Dear Family and Friends,
I wrote this update early this morning thinking the subject of this email would be called "Surprises." But the story evolved even as I wrote.
Yesterday was an emotional, moving, and surprising day.
Emotional because on New Year's Day I passed on to Lynn and Lee and Rowan my ancestors' New Year's Day tradition. It's done by the elder in the home (It was my dad who did this) -- putting his/her hands on the heads of the younger family members, -- the next generation, while saying: "Bonne et heureuse annee, et le paradis a la fin de vos jours." ("Good and happy year, and the paradise at the end of your days.") Of course, mentioning "paradise" made me teary. So did the idea of passing on the tradition to our little family.
Francis' behavior yesterday made me think paradise was imminent for him. Though he silently welcomed my chanting the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic without him after he awoke, he also told me, -- "Let me be for a while. Everything takes effort."
Then when his nurse Pam called to see if we had questions, Francis asked whether he should give in: "I feel like sinking back and see where this rest takes me." Pam encouraged him, -- "As long as you have no concerns nor fears," to which Francis said: "Whatever concerns I have are very minor... My need just to sink back is greater than anything else...Elaine and I have searched our souls together. I just feel it's a good time to let it happen." So Pam told him to go ahead and allow himself to sink into God's hands.
When Jennifer the Hospice Chaplain called, she encouraged him too: "Surrender into God's space....Let yourself feel enveloped in God's Love.... Your own wisdom will arise. Whatever seeds of wisdom you've cultivated and gestated will now flower, producing the fruits of your spiritual work..."
Jennifer said she was "very very assured" about Francis, specifically because he had allowed the fears to come up. Sometimes, she explained, dying people say "I have faith, so I don't have fear," but because they push back the fear instead of looking at it, it comes up later.
"Fear is a sacred part of the process of being human," she added, and "it helps in the long run. It's good that fear comes up." Death makes for "a big change, so fear is warranted." She told Francis "Even if fear returns, if you accept it as a normal expected part of the dying process, it won't have power over you. Fear is not a reflection on you, it's just a reflection on what is happening."
Then at 11:00 AM as pre-arranged, Lesly Hoey, PT arrived with Dr. Steve Goldbas DO, friend and colleague of Dr. Kevin Zorsky DO who had given Francis a "Bio-dynamic/ CranioOsteopathic treatment the previous night. Lesley wanted to offer hers and Steve's services to thank us for having given her a start as a yoga teacher at Portland Yoga Studio which we founded in 1989.
Seeing Francis smiling blissfully and giving numerous non-verbal signs that this treatment was most welcomed to him, we wept, as, moved by what the moment called for, I sang Francis' favorite Aramaic Beatitude and the hymn that made him "glad," -- "I found in Jesus a resting place, And he has made me glad."
Though I can in no way explain as Steve did what he felt in Francis' body, I jotted down phrases to try to grasp this subtle art of which he and Kevin are masters. Steve said there are 8-12 cycles a minute in the earthly body...and in Francis there was "a long tide, 6-8 cycles every 10 minutes" and, (if I got this right,) -- "at that level, the treatment interfaces with body and soul." He told us that Francis' body response had "moved the position of his heart and ribs," that his "heart rate picked up and the involuntary rate pick up..." and that he could "feel coming and going" in his body.
When Steve told me there was no fear in Francis' body, and that he had comfort, I wept with relief. And, most beautiful of all, -- in Francis, he said, "the physical and the spirit body are saying goodbye to each other."
Lesley told me as they left that Steve teaches OMM (Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine) at the New England College of Osteopathy in Biddeford ME though he lives in Cape Elizabeth. If you do a search on OMM you'll see it's a modality that helps end of life patients.
I so appreciate this beautiful collaboration for Francis' benefit between Kevin who lives at a distance, and Steve who lives nearby. That means Steve and Lesley will be coming back.
Carolyn Ehringhaus will too. She arrived around 2:00 to give Francis another massage for hydration and circulation and comfort. Though Francis wasn't speaking New Year's day, when Carolyn started massaging his foot he said, "That feels so good!"
