Visits with the Sick and Dying
The last time, I went into the small three story house in Queens, there was so much music and people coming in and out of the house, it was clear a celebration was going on. The house had so much energy and laughter, that no one seemed to remember or be concerned with death. Last week, when I back to the house. The place seemed a little smaller and everyone in the home moved a little slower. The delicate balance of supporting and caring for a loved one that is dying, was tiring and everyone wanted to be called out of the game and desperately needed a break.
The few months, consist of calls throughout the day but typically include “L, ____ fell or is the hospital, come if you can”. In the beginning, I used to ask, if they were ok, if they were still alive. Lately, I just left for the hospital. I realized that the last time that I got the call, I needed to know more. At that point, I was becoming numb and scared of what I was not feeling. How could life be so polar? How could it be that I was just waiting for this person to die? I thought maybe if I did not distance myself or provide care and support from far, maybe I would start feeling again for this person.
Somewhere in between grieving, being in denial and doing my own thing I fell on the floor in their home, crossed my legs and surrendered to my treasure chest. There was not A Rough Guide or Lonely Planet for watching a loved one die slowly. One of the places in this home that holds memories was the chest with photos. Thousands of photos and proofs from the seventies until early 2000s are in this piece of furniture.
Totally unorganized. Just like that persons life. Before, all the falls , this loved ones health was deteriorating. My memories of this person were so polar. Good, bad. Mean, happy. Young, old. Healthy, sick. Then I went into the treasure chest, the place that I went when I needed to cry, laugh or just think. Photos I had never seen before, things that I learned, things that I barely remember, were all there. They were documented and would be left behind even when this person was gone. And, at that moment, things were not so polar.
I woke them up and said “where was this taken?” Sure enough they remembered many of the details and closed their eyes and laughed a little and I held onto the pictures. After my visits, instead of focusing on the physical changes, their difficulty to breathe, their crankiness, or less than stellar updates from their doctors. I look at the new pictures, that I am starting to collect in my home, after visits with my family member who is dying a slow death.
~ by travelling womanists on July 21, 2014.