Had a flash that I was ready to leave and merge with the universe. I didn't have to be hassled anymore. The end was okay.
|For These Times||
Had a flash that I was ready to leave and merge with the universe. I didn't have to be hassled anymore. The end was okay.
Death and dying
Death does not have to be painful
When thinking of all the worries and concerns
which strain and stretch your insides
often without a happy ending,
easing towards another realm is less scary
and can even offer comfort and relief.
Never considered before
At a certain point in life awareness of death sets in. One becomes aware of this when one realizes you would rather die than live under certain circumstances. Before this point one might have thought “survive at all costs.” But now one is not so sure. If the pain is severe enough or chronic enough, or the strain too much, the possibility of letting go becomes a “considered” option
Be here now...Dad's 100th (Original Version)
I plan later to write something on Facebook but I'm prewriting this entry on dad's, Milton Nussdorf's, the Cohanan's 100th birthday on July 15th. Unfortunately, dad is not around for it. As some of you know he passed away at the end of January, 2018 at 99 ½. My sister posted on Facebook that his 100th birthday would have been an occasion, a unique goal reached. She even thought of having a big party. In afterthought, she thought it was her own goal more than his. I commented he would have liked the milestone, but did not really doggedly pursue it. My sister followed by saying he was too focused on the day to day survival needs to really think of it. I think this is accurate.
Some of my thoughts on the matter are as follows. First, my family at a certain point in time would relish their party celebrations. Often distant from them, I saw this as an escape, pushing the reality of what had to be faced into the background. It denied the reality of our lives, particularly my conflicts with them. Nothing was solved, just covered up. Energy was wasted. I was after a new direction, solutions, not rehash of old ones and their glorification.
Now as I get older I do understand the need for escape. Sometime life doesn't work out all the time, and some socialization can hit the spot, even if it is meaningless. Straining for meaning and resolving difficulties doesn't always work You stress on it and it still remains there. In the meantime, you could have gone on with life and had some enjoyment. Perhaps. For a time maybe. But if one is bothered internally, covering it up can just go so far. Eventually things have to and will be faced.
Second, my dad suffered much his last year. He once said 'I'm being punished.' This implies there is a punisher, a force beyond himself that is orchestrating events. Or that there are laws that catch up with someone, or karma as they say. Dare I say after such a year of suffering on all levels, physically, emotionally, and spiritually celebrating a milestone trivialized the ordeal. Perhaps the powers that be above did not let this happen and had my dad exit before that time. Maybe even out of mercy. I would have been uncomfortable with the ra ta ta of it. I do have love for my dad despite it all, but I also love the bigger truths.
Now the Jewish people live through holidays and celebrations, but their system is a total one. Celebrations and occasions ideally are tied into their history of exile, praise of God, the year's cycles and spiritual prayer and mending. Unless just going through the motions, one has to believe it all ties together and fit in. The group events than have meaning. Sure, there still can be riffs and personal difficulties. But if all agree to the entire context as a goal, there is a framework to operate from and even to heal in.
Outside of such a complete system, celebrations and events have to take on a different tone. They have to be sensitive to looking for a better way to live, to resolve various violations and traumas, and be humble if the answers aren't there. Perhaps even asking for help from the universe, or God, would be appropriate. If one doesn't believe in a God, then just asking for help is a good step. If answers aren't had, then this should be acknowledged. So outside of a good, mutual belief system, these variables should be there. Then a ;little celebration can be had.
Third, as said, my dad had many physical difficulties. Just maintaining himself was an ordeal. Cleaning his eye lens, adjusting his hearing aids, fixing his dentures, all required time and patience. Then he broke his hip, his blood pressure was high, and he caught infections. Before this his body was in decent shape. But not in this last period.
Before this period, I would caution him to be careful crossing the street, to not lose his balance, to be careful of bikers on First Avenue. Most of all, I would say don't fall. If he did and broke his hip his fate would be in others' hands. Eventually he did. The rest is history as they say.
