersedes funerals now as the people’s choice. Last year, I chose to have my life celebrated by nearly four hundred guests on my 75th birthday with Bill’s gift of the funds to pull it off. For me to have given and received the LOVE while I could be part of it all was indeed an awesome blessing. Though it’s almost
mbarrassing that I’m still here for my 76th, it doesn’t need to be. Who cares WHEN the celebration comes as long as the incredible experience of having lived and loved is honoured and acknowledged especially while I’m still here to enjoy it. This year was special too as I got my film buff son all to myself to guide me through the Oscars on my birthday.
#4. I “should” walk more, do yoga more, exercise more, get more sun, eat more, take more pills, sleep more, talk less, do less…do more…write another book, close the door against visitors, put a sign up that says, “Do not disturb.” etc.etc. etc. I know all these “shoulds” to be lovingly coming from caring souls. I have however reached the stage that I am unconditionally accepting my choices as I go with the flow of my daily life and simply show up to each moment.
If it is too hard to push myself to do anything physical or when I know it will be debilitating to walk any distance, I just don’t. More and more often, I give in to napping or watching a film or answering e-mails when I “should” be doing yoga even though my yoga teacher is such an inspiration. I choose to stay cool rather than get all sweaty in my daily fifteen minutes of sun on the terrace. I make time and find energy for every visitor, remembering that there will be eight months of solitude when everyone flies home. When I choose to do yoga or meditate or sleep or just “be” instead of doing anything at all, I no longer have to “should” on myself or judge my choices. I have indeed started another book and have written some short pieces as well as long talks but I no longer feel anxious over not getting to share them or even finishing them.
After all, I learned years ago that I am a lovely, loving, loveable and loved lady living OR dying. Death in LOVE’S presence is surely only a powerful part of life. May our Higher Selves create an ongoing eternal bliss. “Ah sweet mystery of life at last I’ve have found you!” Death be allowed as part of it all. Give me one good reason why not.
Manzanillo Sun’s eMagazine written by local authors about living in Manzanillo and Mexico, since 2009