I am thinking about fear again. Maybe you've heard enough about fear already? This time I'm thinking about it in terms of my mother. Today I went to visit her when the doctor came by. In an earlier post I made reference to the fact that she wanted to decrease her meds in an effort to speed up the process of dying. So today I went to have a 3 way chat with her and the doctor.
Now my mother and I have already had several fine conversations on the subject of dying and we had the opportunity to chat again before the doctor arrived. As much difficulty as I have had with my mother over the years, it seems this is a subject that we have come to talk about without doing any dysfunctional dances over. (No funky chickens here). I could tell her that of course the decision is hers but that I don't think it is good to make the decision out of fear (there it is again, that fear thing) or some imagined idea of future events. She is afraid of her declining mental state. She refers to it as becoming a vegetable or going crazy. So we had a really good conversation with the doctor about the choices and options and how he sees it playing itself out. He agreed that the decision shouldn't be made from a negative point of view. He was quite accepting of it as an option to minimize suffering. He said most people just let things take their normal course rather that taking any proactive steps. He talked about how death is just a part of life. And he pointed out the fact that if she can engage in this conversation on how to make her exit, she is far from being a vegetable. He clarified what meds he sees as being key players in the process (diuretics that reduce fluid build up) and that her exit would probably be the result of the kidney's being unable to conduct away the fluid in an efficient enough manner. He felt because of the fragility of her heart he didn't see her hanging around long enough to become a vegetable.
He asked her about her spiritual beliefs and my mother could tell him about her experience after my father died that she felt he was around in their apt. for about 4 months after, and that convinced her there was something after this life, though she isn't clear on what that might be. It was a helpful conversation with a really caring and thoughtful doctor. In the end he said to her well, you've bought your ticket and your waiting in the station, you've made your intentions known. There is no hurry for you to make your choice. You can make it at any time and it will probably become clearer to you as time goes on. He will visit her once a week and the conversation will continue, I think. Before I left she said I will probably make the choice but I don't know when. I felt good that she could think and talk about this and contemplate the end of her life quite consciously. She says she is not afraid to die.
There was so much good Dharma here. The ultimate acceptance of what is, which my mother and I talked about after the doctor left. How we create so much disharmony and suffering by fighting against what is. How this is an opportunity for her to look at that "worry about loosing her mind and saying foolish things". I suggested she could look at why she felt that way and what that was all about (being vain she suggested later). I told her in Buddhism the question is who is worried about this? The part of the Dharma in all of this that is important to me, is that she make her decision based on "right understanding" rather that some faulty logic or out of fear. I would like to see her, as much as possible, make her exit in a wholesome way, if that choice of words makes sense to you. I would like to see her working to resolve some karmic issues in this lifetime so she doesn't have to repeat them next time around. I have great hopes for her end of life process.
In a way I think the whole conversation today took a lot of pressure off her. The doctor could say to her that he sees the process taking place gradually over the next few to six months even without reducing the meds. I'm thinking this may release her to actually enjoy and savour her final days here, instead of exuding the bitterness I have perceived over my lifetime. That is my hope for her.