Learning to Let Go
2010 May 21 - 24
Created by Tom on 08/05/2010
Monday, May 24. 2010
The experiment with Marinol (the legal marijuana derivative for nausea) was a disaster. Not only did it not relieve Karen's nausea but it probably contributed to a nosedive in her mood and to some new pains. For over 24 hours she was as depressed as I've ever seen her, and hospice didn't help. They are there to make you comfortable, not happy. She went back on her regular anti-nausea (etc.) meds and slept for nearly two days, while I retreated again for most of that time back home to Walnut Street Co-op and stayed in bed most of the time, very depressed myself. I have failed to find a way for her to be awake and alert enough to get the things done she wanted to get done and to communicate with all the people with whom she wanted to communicate and who wanted to communicate with her.
I finished Thomas More's "Utopia" and picked up Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control", which has been oddly helpful.
So I have been busy trying to let go. Letting go of taking Karen outside in her wheelchair, and letting go of her making sensible decisions about eating that won't upset her stomach; I can talk about these things with her, but nothing comes of them. Letting go of the consciousness and intentionality of her dying, that we had talked about and planned for years; it is now just creeping up on her. Letting go of her unshared wishes for what to do with her possessions; I'll manage as best I can as the time comes. Letting go of her further interviews with Les for his write-up of her life, and of the hospice volunteer who videos the life stories of people in hospice; Karen can't muster the attention, and scheduling practically anything is out of the question, since she is so seldom and unpredictably "present". Letting go of the Karen I knew who was sharp and clear, even though often in a different universe from mine and thinking out loud down nonlinear paths; she was There and now, more often than not, she is Gone. Letting go of all my wishes for her and my thoughts about what should happen and what would be best, and moving into whatever happens. The I Ching tells me to find my center and Stop; it tells me conditions are not good for any forward motion.
What I have left with Karen after all this letting go is fragmented conversations and holding. Holding, cuddling, is the bottom line. It is where we went for over two decades whenever our differences were too painful to even talk with each other (thank you, Jay-Lyn, for this gift). And now, as talking breaks down for a totally different reason, hugging and holding are still there, offering connection.
So now is the holding pattern. I plan to start looking over her stuff, preparing to distribute the things in her life to people known and unknown. The sense of dispersal of the life-pattern that was Karen is becoming more vivid. It brings to mind my own death and what it will be like for my stuff to be dispersed; the disturbance I feel in that is a great lesson in misplaced attachments and identity, as well as a cautionary tale to be prepared, not to wait until I am in a fog before I make decisions about what should go where.
As I complete this note at 10:30 pm, Karen awakens from a nap. "What a strange dream! I dreamed that it was a dream that I couldn't eat what I wanted. And I was so relieved to wake up and find it was just a dream. And then I realized that it isn't a dream. I CAN'T eat what I want!" She was famished and wanted something "real". I read off what's in our food drawer -- meal replacement shakes, baby food, instant mashed potatoes, hard candy, soft candy, banana, chicken noodle soup.... She chooses the soup and I open the can and strain it. The noodles are big and twisty; I give her one to test, to make sure she can and will chew it up really well; it would really jam things up if she didn't. She says she can. I put the noodles one by one into the soup, remove all the celery and chicken, push the carrots through the strainer and ring for the nurse's aide to heat it up. Karen relishes it while I comment on how important it is that she really pay attention and chew the noodles well. I'm almost sweating; I've walked her to the edge of the cliff to see the view; what if she slips and falls.... Talk about letting go!! We make it through that meal and she feels better but comments on how surreal her mind is, how confused, how she can't get things sorted out and thought through. I commiserate and we get ready for bed....
But no, she's going to read some newspapers. I'm going to go to bed, turning it all over to what Grace there is...