My lovely mum passed away a few nights ago. She was as elegant and peaceful in death as she had been in life.
Her defining trait had always been, “I don’t want to be any trouble” and neither she was.
Several months ago, in a very “Victorian” way, she “took to her bed.” A few weeks later, she started to refuse food, and to sleep more and more. Eventually when she stopped drinking anything except the occasionally glass of cold milk, it was clear that the game was up, and that she had decided that the last thing she actually had any control of was this dying process.
Always elegant in life, she chose an elegant gentle path to the next realm.
Everything was exactly as it should be.
My understandings of life and death allowed me to feel very calm and balanced about this.
It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a deeply sad affair.
Strangely, Covid provided us with the perfect funeral.
Her children gathered round her beautiful wicker basket in an intimate short window at the crematorium.
A few handpicked tunes, a few well-chosen words, a single prayer.. all that was really required.
When stripped bare, the real essence shone through.
Other people’s grief can pour over you like a slightly unwelcome wave.
Dealing with my grief, and that of my sisters was all I could have really managed.
To have crowds of people telling me how sorry they were for my loss would have proved too much, I suspect for my level of Qigong practice.
Thanks Covid, if only for this one tiny break.
I managed to say within the bounds of correct grief and sadness, retaining my balance.
The inevitable house clearance revealed interesting intimate items that showed us our parents in the “time before children” when they’d been young and free!
It was so beautiful and somehow freeing in it’s own way to see that life had been fun for them together as well as with their family.
I wasn’t self-aware enough to really benefit from my lovely father in any way apart from intellectually. I never really got to know the man who died so early. (My early twenties..)
It was lovely to find that he was a lover and a romantic.
Sadly, his war experiences had scarred him.
He was discharged in 1945 on grounds of ill health after four harrowing years which included being torpedoed twice! After his discharge, he had a breakdown, and spent months recuperating.
He was never a VERY well man after that.
He refused to see dentists or doctors, having developed a deep fear and distrust of them. He had bad teeth, smoked exceptionally heavily and clearly, carried a lot of weight from what he’d seen and been through.
He contracted cancer shortly into his retirement, and went exceptionally and shockingly quickly.
(He died on his first hospital visit for a major check-up – I think he took one look, and decided, “this isn’t for me!” The next day he was gone..)
I think it’s every parents responsibility to live the best and healthiest life they can.
“Your Children Need You!” to live to be as old and as well as you can muster, and then to depart gently!
That means eating well, exercising well, good mental hygiene and your affairs in order! (Not 60 fags a day and dying early if you can avoid it!)
My mother passed, aged 92. She had met many grandchildren and some great grandchildren.
She had played the Grand-dame, had provided a rallying point for broken children, and taught us all how to be better and kinder people. She was ready to move to the next phase. Her work was done.
In the months after she took to her bed, it was regularly my practice to “connect with her” during my “meditation” sessions.
In Zhineng Qigong, as in Quantum Physics, we use the idea of “No Time, No Space” – I really felt I could connect with her, across the miles, and be with her to help support her energetically.
Interestingly, in the week before her passing, the doctor decided that if she showed any pain or anxiety, that she should have a little morphine.
From that first dose, I lost the ability to “connect” to her.
She was already half-way down the road to the hinterland.
If you work with the dying, people often say that they feel people begin to depart bit by bit, day by day, slipping away until the final push for the other side.
Thank you mum, even in your passing you provided me with wonderful life lessons.
At her funeral I read Chung Tzu’s story about dreaming he was a butterfly, and the nature of transformation of all things.
I also wanted to read the following passage too, but didn’t want to overburden the service, so I’ve decided to reprint it here:-
When Chuang Tzu’s wife died, his friend Hui Shih found Chuang Tzu sitting on the ground, singing and banging on pots!
On asking him how he could be so unfeeling to his wife, he was told by Chuang Tzu: “When she had just died, I could not help being affected.
Soon, however, I examined the matter from the very beginning.
At the very beginning, she was not living, having no form, nor even substance.
But somehow or other there was then her substance, then her form, and then her life.
Now by a further change, she has died.
The whole process is like the sequence of the four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. While she is thus lying in the great mansion of the universe, for me to go about weeping and wailing would be to proclaim myself ignorant of the natural laws. Therefore I stopped!”
For Elspeth Paterson (formally Colledge, nee Campbell) – 2nd June 1928 to 7th January 2021