Chatter and laughter filled the living room. I finished setting out cookies and coffee. I paused and realized, in a new way, I am inside. I smiled. For many years, I lived on the outside. Radar fully engaged, scanning for danger. Social danger: who is talking to who, am I dressed right, who is the bore, who is best, who is lonely, who is anxious, what will I say if, when will this be over, do I fit in, will I be accepted, what do I want, who am I, does it matter?
So many questions, all the while gathering information and making meaning and sense so I could be safe.
It has been a long process to get to the present. It came when the pain of being outside became too much to bear. I gave way to vulnerability.
The cost would be the knowing, the near mystical power to predict, and the safety of the illusion of being better, being right, and being safe. Confronted with the question: " Will I lose my ability to see? " I took the leap into living. I risked being known, being loved, being hurt, being wrong. This leap has yielded the fruit of being connected to others and of being connected more fully to myself.
Being present to now is the gift of life itself. I see differently, but I still see. My passions remain and I am valued for my seeing and giving, but now I also receive. In my work, I am thinking about this as the human exchange model and relationship as a healing modality.
Presence is the only modality that matters in the final minutes of life. I was reminded of this, as I went to make visits on the day after the snow storm. My seeing, made it important to see a frail woman and her daughters before the ice arrived and made it urgent to return when the snow had passed. I arrived to a dying frame, exhausted caregivers whose faces were marked by the strain of waiting, and the turbulent sound of breathing through water. Not a death rattle, but foaming accumulation in the chest. I felt helpless.
I scanned the room for tools to ease this discomfort. None were found. I paused. I panicked. I called the doctor. I checked the heart rate. I couldn't hear. I touched a hand. I adjusted the pillows. I explained. I watched. I remembered: no oxygen please. Then I attempted to get some new medication, a better solution.
As I called on the phone, the eyes changed. The rose pink of the cheeks began to fade. I stopped. I called to the daughter in the next room. She returned and sat with her sister. I spoke gently. I was quiet. I touched and so did they. We watched and held our own breaths. The life faded away with a last effort of strength and resilience that echoed into the heart of this family and yet was frightening.
The expected loss was harder than they had imagined. Grief swelled. We sat together. We were present to the now of death. Safe together.