Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quickly The Body Passes Away

"This body is as transient as dew on the grass, Life passes as swiftly as a flash of lightning, quickly the body passes away, in a moment life is gone." Dogen from Rules for Meditation

My mother died peacefully yesterday afternoon in her own bed. I had the privilege of sitting with her and holding her hand as she took her last breaths. It was interesting timing and not without its own meaning. I had just turned to the pages on the process of dying in "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche and read a part that said we only have a certain number of breaths based on our karma. A few minutes after that as I sat holding her hand my mothers face turned upward and seemed to open and she took a peaceful, long breath. There was a long pause. She took a few smaller breaths and then there were no more. A large digital clock was keeping us company by the bed side and showed that this transpired between about 2:05 -2:12. I sat and cried a bit and then could feel the inclination to do something, get up call my partner, call the Hospice Nurse. I resisted this urge and sat a while longer, said some prayers and at 2:55 according to my digital friend I felt a great peace arrive.

It has been a long journey with my mother but over the last 8 months we had some deep and healing conversations. I believe my mother's deep karmic work revolved around this statement she made at one point, about her inability to express love to others: "I realized why I was the way I am but I didn't realize how it affected other people." Is this not an amazing realization for a woman of 94? This came out of my search for some healing in our relationship when one day I asked myself after a particularly difficult encounter with her "how can I be helpful?" I came to see that I needed my mother to know how I felt in a kind and open way. This helped us move our relationship to new levels that seemed to defuse my anger and her wanting. It helped me to see her as a full person, filled with both compassion and suffering. She got to be just who she was. We reached a plateau of respect and caring. And this opened a space for us to talk about her impending death and what she wanted to do before she died. There was true healing.

So I could be with my mother in a tender and open way as she died. We could negotiate the fact that she did not want to go to hospital as the community nurse suggested. She did not want to die in an institutional bed in an emergency ward with noise and hustle and bustle and strangers mulling around in a samsaric way. In the end the community health nurse could hear us and made quick and seamless arrangements for the Hospice Response Team to visit. They were the most lovely, gentle, caring folk you could wish for. Arnold and Catherine brought peaceful caring energy to my mother's apartment and some meds to make her breathing easier. So between 4 pm Friday and 2 pm Saturday my mother made her final transition in a graceful, peaceful, uncomplicated way, in a way I belief typified her true being. When asked by the hospice team where she wanted to die, she said, "here if it's not too much trouble." And she truly meant that. It was the exit she had been waiting for. Please say a prayer for my mother if you feel so inclined. I am wishing her an auspicious rebirth where she can build on the realizations of this life, where she can happily express love and feeling. May her life and death be of benefit to all beings. Yetta Leslie 1915- 2009.


  1. thank you for writing this so immediately and publicly.



  2. Carole,

    I feel sadness for your loss, and joy that you and your mother were able to really dig into your relationship these final months. A blessing.

    Best to you and your family.


  3. May Yetta be well in her journey.
    Her peaceful passing seems like a beautiful way to end a long life; one that I sincerely wish for my aged mother.
    Warm thoughts for you and your family, Carole, at this time.

  4. Carole - my heart feels deeply for your loss. Prayers for you both. I also want to leave you this offering that I wrote for Yodi, which seems appropriate here as well.

    You made the full circle from birth to death.
    You made the full journey from breath to breath
    You have left your mark here in our hearts,
    forever imprinted, forever touched -
    nothing parts...

    With deepest Heart Hugs... Christine

  5. May your mother be in a place of peace and happiness. May you have comfort and peace.

    Kwan Seum Bosal. Kwan Seum Bosal. Kwan Seun Bosal.

  6. Thanks to all who stopped by with kind words, wishes and prayers. I feel strangely peaceful. This peace feels like a gift my mother has given me somehow. And yet i have the sensation of being winded, as if I've been punched but it doesn't really hurt, like I'm slightly stunned. (some might say more than slightly!)

    And at the same time there is sometimes the sense of something missing. Like in the evening when I might usually call my mother to see how she was doing.

    It is an experience of impermanence, the way life cycles back and forth, an illustration of how peace and loss can sit side by side on the same bench holding hands.

  7. Your post has spurred so many thoughts and emotions that it is difficult for me to communicate them.

    My heart goes out to you and your Mother. It seems you both have found peace and have begun a new journey.

  8. Thank you for sharing such a personal story - we all benefit from hearing about a death such as your mother experienced. My sympathies go out to you.

    Now if only your neighbors will be dormant when prospective buyers arrive.

    Sacred and profane...yes, that is how it is.

  9. So lovely and so rich...
    Metta for Yetta
    Now and always.