March 8, 2009: In late January, when I started planning a visit to the Optimum Health Institute, I tried to explain the place to my Mom and Dad. Since they were grounded in Western medicine, they didn’t really understand the notion of detoxing from chemotherapy although they did understand the value of resting after the hospital stays. Finally, I said, “Hey, I’ve explained it as best I can. I am planning to go there, so I’ll tell you about it while I’m there and after I get back.” When she heard my resolution, my Mom said, “We’d like to pay for it.” “No, no. I can take care of that,” I replied. “Ever since you’ve been sick,” my Mom responded, “we’ve been wanting to do something to help you. Let us do this for you.” So, I stopped, considered, and changed my mind. It’s through the generosity of my Mom and Dad that I went to OHI for the past three weeks.
I did talk to my folks a couple of times from Southern California. The last time was on Sunday night Feb. 22nd and I mostly talked with my Dad. As usual, I told both of them that I loved them as we rang off. Then, later that evening or early the next morning, my Mom had a catastrophic stroke. My sister called and gave me the news. What to do? Fly up to Portland as quickly as possible? My sister explained that the doctors’ assessment was that my Mom had effectively died as we knew her. This was not a stroke that could include recovery or rehabilitation. She would probably live for another week or so at which point her internal organs would have shut down and she would die painlessly without ever regaining consciousness.
I went into serious shock, and wandered out into the garden at the Institute where I could just look at plants in the sunlight. After an hour or so of being numb, I started to look for one of my new friends to tell them the news. That was how I got through the next few hours. I talked to people individually--five or six of them--and related my news as well as whatever feelings happened to be available at the moment. Slowly, the initial thaw started.
On that first day, my sister and Dad and I decided that rather than return home, I should stay put and continue my own healing. After almost thirty years of doing end of life care for others, I had always assumed that I would be there for my Mom and Dad during their final moments. But that did not happen. And it worked out well. My sister took charge and did an outstanding job of setting up the best situation imaginable for my Mom. She arranged for my Mom to be moved back to her apartment where she could spend her final hours at home, where my Dad would be close by at all times and where there would be a hospice nurse taking care of her plus attendants around the clock. And so it was.
A day after she arrived home, I called my Mom on the phone. The attendant held the receiver up to her ear, and we had a talk. I told her how much I had enjoyed having her for a Mom, how much she had supported my interests and my self over the years and how much I appreciated that. I also told her many of the things that I admired about her: her vivaciousness, her generosity, her interest in others and her good heart. I told her that I knew she would be dying soon and that I sensed that family and close friends who pre-deceased her were right there to help. I told her that she would be in my heart forever and said goodbye.
Without ever regaining consciousness, my Mom died at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 1st. My Dad and sister were with her as was an attendant and two of her favorite neighbors. Her passing was easy and simple. She was a wonderful woman to many, many people, and I know that I am going to miss her deeply. I am very grateful that she did not suffer. But I am still incredulous that I won’t see her again in my lifetime. She has always been there—a person of great significance and support. During my adulthood, she was one of my best friends. During my childhood, she was the parent who most understood me and enjoyed me.
Have a safe journey forward, Mom. You were a very fine parent and you taught me how to love others for who they are. I am blessed to have known you.