Sunday, May 29, 2016

Walk with Death

My walk this morning led to some rather deep thinking about life and death.  My husband has always said we are attached to this life by a thin narrow, invisible thread holding us from the top of our head.  At any moment or at any time this thread could snap and we would be here in this place no more.  From the time I can remember I have thought about death.
  As a child I never worried about my own death but was very concerned about the death of my mother.  I loved her so much and just did not feel I could ever go on without her.  In fact I used to pray in my evening prayers that God would let her live until I was at least thirty years old.  I thought by then I would be more grownup and better able to accept her death.  My prayer was not realized and she died of acute leukemia when I was only 21.  I was totally devastated.  I was in India for the first time and we were to stay for 3 weeks.  We had planned to go upstate to visit mama and daddy before we went to India but at the last minute before going changed our plan.  I felt it would stretch our finances too much so decided to wait until we came back.  In the middle of our third week in India I woke with a nightmare.  I told my husband I could never move to India to live because I could not leave my mother.  In my dream she was dying and I could not leave her.  The next morning we received a telegram that mama was extremely ill in Strom Memorial Hospital in Rochester N.Y.  We had no home phones in the house in Bangalore at that time so my family there hailed auto rickshaws.  The men of the family ( Srini, his dad, and his two brothers), and I, went to the Bangalore Telegraph and Telephone office.  It took forever but we were finally able to get connected to the Hospital.  I asked for the room of Margaret Pierce and was told she had died a few hours earlier.  I asked how she had died, and was told they could not give out that information over the phone; even if I was a daughter calling from abroad.  I then asked to have either my father or sister paged, which they did. They had already left the hospital. To make a long story short I could reach neither my father or sister at their homes.  Srini called Pan American World Airlines and arranged for us to leave Delhi the next day for NYC. He then called the local airline to book an evening flight. to Delhi.  We went back to the house, cried, packed, and left for the airport.  Srini's family were absolutely wonderful and his Mom and sisters cried with me as they helped me pack.
When we reached New Delhi, PanAm put us in first class for the flight home, which made 5 stops in 5 different countries.   I was sick with nausea and bathroom issues and crying jags so it was a blessing we were in first class near the bathroom.  When we finally landed in New York on Sunday morning I called my father and learned the funeral for Mama was the next day.  Srini booked a flight for us to Massena N.Y. for the first flight Monday morning.  My Father and Uncle Jerry picked us up at the airport there and drove directly to the funeral in Potsdam.
I subsequently learned Mama developed a very sore throat three days after we left for India.  a blood test showed her white blood cells were extremely high.  They rushed her by ambulance to Strom Memorial and she died there a week later.  As near as we could calculate with the time difference, it was at the time of my nightmare.  
 From this earth shattering experience, for me, I learned  all the praying in the world could not stop or delay death  The thread could break at any moment, and our happiest moments could become part of our worst nightmares.  The difference between life and death is a moment in time and we have to try and make the best of that moment.  I also learned you can live beyond the death of a beloved.  I grieved very hard for at least six months.  I cried, had nightmares, gained weight, quit the job I had, let myself go........all the worst things people do when they grieve.  Srini tells me he hardly recognized me during this time.  All my joy was gone.  Eventually I came back but I never tried to hold as tightly to anyone again.  I knew they could and indeed might leave, so I tried to prepare myself to let them go.  Mama always said " if you really love someone, you love them enough to let them go".
 I have lost many people I loved since that time in my life and it never is easy.  What I have tried to do, especially now that I am older, is enjoy even more the moments I have with those I love.  I try to forgive their and my own idiosyncrasies, and honor and love who they really are.  I really do try to enjoy each day for what it holds and do not have a very long bucket list.  I have done and do what I most enjoy each day and if this makes me a little lazy then damn the torpedos which might be thrown against me.