This world is geared to masking what we will all face—our end; one’s ending is still a part of living.
In the last few months I’ve been a participant and observer in my mother’s passing from this life. This sounds clinical—and I don’t mean it that way—but in some respects during the cycle, I was growing in the process while she ended her beautiful life.
To feel that wind, whether bitter or pleasing is human.
Cosmetics and medications tout promises of a slowed race to mortality. Our vehicles transport us from place to place within climate controlled assurances that we will not have to feel the heat, cold or the wind on our face.
This was a lesson on how to live.
This is the celebration of transitioning home to a place free from pain and encompassed in a beauty that many mystics insists, offers wonder beyond description.
It is said that this physical life will someday feel as if it has been a dream—real life awaits us.
The healing power of music.
Everyone in our immediate family stepped up and pulled shifts caring for Mother.
Painting and art was her passion, but she chose the path of parenting. Her dedication went from watercolors and oils, to caring for and guiding children.
I was very shy to use my music with her, at first.
She had concerns it might trigger emotions she didn’t wish to deal with at that time. However, I slowly started playing guitar and flute, and it was incredible to see how it affected her in dealing with the entire dynamic of this process (fear, pain, anxiety, restfulness and acceptance).
One evening I lulled her to sleep with my Low “C” Cedar Flute. The tone color is very fat, hollow and resonant. Sonically, it feels like velvet.
I stayed in the traditional minor pentatonic scale. There can be a sadness to this scale, but I hoped I was playing melodic improvisations that focused more on a sense of peace rather than melancholy. Unfortunately, I too fell asleep, dropping the flute on the tile floor of the hospital startling the both of us awake. I resumed playing and within two minutes Mother was in dreamland.
The guitar was also a great tool to use for the same purpose.
For gentleness, I searched for, what I term the “sweet notes,” by playing near the fret board. The timbre is fatter with less high frequency attack while plucking the strings. However, there were times when a fast tune with a spanish flair was also appreciated.
Mom slowly faded as her body was no longer able to contain her spirit.
Mother was up and down, and eventually had to be placed in “in patient” hospice care. The staff were attentive and sensitive, and even allowed us to bring in her kitty Jade to lie and sleep with her on the hospital bed. Animals are beautiful, loving and honest.
There were moments of ebb and flow; surprising functionality and perception as well as diminished capacity.
In life she practiced Tai Chi daily. Sometimes while unconscious she would make hand and leg motions as if she were still going through her routine.
Her hearing was amazing. Once when we thought she was deep within the embrace of sleep, the family was softly debating when granddaughter Jennifer’s birthday was. One said Monday, the other Sunday. Mother blurts out, “no it’s Tuesday.”
Then back to sleep.
Straight to the heart of the matter.
As the physical body continued to weaken, a gentleness of spirit with less inhibition emerged. No light conversation was needed to fill the air and combat awkward moments of silence. “I love you” abounded.
That is why we were all there.
Love was the connecting link. Bittersweet, sad and filled with beauty. This is the beautiful pain poets and song writers have written about for centuries.
We know at times she felt bad that we were in this very difficult moment of life. It was our honor to enable the necessary functions of the spirit and body during the ending of this physical life. By doing so we were also celebrating.
Each tear, moment of anger and confusion was an honor to process. We were perched upon the peak of the mountain. We were a participant in reality. This entire process was her return home, and perhaps the most important lesson in our life.
We were schooled by our mother to the end.
We felt the time was near.
Mom was still and non-communicative for about three days. Then I got a call from my brother. I asked what he was up to and he says, “having dinner with Mom and just talking.”
I asked him if I could speak to her and over the phone she says, “I love you!”
I quickly jumped in the car and drove 100 miles to the hospital for a wonderful reunion.
Her only concern was that she wanted to poop.
I started playing a blues progression on the guitar and she improvises:
“Paul’s mom’s gotta poop, Yeah Paul’s mom’s gotta poop… .”
Howlin’ Wolf would have been envious.
During this musical event, I looked at my brother and his eyes spoke volumes. Love, amazement and hilarity. Our lives are often punctuated and remembered by peak moments—this was a peak moment. God has a sense of humor.
There are many mysteries here. The human spirit is a deep vast pool of chance, destiny, and opportunity rolled into one.
We kept vigil for days.
On a Sunday I drove my daughter Christina to the hospital and we played flute duets for her. She was very still, non-responsive, but at peace. Her blood pressure was good as was her heart rate. That evening I was throwing laundry in the dryer and Mother immediately came to mind. Within a nanosecond, the phone rang.
My sister Julie told me Mother had passed.
For much of my life I was an atheist. There were three things standing in my way of being able to logically support my philosophy: Beauty, love, and order.
Life just being a flip of the coin eventually faded from my view. We are here but for a moment and time never sleeps. But neither does our ability to grow through each moment. Each pleasure, each difficulty, each experience, molds us like clay.
Each pearl of wisdom my mother offered, blessed me. Every error she committed blessed me. The complete cycle of experience she offered, from the positive to the negative was as brilliant as the paint she used on her canvas. She was a gifted artist—on canvas and in life.
My brother John was her first work. My sister Julie her second and I was her third.
And we will carry on.
Paul Adams is a musician, writer and poet that runs the Lakefront Music label with his eight albums as well as those by David Hoffman. His music is regularly featured on Satellite Radio such as Sirius/xm, Music Choice, AOL and Muzak. His catalogue runs from new age to eclectic, acoustic and world fusion. He also teaches how to use music for therapeutic purposes. Find out more about Paul by clicking here.
Editor: ShaMecha Simms
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