He surprised me again in the evening several times as I sat at the computer working on these updates. The first came when his blood sugar meter stopped functioning. I had to fetch from a bathroom drawer a less advanced meter and try it out. By then he had opened his eyes and watched me fumbling with both. When after a little finagling the new, unused simpler model worked, he declared: "You are a miracle woman and you will sweep me into paradise!"
And then he said, sort of quickly, as if he were in a hurry to get back into his deep communion within: "I feel so good! So good! I don't know which step this is along the way. But whatever step it is, I embrace it. I don't know if it's the earliest step or not, -- no, I don't know, but I embrace it. I do embrace it! Now let me rest."
Another surprising opportunity came again when my own senses told me, just as Francis himself alerted me, there was work to do on the bowel front. In the process of my getting up from the computer several times to pluck the roses, Francis told me he might eat and drink on Saturday, today! He even said he planned on it, and when I inquired about the planned McGillicuddy siblings' teleconference on Sunday which we had agreed would have to be cancelled (or with only me speaking,) he said I might not need to cancel it!
I could hardly believe it! But I remembered Pam saying that temporary changes of direction like this can happen.
I have a lot to learn about the dying process. Pam said it would all work out organically, and I can see it's happening that way. Organic means moving from within, making adjustments and readjustments as they're called for.
Francis' refusal all day yesterday of food and drink, and, -- with very few exceptions, through very brief forays into the outer world, -- even speech, led me to believe it was time to invite people to come for silent sitting vigil in his room. But after those surprising conversations when he seemed to rally last night, I waffled.
I pondered how beautifully Francis lives in the present moment, much more than I, analytical Frenchwoman that I am. He meant exactly what he said when he decided not to struggle against the pull of the inner world: "I feel like sinking back and see where this rest takes me." He didn't project as I did that it was the beginning of the end. So I won't either, though I go back and forth on this because it is at least a remote beginning of the end.
His other treasured comment also demonstrates his awareness that it's one step at a time: "I feel so good! So good! I don't know which step this is along the way. But whatever step it is, I embrace it." I'm learning from him how to do this too.
But after discovering this morning that he had difficulty breathing, I'm realizing it is indeed time. He did spit up a big mucous plug -- possibly the cause of that breathing difficulty. But though his control over lifelong asthma is unbelievably good, specifically since he started practicing yoga in the mid-80's, -- he does after all, have asthma.
I can't resist telling you a true story. Within the last year Francis' pulmonary specialist was puzzled by Francis' unusually good lung function. At the end of a visit he paused apparently uncomfortable letting him go without a prescription. Finally he said, -- "Well, here's a prescription. At least it'll make me feel better." !!! When Francis looked at the directions, -- "As needed" he felt free to do just that. So he rarely, rarely uses it, only at times like this morning, or once at the end of a hospital stay.
Right now he's zonked out from Lorazepam (aka Ativan) which the Hospice nurse I called this morning prescribed to ease the anxiety caused by difficulty breathing.
But back to the subject of timing to invite people in. A few days ago, our friends, Julien and Jane Olivier from NH called. Julien is a married priest as Francis is. (We don't say "former" priest, because once a priest, always a priest.) He and Jane (also a former nun) called ahead about doing just that, -- sitting in silent vigil with Francis.
The point I'm driving at is this: Francis didn't even know they were here, nor, I learned later, would he have wanted to be distracted by learning who had come. His attention is too deeply interior now, unless he surfaces on his own, and who knows how long he'll still be doing that. So I join him in protecting the silence of that mysterious anteroom space, even from me.
That's why when people come into our home, using the side entrance on Ardmore St. we'll have a sign on the door reading: "Expected friends, just quietly come in." Those who want to talk can go into the dining and living room to the right of the entrance. Those going to Francis' room should walk straight through the kitchen and take the door to the right which will have a sign Silence Please on it. We trust if the room gets crowded that those who've been here longer would leave space for others.
I would also ask that those who signed up for "Afternoon Help" still come as scheduled on the
http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/619101/login/ calendar. I'm relying on these people to take care of things so I can rest.
Thank you for sustaining us with your prayer/vibes.