If he was away on business for a couple of weeks he would ask about the characters in the soap opera when he returned. It used to annoy my mother. Over dinner we would talk about these characters like they were friends. How's Sam he would ask (that's the only name I can still remember). And amusingly nothing much would change as weeks and months went by, you could always pick up where you left off. Time did seem to move as slowly as a worm. And in a strange way life is like that. We're like those characters. We might get a new shirt or a new haircut but somehow years later we're often stuck in the same habitual patterns we've been acting out forever. What's that old cliche "Life imitates art", not that I would presume to assume that soap operas are art, but that's another story.
Back to my mother, my father bless his very funny soul, has been gone a good seven years. And in a way the memory of how he died is partly what is motivating my mother to try to influence her own death. We had a really nice (if you can call it that) chat tonight. Nice because we had heart to heart communication, no one got mad, no one grumbled at the other person, we accepted each other and listened and heard the other. There was lots of Dharma in the chat.
First she started by telling me how she had talked to my brother and that she tried to tell him what she was planning to do but that he wouldn't listen to her and told her she was fine. It was interesting to hear the other side of the story. I heard my brother's the other night. It reminded me of the old tale where someone asks 2 people what an elephant is like. One person who is standing up front, describes the trunk, long and narrow and bending and the person bringing up the rear describes the huge, roundness of it all. Well that kind of sums up the two descriptions of the same conversation. It was so clear to me, that these two people who care about each other, did not hear what the other person said nor were they able to put themselves in the other's shoes. How much of our lives do we live like this? In this unsatisfying way, never really hearing or communicating clearly with each other, never touching each other very deeply. I am guilty of this on a daily basis in a zillion small ways, through hurry, through business, through pushing away what I think I don't want.
But eek I haven't even started the story of my evening chat with my mother which is where I found a very big chunk of Dharma. We talked about the withdrawal of her meds but not in the way she usually accuses me of, thinking I know everything. I could say, "I'm sure you've thought long and hard about this. This isn't a decision a person makes without a lot of thought." And she admitted she had thought a lot about it. We talked about me coming over when the doctor visits this week, so we can discuss the med withdrawal. I told her he probably wouldn't want to withdraw anything that might make her uncomfortable (heart meds?) but that I didn't know their exact effect. And then we talked about what her blood thinner does. And I shared with her my thoughts that (and this is a major belief in Buddhism) we can never know the exact circumstances of our death. I asked her about how she saw things unfolding and said she'd probably considered that things might not go that way, that sometimes when we think x is going to cause y, z happens. (Pretty good for someone who barely passed math, eh?)
She asked if I understood her position and if I agreed with it. I said if she found every day a burden and that living was just too much trouble then I could understand it. Turns out (and I guess in a way I knew this), that her big fear is that her mind is declining (at 94 she is just beginning to be forgetful) and that she will turn into some sort of babbling idiot. This thought scares her enough that she wants to take matters into her own hands. I reminded her that she can't know she will turn into a babbling idiot (I speak from the experience of already being one, as evidenced by this long rambling!). We talked about how this could happen even with the withdrawal of the meds. And so there it was. Our fear of the unknown, our trying to exert control over our environment, make things come out the way we would like, the grasping after what seems desirable and the pushing away of what terrifies us. So I think it will be an interesting chat with the doctor, where we can entertain some of these questions.
For me I think what has been uncomfortable about my mother's choice, is the seeming anger and depression and negativity that surrounds it. And the biggest fact, that somehow she thinks she can make things turn out easier, the way she wants, that she can avoid what she fears most, losing her mind is really not possible to ensure. I think her choice is motivated by wrong understanding. And what about karma, my little mind wonders, how does all that fit together. And ultimately I wish for my mother to have some kind of closure, some peace, to have dealt with some of this life's karma, perhaps. But I know that is not up to me. I can only offer what I can and bow to the rest.