Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dying with Grace and Dignity

There are days when one feels particularly alive -- I hope you know what I mean.

Strange that today was one of those days for me, since I've been down, down with acute bronchitis and some asthma.

M called me Sunday to let me know that J was near death. M and J are two older women from my previous church, two older women who 'adopted' me, mentored me, loved me. Toward the end of my time at this previous church, when things were extremely stressful and it seemed that mean-spirited people might prevail, M and J and I began meeting every week for prayer. Prayer. Prayer. Prayer. Those meetings sustained me, nourished me, gave me strength to carry on for what I believed was right.

Today I decided to visit J before I went to work, to tell her goodbye. (Such a blessing that she is able to die in her own home, on hospice. ) I entered her room. She lay there on the hospital bed they'd brought in for her, her face turned toward the door. She's somewhere in that netherland between life and death, unconscious -- or perhaps not completely. I don't know. Her mouth open, the death rattle reminded me of other losses, other deaths.

The nurse came in, so S (the lovely woman, also from my previous church, who is staying there in JC's house during this time) and I went to the living room to talk. When J arranged for S to stay there, knowing she was dying, she told her several times, "S, I want to die with grace and dignity. That's all I ask of you."

And S is exactly the kind of person to help her do that. She is guardian of JC's grace and dignity during these last hours.

I wish I had made more time to visit with JC. I know she wanted me to. She visited me at my current church a couple of times, just to "see your face, Katherine. I just want to see your face," she said. She loved me so much.

Damn this busyness. Oh, dear God. I should've made more time for dear, dear J.

She was a poet, you know. Beautiful poetry that she would type out for me on an old typewriter and give me a copy. Poetry about life and God and love, but also about troublesome bunny rabbits in her backyard garden. Hilarious, rich, earthy poetry.

When S and I went back to J's room again, I said a prayer, thanking God for this angel on earth, thanking God for allowing me to know her, for the way her heart yearned for God and for the example that was for me. I held her, and I kissed her sweet face one last time.

I don't know. I have carried this early-morning experience with me all day, perhaps made more powerful by this pervading sickness in my lungs through which I have to push through just to draw a breath of any depth. JC's breath is leaving her body. I am working to breath this day. Somehow, the symmetry there seems ... helpful to me in some way I can't quite articulate. I have felt so open this day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The sin of our time

I'm feeling very low today. No surprise. When I'm sick it's hard to stay "up."

Tired of being sick. No energy. Tired of worrying worrying worrying about cat dander and its effect on my lungs. Probably dust, too. I need to hire someone to clean the house for me.

There's a lot to be grateful for, I know. I'm just not going there right now. :-)

I want to rant and rave, but, luckily, I'm kinda too tired.

Slept until 10 a.m.
Watching football right now--well, sort of. D is asleep in his recliner and I'm [obviously] blogging. Tried to read a bit earlier today. Got about 30 pages into For Whom the Bell Tolls, and then feel asleep.

I really need to reevaluate the way I live. I do. I said 'yes' to teaching at Brite out of loyalty to the school--wanting to help when it's short handed, and, I admit, a little ego that I was asked. It's been a fabulous experience so far, and I'll continue on through the Spring (teaching Grief and Loss), as I said I would. I'm not sorry about the decision I made. What a gift to be able to influence future ministers. I love it.

But it's also taking its toll. No denying that.

I'm just too busy...the sin of our time, and I am guilty. No question about it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yes, our "culture of cruelty"

With a hat-tip to Jan at Yearning for God, here is Bill Moyers, who takes the words right out of my mouth:

September 4, 2009 BILL MOYERS:
The editors of THE ECONOMIST magazine say America's health care debate has become a touch delirious, with people accusing each other of being evil-mongers, dealers in death, and un-American. Well, that's charitable. I would say it's more deranged than delirious, and definitely not un-American.

Those crackpots on the right praying for Obama to die and be sent to hell — they're the warp and woof of home-grown nuttiness. So is the creature from the Second Amendment who showed up at the President's rally armed to the teeth. He's certainly one of us. Red, white, and blue kooks are as American as apple pie and
conspiracy theories. Bill Maher asked me on his show last week if America is still a great nation. I should have said it's the greatest show on earth. Forget what you learned in civics about the Founding Fathers — we're the children of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak show was the forerunner of today's talk radio.

