One Foot In One Foot Out
The Gracie stories part 15
I thought I would write the stories until the end; wondering what sort of drama or consciousness might rise with the inevitable denouement then; the end. But maybe not. Why wait for the utterable loss that will come in its own time, having squeezed the experience for what its worth, to have talked by type through this period of separation.
Also there was the conflation of care; for my daughters when they showed up, for my sacred partner who was laid up completely, my daughters went back to their homes in exile and my sacred partner starting to resolve and the injuries receding into storyville while Gracie continues to decline; the record of compassionating for compassion-a-tors. Caring for sentient beings.
If I thought anyone was reading these stories, I might have stopped posting but I wouldn’t have stopped writing. Another value inherent in writing; it’s an act with a commit. It has to be done. It’s not a share. It’s a need. Writing has always felt that way to me.
And a Witness to the removal of all that is dependable, not so much for me, but for this beast canine who pushes through with whatever she has left. I’ve recognized what I’ve seen many times in the men and women, the human beings I have accompanied up to and through their deaths.
Not everyone, but many. There is a nobility and steeliness – an occupation of spirit into body-less-ness — as the body releases one function after another when a person moves toward death if death comes at the end of life and knowingly; this I have seen more than not when accompanying people through that passage. The highest yoga. I always felt privileged to accompany people that way, every time, and long ago it has lost its fear for me though as a young man it was a difficult meeting with my own natural death-less-ness.
I mentioned earlier that I have earned whatever I can give by having experienced most everything that comes my way; not death. Death is the one experience that those of us who work around it haven’t experienced to its fullness. We may have stood at the edge, but the edge has held.
Still we have all experienced life in its many deaths in order to birth something new. Some of us more dramatically than others, but all of us are familiar with what it means to lose something to gain something else, to die to life, to let loose of something for something else to rise, etc. We know the algebra of life and death, but it’s not the finality of death as Death.
I can imagine how conscious the deaths I have witnessed have been or not been; there seems to be a consciousness to a point and a semi-consciousness after that and always I take the talmudic dictum seriously, a person dying is due everything the living is due. I take that not in a technical sense but in a consciousness sense: read to him, talk to her, tell her what you haven’t told her before, if there’s anything left to say, say it now, sing to him, read poetry, read your letters, assume he hears every thing, every single thing you are saying washes up on the shore on consciousness or preconsciousness in some way.
Once I was called to the bedside in an emergency of a Russian matriarch. She was in her death bed with her people gathered around her, all of them dressed in their finery, all of them whispering quietly among themselves as she drew her last breaths; so they assumed.
She was in a hospital bed in her apartment. She was propped up and her head on the pillow with her mane of white hair, her drawn face, she looked enchanting. Eyes closed. She was certainly near.
I said the holy prayers then I turned to the group sitting quietly around the room: talk to her, tell her you love her, remind her of your memories, sing to her, speak poetry.
One after another marched to the foot of her bed and in Russian gave a soliloquy, each one lengthy, emotional, and I assume poetic about – my Russian isn’t that good — but every body and soul communication came through clearly.
She lived another two weeks and everyone thought it was a miracle. It was no miracle, it was the softness of the human soul expanding into the places where the body had receded; the soul rising toward its home, in G*dliness, from where it came.
I think about death that way after having experienced it for others so many times. Every now and then there is a restlessness into death, generally from individuals for whom there was a restlessness in life, but mostly something more gentle into that good night, when there is time and inevitability.
So I’m going to end these stories before the seam of Gracie’s death. I will see her through it now that I am released somewhat by these stories, having found a way to sleep a little better, adjusting to this, to that, working through the pull on my heart that her decline means for me, instructed by her animal walk through life, one foot in her water bowl gobbling up the kibble I leave for her in her feed bowl, recognizing in her story many stories, living my own story in my Italianate home in a Milanese suit, a panama hat from Ecuador [Ft. Wayne, Indiana], in front of the screen as I tap tap away when there is nothing – else – for me – to do.