The point here is that his day to day life, the functions of just minimally staying alive, took all his energy. In the sense there was no past or future, just the moment at hand. What's funny is that all the psychologies, spiritual systems of mental health, Eastern meditative religions, mystical and New Age religions all teach this as a way to live. My father was living this way, He was 'being here now.' He was living in the present. However, his path to this came from not having a choice anymore. It was minute to minute survival. What a price that was paid for such an 'enlightened' state.
Death and dying
The elephant in the room
A woman commented on a health site that, after battling many illnesses and overcoming them, and after living somewhat close to nature, and also having a dentist she works well with, she feels she will be able to die of old age. At first this does not sound startling but after time it sinks in. Why? Because most of us won't be able to say that. As with my mom, perhaps my dad, and numerous others, it will be death by hospital and meds. The person is not in control. Power structures outside yourself are. The intimate setting and stage for one's end becomes an institutional event. Gone is the intimacy, closeness, and safety of a private environment with meaningful people around you. It can be a corporate affair lead by technical decisions.
Once you are on medications you are vulnerable to side effects, which lead to other side effects, which eventually lead to problems which conflict with one another. Even if you are health oriented as I have been certain decisions in the past might have done damage that is beyond your control. In my case mercury fillings along with root canals have effects that are long lasting and perhaps can't be overcome. With the latter, bacteria in the bone is long living and not easy to eradicate. Difficulties such as sinus problems and arthitis are just some side effects. Implants also carry bacteria, and dentures, that is the newer ones, while clever with their flexibility, emit certain plastic chemicals which can cause reactions, sometimes severe. No matter what your diet is, or your habits, some damage can't be fully reversed.
When I first came to Florida I wondered why so many of the elderly seemed impatient and irritated much of the time. Now I realized most were on meds and subject to various medical trains of thought. What they strove for over their lives, that is control and mastery over one's destiny, is no longer. Hence, the emergence of underlying resentments and anger and the need for escape and pleasures. When one feels trapped, one needs flights of fantasy and entertainment.
There used to be a time when one could pick their time and place to pass on. Ideally, things were wrapped up and a moment of peace was available and some stability was in the air and one was ready to leave. Of course not in all cases, but for some this is how it was. Those with love for you and respect for you were present and it was special. Now it is not in your control. Often it is drawn out. Often it is not spiritual. That is why the elderly are often uncomfortable. A peaceful death is not available. Someone said to me today we are born and we die in hospitals.
Now I've heard hospice does many good things and does try to create a setting for one's passing that is somewhat sensitive. And then there is just the fact that God, if one believes, is everywhere and can ease your situation, even in a hospital. And true, even in a hospital among strangers the light can shine. Granted. Also true is that for many the tribe, community, family is fractured and this is the best that we have. Yes, accepted. I'm not going to quarrel with what is. However, sometimes a standard is needed to compare ourselves to, to see how far we have veered, as individuals and as a collective.
So the lady initially mentioned, a cancer survivor among other things, who rarely sees a doctor, who tries to self-cure, who says she will die from old age through her own efforts and just good fortune, feels she has some control of her end. There is some dignity in that.
Death and Dying
The desire to leave
One doesn’t always need a tragedy, crisis, or horrible life experience to want to leave this world. Sometimes enough small things can add up. Experiences that are degrading, demeaning, or non-supportive can lead to a horrible existence. The need for relief can come in many forms, but so can the desire to leave this life. I’m not saying this should be followed, but it is part of the whole picture and should be given some space and respected.
Death and dying
A false bravura
Young people often have a bravura about giving up their life. In one of Bruce Lee's movies he is forced to fight Kareen Abjur Jabaar (the 7'2" basketball player) who says to him "I am not afraid to die," and later he did die. Idealism, the warrior code, principles worth dying for, sacrifice, do or die, are all codes of behavior that can lead to death. As these paradigms crack and crinkle, eventually one is left with just life and living without a rigid code of behavior. One realizes it's not about the "isms." One realizes how precious life is. One sees it more and is more willing to fight to stay alive. Life becomes a valuable entity that has to be preserved.