Speaking of which: we've posted on our website an essay by the media scholar Henry Giroux. He describes the growing domination of hate radio as one of the crucial elements in a "culture of cruelty" increasingly marked by overt racism, hostility and disdain for others, coupled with a simmering threat of mob violence toward any political figure who believes health care reform is the most vital of safety nets, especially now that the central issue of life and politics is no longer about working to get ahead, but struggling simply to survive.

So here we are, wallowing in our dysfunction. Governed — if you listen to the rabble rousers — by a black nationalist from Kenya smuggled into the United States to kill Sarah Palin's baby. And yes, I could almost buy their belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, only I think he shipped them to Washington, where they've been recycled as lobbyists and trained in the alchemy of money laundering, which turns an old-fashioned bribe into a First Amendment right.

Only in a fantasy capital like Washington could Sunday morning talk shows become the high church of conventional wisdom, with partisan shills treated as holy men whose gospel of prosperity always seems to boil down to lower taxes for the rich.

Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him. No one's ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying "pretty please" to the guys trying to cut your throat. Let's get on with it, Mr. President. We're up the proverbial creek with spaghetti as our paddle. This health care thing could have been the crossing of the Delaware, the turning point in the next American Revolution — the moment we put the mercenaries to rout, as General Washington did the Hessians at Trenton. We could have stamped our victory "Made in the USA." We could have said to the world, "Look what we did!" And we could have turned to each other and said, "Thank you." As it is, we're about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis.

I mean, this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity. As we speak, Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, has been fined a record $2.3 billion dollars as a civil and criminal — yes, that's criminal, as in fraud — penalty for promoting prescription drugs with the subtlety of the Russian mafia. It's the fourth time in a decade Pfizer's been called on the carpet. And these are the people into whose tender mercies Congress and the White House would deliver us?

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug
and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company's share price and profits.

Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website talkingpointsmemo.com. He's a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He's
offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan — one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you're 65? Check it out, Mr. President. This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.

That's it for the Journal. I'm Bill Moyers. See you next time.

Exactly. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more caving in. Go for it, Mr. President. Go for the difference that will actually make a difference.

I love and admire Bill Moyers. Always have. Always will.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Last night

I'm in my office, checking blogs and email and facebook. The fans are whirling, so I'm nice and comfortable. My office...oh, it's beautiful, filled with so many things that remind me of people I love and work that engages me in the depth of my being.

David is in the shower. Since he got home from church this morning, he's been working on restoring his old bicycle, and then he just finished mowing the lawn.

All the kids are in City to the South today, visiting their mom and step-dad in celebration of Beautiful Genuine Girl's birthday. She turned 19. Last night everyone was here celebrating her birthday....

Our gathering around the dinner table was warm...siblings reconnecting...little Morgan (3 yo) so happy that we were having a birthday party (even if it wasn't her own!)....BGG's best friend J part of the family....David cooking one of his signature dishes--mushroom meatballs over rice (yummy!).... Lovely Passionate Feminist talking to her sister-in-law, Inherently Irrational Rationalist, for over an hour after everyone else had moved to the living room for a movie...BGG ostensibly watching the movie with us but really playing with her new phone (birthday gift).

David and I went to bed at 10:30, leaving the youngsters to themselves.

We slept well...

...with happy memories of a very good day....

True Tears

From Lynne Baab's "A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths at Midlife":

Esther de Waal writes about the sense of guilt that bedeviled her childhood, the sense of never being good enough, of failing again and again in trying to measure up. In the Celtic tradition there is none of that kind of self-focused guilt. Instead, she notes that in the Celtic poems and songs "I have found sorrow, deep sorrow, many tears, a real outpouring of grief, but it is never turned in on itself, never the kind of sorrow that becomes inward, self-destructive guilt, feeding on itself. Tears, as I learn them from the Celtic Christian tradition, are never what so often my own tears become: tears of rage or of self-pity, tears of frustration, tears because I have put my own self at the center of the picture and feel that I have not received the treatment that I deserve--the tears of a child, in fact, for whom 'life isn't fair.'.....But true tears are those of real, deep personal sorrow, of repentance, that lead to the determination to change."

And I would add that true tears are those evoked by beauty, by goodness, by profound truths, as well as by deep personal sorrow and repentance.