Wednesday, September 24, 2008

7 Days

One week ago today I found out that my mother was dying so my wife and I went to the rest home where my mother, age 89 lives now to pay our respects. She was in a coma with the "death rattle" of pneumonia like symptoms present. I realized that I had to make arrangements for her cremation because even though I had designated a mortuary years before that I had not yet made arrangements with the mortuary yet.

This was all very difficult because my wife's father had died also recently and we had to fly out the next day to inter his ashes in Saint Louis with his mother and father. So, I heard about my mother's passing in Los Angeles International Airport after flying the first leg of our trip. I considered not going to Saint Louis but since life is for the living, decided that it was more important to keep my wife in one piece so to speak so that my daughter and two grown children had their mother and father together in all this. I took a moment when I heard while waiting for another plane in public to walk over to the window with planes landing and taking off and leaning against the wall to have a private moment.

My mother had had senile dementia starting in a mild way in 1999. By December 2001 when she almost burnt down her home we had to institutionalize her in a rest home facility. After witnessing about 50 different personalities as she slowly regressed back to childhood and then babyhood I felt more and more abandoned and more helpless to help her or myself in this awful situation. She hasn't known who I am for more than two years and my last visit was punctuated by primal screams because I am 6 foot 5 inches tall and when I walked through her facility door it was too much for her. That was very difficult for me. Two years ago I was able to still take her out to movies in her wheelchair by car.

Now, she's gone and today I will witness her cremation like I did for my father when I was 37. I'm 60 now so I hope I can do this again without fainting from the process. It's been a tough week burying my wife's father's ashes and now witnessing my own mother's cremation. But all in all, it must be understood that all of us do this for ourselves and our children. The dead don't really care either way. We bury or cremate our loved ones so we don't have to witness animals eat their corpses. That is what is really going on. I've been to India and seen dead bodies on the streets in 1985 and 1986. So I have seen first hand what happens to really poor people. There bodies just lie there and rot (at least they did 20 years ago). Believe me this is better(what we do in America) as long as we are real about the fact that death is real and happens to everyone. Being too insulated from death only makes people cruel and unrealistic and that is never never good.

several hours later. . .

I just witnessed my mother's cremation. The elder gentleman and the young lady were more than kind. After they understood why I wanted to witness my mother's cremation just like I had my father's in 1985 they were fine with whatever we wanted. I wanted to open the burning container and see my mother for one last time and to make sure it was her who would be cremated and to make sure my real mother's body didn't become a cadaver for experimentation. So the man showed me the button to push to turn on the furnace after he let me push my mother's burning container into the furnace. I pushed the button and it made a very loud noise almost like a jet taking off and so soon we all left the room and talked outside for awhile.

I had driven myself to the crematorium because I sensed it was a way to prevent my fainting from this experience. I was only 37 when I had witnessed my father's cremation
and so now at 60 am much more aware of my mortality than when I was a much younger man.
Driving myself did the trick. Looking at my mothers head and shoulders was actually less frightening than hearing my mother's death rattle 7 days ago on Thursday. My mothers body was at peace today having been refrigerated since last Thursday so her soul had had time to exit properly. I thought of the sacred fire she regularly invoked every day of her life since age 16 and thought to myself, "Well Mom. You are really in the sacred fire now!"

That's about all I can deal with for now.

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