Why it’s Good to Say Goodbye to Life.

Via on Sep 11, 2013
Photo: Wonderlane on Flickr.

There’s no way I could’ve known eleven hours beforehand it would be the last time I’d see her alive.

I normally didn’t visit her on Tuesdays, but my intuition told me to go earlier in the week, not to do her hair, but just to talk.

We had a date every Friday. I’d wash, dry, curl and set her hair. She had grown too frail to make the weekly trips to her Steel Magnolias,” salon, where she and the other ladies would swap talk while getting beautified. She always looked forward to her visits, to Fridays.

Given that I had gone to cosmetology school as a young adult, and was licensed to practice for many years, I offered to doll her up in her own home every Friday. We both came to look forward to those days.

I’d listen to her talk about her other two sisters, their health problems, the pills they had to take and what ailments they had, as she sipped little bits of air in between her words, like a fish moving its mouth upon catching.

She was attached to an oxygen tube that was long enough to stretch across the top floor of her house.

This is where she ate, slept, read Reader’s Digest, and also where she had her hair done on Fridays.

Her bedroom was moved into the living room where she had more room for her oxygen tank and for the portable potty we set up next to her bed.

I carved out Fridays for her.

I washed her hair, before setting it, then drying and backcombing it into a style that was worth a week of wearing, a short bouffant she had taken to wearing when she was diagnosed as being terminally ill with congestive heart failure.

When she grew too weak or when we were afraid of her catching a cold, I dry shampooed her hair.

I’d sprinkle the foamy powder into her roots, then dry it with a towel, and it never seemed clean, but she always felt better, and that’s all that matters.

She wore a shower cap to bed every night, to protect the style I’d given her, leaving her with less picking to do in the morning. She was a true Leo, very conscious of her mane.

On our last visit she spoke of a second wind she was experiencing.

She said,

“If I keep feeling this good, I’ll get back to driving in no time and be able to go see Millie again.”

I smiled and nodded, knowing she was terminal, and that she’d never see the road again, or her best friend.

Millie lived two hours away, through San Diego traffic, making it more like three, and she couldn’t drive anymore either, because she was partially blind from the shingles that had damaged her vision. Millie too, was growing more frail.

The morning after our last visit, there was a call that she had passed in the night.

I left for her home in my pajamas. When I saw her, she was on the floor, where she had fallen out of bed, caught by the portable toilet near it. She had on her nightcap, protecting the hair underneath I would never fix again.

In one hand, her fist was clenching a paper bag that she would often use when she felt she was hyperventilating, and in the other hand was the cap to the pill bottle that hung from her necklace, the heart medicine she would take if she felt she was having an attack or chest pains.

When we picked her up to place her on the bed, her eyes were open with no green left in them, eyes I had come to know in life and now in death.

And only hours before, she spoke of her second wind, of wanting to drive, but then I bore witness to her stiffened furrowed brow, mouth frozen open, wide eyes with their fixed pained expression, as if she’d seen a ghost.

It was a haunting memory that took years to let go of, though I still see it in my heart.

She died in the summer.

The ants were prolific. They crawled out of her mouth when we picked her stiffened body from the floor before placing her back on the bed.

I’ve never held a rigor mortis ridden body of someone I loved, till then. The frozen position in which we found her, arms and legs bent, catching her fall, while hovering over the toilet, was not something we had planned for her.

The funeral parlor would have to break her bones in order to fit her body into the golden colored casket she had chosen months prior to her death.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying speaks of our need to meditate upon death.

It speaks of our running away from it, the natural tendency to want to live, with our focus always on the living. Sometimes I wish I had known about meditating on dying back then, so that I might’ve been able to share this with her on our many Fridays.

We always focused on living.

The last image of her face showed the pain and suffering that was there; her fear was palpable. She had “unfinished business,” and I didn’t help her accept the dying aspect of it, because I too didn’t want to let her go.

Helping those we love to die is the most compassionate and selfless act we can offer.

