Krishna's Perfect Arrangements
I have been thinking for many years that I would be with my mom when she was nearing the end of her life and thus naturally when she was “leaving her body” (Krishna devotee “lingo” for dying, since there is no death). However, it was mysterious how this might come to pass. Not being a “doer” type it seemed wishful thinking due to our being on opposite sides of the country and mainly since we were very estranged. This is a long story of course with fault on both our parts, yet in spite of this fact, and likely helped by her appreciation of my wife, we affectionately spoke on weekly calls, and she steadily helped us in many ways.
Relationships are often complex and full of duality, and ours certainly was. It seemed to me that we had lifetimes of family connection still being played out (hopefully finished now!). When I was doing hypnotherapy training I had one distinct vision of myself as her Chinese or Japanese son. Remembering my childhood experience of our house covered in oriental paintings, script, and various lamps and china, this made total sense to me.
Over the last six months it became increasingly obvious that she was becoming inconsolably depressed and very forgetful, though it was only three months ago that I realized the extent of her deterioration. I spoke to her best friend Mary who is like her angel or voluntary caretaker. She told me that my mom wasn’t bathing, paying her bills or reading her beloved mystery novels, or indulging in her MLB (baseball) T.V. obsession. I knew she was hardly eating and was sleeping a lot, but not until I came out here did I see practically how she lived. I mentioned this in a previous blog.
Five weeks ago Mary called me to tell me that she had put “Muth” (as I called my mom) into the hospital as her legs were so swelled up they were oozing liquid and she could barely breathe even with her oxygen tank. Her smoking for 75 years caused all this….her lungs were shot, and so was her heart from trying to get her the oxygen her body craved. Her legs and whole body were starving for air. The complicating factor in all this was that she hated doctor visits and her own doctor (who had no sense of humor which was to her gave a person acceptability and value). Thus she didn’t take care of herself as she should have.
Actually, she no longer wanted to live—she often told me she never intended to live this long. In March she observed her 87th birthday. I don’t think she ever really recovered from the death of the “love of her life”--her husband--some 22 years ago. Though she somehow managed, her own deteriorating health exasperated her negative perception—and of course, she had no spiritual or religious life. The beauty of the desert and mountains eluded her, and she only complained of the sun, sunning all the time! Though admittedly it is intolerably hot here in the summer feeling like living in a sauna, it is also a place of special natural beauty.
The first inkling that something had changed in her perception of our relationship occurred in this hospital visit. She confided in her daughter-in-law that she wanted to see me. This was news, as she always strongly asserted that she didn’t, along with her criticisms of me and our past—though she criticized everyone, whether she loved or hated them! As a result we haven’t seen her in 15 years. When I spoke to the doctor he encouraged me to come as soon as I could since my mom had all the qualifications to move into a hospice (usually 6 months or less to live), and could take a turn for the worse and become unconscious—as indeed she was at the end. Thus I made the decision to fly out to be with her, and later flew back to North Carolina and drove here with my wife. Mary was shocked to see my mom “melt” when she saw me. My mom would very touchingly say, “My son is here”.
It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as healing for Muth and I, had she been unconscious my whole visit. I had two good weeks alone with her, and then almost a week with Archana and I. We talked and talked, and laughed and cried. I saw her as a real person for the first time—with none of her motherly judgment. She was so humbled by her helpless condition. It was touching to hear this controlling woman, say meekly though graciously, “OK” to some condition she had to accept. What a blessing to be able to express our regrets about the course of our tumultuous relationship, and offer one another our appreciations, love and apologies. It seemed to me we were releasing our karmic bond together by having such closure, resolution, and mutual forgiveness and acceptance.
I wrote this on what turned out to be the last day of my mom’s life in this body, Thursday, May 20. It is now 5 weeks from when I first flew out here. I sit with my mom chanting japa in the early morning, surrounded with transcendental pictures of Lord Chaitanya and Nitai, and Radha Krishna, with many books surrounding her. A Prabhupada MP3 has been playing all evening and will continue till she passes. I excitedly, gleefully put neckbeads ‘round her neck, and covered her with my pujari harinama chadder. I frequently sprayed her with Ganga water mixed with maha-water and offered rose water. The room was electrified, and even the nurses commented on it, and spoke in reverential hushed tones. My own and the prayers of devotees worldwide surrounded her. I couldn’t have made a better arrangement for her auspicious passing.
Now it is late evening, and I am copying my notes and adding to them. I am still talking to my mom as I had for the last 2 days as it seems natural to do so. Now she is like my Muse, or fellow devotee. I don’t know exactly of course, yet I can say that I feel her energy so very strong! It is an incredibly joyful, happy energy. Maybe she is here for a short while longer to tell me she is OK or to encourage or thank me. I do know and feel that, yet I can’t adequately express how good I feel, and how happy I am for her. She is free of her miserable old body, and from her disappointing life. And we are resolved and clear in our relationship! Now her future is bright since she died in such a spiritual atmosphere.
And so it is with all of us who endeavor to love and serve God, or for devotees, Radha and Krishna, or Shri Chaitanya, Nitai and their devotees, like our gurus and friends. We can be even more blessed than my mom by dedicating our life to Krishna and leave the world taking full shelter of his holy name and his divine service. Let it be so for all of us! May we live and die for Krishna! Hare Krishna!