Death and dying
Understanding wanting out
It is possible to be around such negative forces one would rather die than live. I’m not saying I condone this, but I understand it. When suffering real crisis, health issues or even a life and death situation, I recall my will to survive was present. It wasn’t time for me to quit. This was clear. I needed a miracle to survive whatever I was going through but I kept on whether I received it or not.
What’s more problematic is when things are stable (no imminent crisis, no loss of job, or bad health, or bad teeth, and no family member in trouble) and yet certain forces are at work that are very upsetting to your equilibrium. This can have a negative impact on your life. You might be ok, and this might have taken a lot of work, but even when you are ok the quality of your life could still be miserable. Imagine if you weren’t ok, what then? Another way of seeing it is that it took everything you had to get to zero, and now once you are even, maybe even a bit more, things still aren’t right. How disappointing. You worked and waited to reach the plus column, and once there, you are let down.
There was this lady friend, Betty, who I thought liked my artwork. She then bought a book about an artist who was a third rate Andrew Wyeth. He copied photos, which Wyeth never did, and did barely acceptable cliché paintings of poor southern rural African Americans. Not to demean him, but Betty was stubborn, and insisted he was great, and he wasn’t and I knew it. This told me that many of our talks were for naught. She hadn’t valued my efforts which I thought she had. Instead of support and cooperation, I received contention.
In the same time period a friend “Peter” somewhat dissed me, at least that’s how I perceived it at the time. Later it was straightened out. When I called him, I wanted to talk about my folks and about some money issues I had with them, but he couldn’t talk. In looking for some warmth, I got coldness. I turned my attention upstairs but even that seemed remote. Things were alright, but I was alone and that was my lot. How long, how long alone I asked? So I could understand at these times when someone, even when feeling well, could want to end it. If life offers nothing when you have tried and have been decent, and even have a little change in your pocket, why continue if it still disappoints?
There’s a joke about people who have money and yet are still unhappy. They’re unhappy because they no longer can blame everything on not having money. Some parallels exist here. Sometimes there is a configuration, even when circumstances are good, where life is devoid of any redemptive qualities and I can understand feeling empty and wanting out.
I have a feeling, or a theory, that certain peoples' lives end when contradictions in their thinking and actions can no longer coexist. When my mom was ill, she needed real guidance and real attention for her emotional needs. My father handled her practical concerns i.e. going to doctors and buying food and such, but had little energy or inclination to really talk to her on any deeper level concerning the root causes of her illnesses. He was doing the best he could but his depth of inquiry was limited. Hence, her survival needs were being met but she was more than a bunch of symptoms. Her body begged to be treated in a non clinical way and nourished and supported to build her up, not just maintain her. Mentally she needed to reach some peace too. Same with her spirit. Instead, what she received was dry and sterile. Everybody did the best they can do, but they really didn't dig deep enough. Doctors' self images and standings within the system were not to be risked.
Now my dad was exhausted and mom needed him to do the chores to keep their lives on track and fulfill mom's medical needs, but there was limited dialogue between them. She was trapped. Their was no room for growth, no opening. There was some compensation for me. We often spoke on the phone and our talks had weight. But this was not enough to change the dynamics, the inevitable for her. The elements to transform herself were not present. Dad could not provide this. Basic needs were all that could be met. I too bear some responsibility as I was not present and was not there for the day to day work. So the status quo continued and my mom's eventual passing was the result. She was caught in a no win situation and sickness and death were the only way out.