I wish I could’ve said to her,

“I love you, you are dying, and that is a natural part of life, and I am honored in being here with you.”

But instead I allowed her to think she was going to drive her car again to her best friends house, like old times, and maybe my own honesty about where she was in her sickness could’ve aided her with the ability to move towards a more peaceful death.

I’ll never know, but as said in the Upanishads, “Death is our greatest teacher.”

 

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Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Krista Katrovas

Krista Katrovas has had over 27 articles published in nationally recognized magazines. She teaches Yoga in Prague, Czech Republic every July and calls Kalamazoo, Michigan Home, Sweet, Om, where she teaches and practices Yoga, Spirituality, Shamanism, and pursues writing. She can be reached at her website.

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13 Responses to “Why it’s Good to Say Goodbye to Life.”

  1. Aunt Mary Ann says:

    That is a beautful expression of your feelings! Love to all

  2. Your article just healed a very old wound. Thank you for beautifully reminding me of my great aunt's passing. Her death in 1966 wasn't peaceful either. She died in the hospital screaming my name, wanting me to come to her. I was 16 and in school that day. I cried myself to sleep for weeks after her death.

    • Krista Katrovas krista says:

      I am so grateful for this and for your sharing, this is why we tell our stories, we heal ourselves and hopefully to help create more healing for others, among other reasons. Infinite Blessings to you. Humbly & Infinitely Grateful! Keep Shining!

  3. Koruma says:

    Wonderful article, thank you. We will all die, so better to do so with awareness and acceptance. Much love to all

    • Krista Katrovas krista says:

      Indeed, we will, and hopefully before that moment we all arrive at peace. Infinite Blessings to you and Many thanks for reading and for taking the time to post. Keep Shining! As my Mom says, Love, Love, Always, Love (to all). Blessings.

  4. Mark says:

    That was wonderful. Thanks. As a retired police officer/detective I have been with a lot of dead and dying people. I've been with dying friends and family. In the early years I too believed that it was best to ignore the elephant in the room, probably out of fear. In later years I just came right out with it. I had a dear friend that was literally days from death. I went to see her in the hospital and she talked about how she felt like she might be getting better. I asked her if she had considered death. She hesitated and said, yes. We talked about death, her death. I really think it helped her to have someone to share her feelings about it with. It surprised me that no one had yet discussed it with her because everyone knew she was dying. Nevertheless, her last days were peaceful and her death was peaceful.

    Recently a real good buddy of mine died of cancer after a long struggle. He was a retired police and a combat veteran US Marine. He was the postcard for a genuine tough guy. He both struggled for life and realized that he was dying. The day before he died I held his hand and told him that I loved him. He could no longer speak but, he cried.

    The old me realizes that there are words we need to say and that those words are mutually beneficial. Death is life is death is life, etc.. Because we are currently physical we have trouble with the concept that life is bigger than the current ego drama. Yes, living in the reality of death is a good idea for multiple reasons.

  5. Krista Katrovas krista says:

    WOW! Thank you for this very detailed and heartfelt response. I deeply appreciate it and your taking the time to share. This shared path of ours is full of experiences and when we share ours we help to shine more light! Keep shining yours, Mark. Thanks again, so much, for reading, and for sharing! Infinite Blessings to you.

  6. Ann says:

    I have been with two people while passing over, I talked with them to see if there was anything they wanted. One wanted me to cry with her & the other wanted her pastor to come see her. I hate they are gone, however their last request were fulfilled.

    • Krista Katrovas krista says:

      Blessings for all, the Living and the Dying. Wonderful you were there to bring peace, a blessing to you and them, Thanks for reading and sharing. Keep Shining!

  7. Krista Katrovas krista says:

    Infinite Blessings and Gratitude!

  8. Beautiful insights. I can feel the passion, emotions and intensity radiating from your words. It is true death is our greatest teacher. Thank you for sharing.
    Blessings

  9. Krista Katrovas krista says:

    Thank you for your kind words. Infinite Blessings.

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