Recently I had some issues I couldn't resolve. They were philosophical in nature with tentacles reaching into health, money and quality of life. I felt I had reached the apex of my understanding and it was beyond my abilities to solve these dilemmas. I knew from the principle I've discussed this couldn't last forever. I had given whatever I could to bring unity of thought and practice to my life, but harmony still was not there. As such, although improbable, I too had to prepare for a possible ending. This is not being morbid or negative, but just real and trying to consider all things. I had to bring closure to what I could and clean up loose ends. I'm reminded of a John Wayne movie where he came to a town and put down money to cover his funeral expenses, just in case. Later, he found that he had cancer and he chose to end his life in a gun fight. I think that's the way it went. He took care of his passing while fighting some bad guys and inflicting justice.
It was time to begin my preparation. This meant drawings would have to be organized, writings and books labeled and stored, my past categorized, a home found for everything, and miscellaneous items sifted and dispersed. Files had to be gone through and closets cleaned. Computer memory had to be reviewed and flash drives used to record choice writings and pics. Dishes, ceramics, pottery and books needed distribution. One thing led to another, but this was the price of cleaning up. Some ragged edges would remain I knew but the substance of my life would hopefully find a home.
Then a few negative signals I received surprised me. Valuable silverware did not sell on eBay. Neither did a vintage sewing machine. Old valuable furniture, glassware, small ceramic sculpture I thought would be of interest weren't. In Florida the elderly left behind tons of items and they were not as precious as I thought. The effort seemed barely worth the time. Cleaning up belongings was not going cleanly.
Then a project I was working on for my mom's memory, a book of her writings on Hollywood stars, was dragging on. It looked like it was being finished and nearing closure, but there were delays. The outcome was not fully in my control. Closure was not easily closing.
On the other hand some auspicious occurrences took place that hinted of a future to come. Financially my gold and silver started to go upwards Three teeth that were removed, one a root canal, started to heal and maybe had a positive affect on my sinuses. An ebb and flow developed with some people I knew. They were calling me and some pleasant activities ensued. Just being another part of a group for a few activities relieved some pressure and made me less important to myself.
Most importantly a vision, an idea, a purpose that had become damaged started to reform itself. Previously I had faith in a spiritual all encompassing project I was inching towards. It was to open a door to a new understanding, at least for some. It contained hope and truth as I saw it. However, an outline I had developed led to a dead end. Something was missing and I couldn't take it to the next step. Was I trying too hard? Self doubts followed. Was I off? Was I out of place? Was my thinking wrong?
I then had a seemingly unrelated recollection. I had heard of an American who moved to Israel and was poor there but happy. A study had rated countries according to happiness, and Israel ranked highly, even though many Israelis were poor. This was surprising. When hearing this I felt I would be willing to give up all my dreams for some simple happiness, even if it meant being poor. My thoughts were leading me into quicksand.
Thankfully, thankfully the tides turned. I spoke to an old friend about my direction and my recent doubts. I voiced my original simple intentions and my friend sounded supportive. The original message rang true for them too. This was confirmation. My heart lifted. Although I had gone through a deep valley of doubts and delays, the purpose came back. Somehow, mysteriously, my acceptance of the entire situation had broadened. Somehow I could pursue the direction I had taken and perhaps even some strength had been gained. My purpose had been restored. Thank God. Didn't take much to restore me. Just a few words from an old friend and a gap was filled.
In summary, cleaning up practicalities on smaller items had not progressed. Preparation for a worse case scenario was not flowing, hinting maybe my emphasis was off and it wasn't time after all. Secondly, my purpose had been renewed with some new hope and life. The door to my life had not been closed. It looked as if I would still be around for a while.
Death and dying
Ambition came to naught
I remember reading about the passing of the known writer Susan Sontag and how her son came to care for her near her end. I roughly recall he observed that all her ambition had come to naught. Her pride, her assertiveness, her ego, her principles and standards could not stand up to her imminent death. All her stands were compromised. She had become nervous and tortured and neurotic. Impending death left her little.
This was and is scary to ponder..
Steven B. Nussdorf records his lifelong search to find meaning outside of the normal channels. He uses writing, poetry, and drawing to document this effort.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.