Today was the most horrific day I have ever lived through. Mom was more alert, but also more solidly in the throes of cyanosis, the buildup of CO2 in her blood that many people with COPD get toward the end. It made her delirious, and in pain, and unable to tell me what hurt — unable to say more than “Help me” or “Water” or “I love you so much.”

This morning a sweet CNA gave her a little bath, which Mom loved. Soon thereafter, about eight hours ago now, she started thrashing around, moaning, crying, in great distress. We had someone come out to put her on a machine that would help her breathe better, but it used a mask over her mouth and nose, and the forced air was intolerable, and she started clawing at the mask to get it off. Even her nasal canula, which she had worn for years now, became too much for her. As her anxiety and incoherence grew — she was like a wild thing, trapped in this bed — she at one point said, “I’m so tired, I’m so very tired,” and “I’m sorry” — sorry to be leaving me. I told her it was OK, that she just needed to relax and let go, that I loved her and everything was going to be all right.

But these things are rarely swift and tidy. I finally called the hospice nurse and asked for advice, and she said many end-stage patients experience what is called “terminal agitation,” and just couldn’t be calmed down. She told me to give her a mild sedative (the pill she had taken at bedtime for years, very mild indeed), and after about a half hour she had calmed down enough to sleep a little. I heard a cough and looked over, and she looked comfortable, so I went back to work, sitting in the easy chair next to her bed. A few minutes later I looked over at her again and . . . she was gone.

I will probably have words in the days and weeks ahead about this remarkable woman. We’re going to have a funeral here, then send her up to Maryland to be buried with my father (there will be another service for our remaining family up there). Then I’ll be about the process of learning what it’s like to be completely on my own. The idea is both exhilarating and terrifying.

I wrote a friend a few days ago and said, “I am trying to be a shaman, to journey, to be a psychopomp. But all I am is a scared little boy.” She told me it was OK to be a shaman and a psychopomp and a sacred little boy all at the same time.

I just realized that I haven’t anything more than a couple of bananas today, and I’m suddenly very hungry. I think eating may be the most grounding thing I can do right now.

Goodbye, Mom. Let me know what you find on the other side. You can always reach me in the Dreamtime.

Categories: Death, Shamanism | 23 Comments

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23 thoughts on “Gone

  1. Life will be different. But you will not be totally on your own. You have too many friends for that and far too much love floating around with your name on it.

    As for the funeral, you need only let me know how to help and it will be done.

    It took me ten years to write about the death of my grandmother. Actually, it took me ten years to write about the funeral. I still have not written about her death.

    Take your time.

  2. Love, and hugs, and thoughts of comfort to you, my friend. The way in which you’re cared for your mother has been inspiring, to say the least. You are truly a remarkable man.

  3. A few minutes ago I thought: “I better go to Craig’s site and see how he is. I should remind him that he introduced me to that D.H. Lawrence poem I love so much.”

    You lovely lovely man — bless you. Tears in my eyes…hoping that the strength of the earth and the goodwill of friends will sustain you in the days to come.

    love to you,

  4. indigo bunting

    Craig: Thank you for calling us so immediately. I’m sorry I was away from the room, but also happy that Tim was there to be the one to receive the news, to be involved. I do hope we’ll be seeing you soon. And we’ll be talking with you again much sooner. Tonight, we splurged on expensive glasses of wine and toasted sweet Marguerite. She was a helluva woman.

  5. there are no words I can express, but just wanted to let you know that I care. She’s an ancestor now…wonder filled.

  6. Robbie

    “When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take that step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe one of two things will happen — there will be something solid for us to stand on, or we will be taught how to fly.”

  7. Mali

    Craig, I’m so very sorry. But what a gift of love you gave your mother, to be there with her, to the end.

  8. Jenny

    I’m bawling my eyes out right now reading this. I really wish we had gotten to see her before she left us, but like you posted in the picture, at least she got to meet and hold Jillian. I feel bad for Jilly though, she will miss out on such a wonderful person! I think that is what pisses me off most…we all will miss out on such a wonderful person. I love you and you are so not alone…we are here and always will be. We have been selfish over the years and not given you the opportunity to spend time on yourself when we should have offered more help. I’m so sorry for that. I really feel like we could have done more for you and should have, but life always gets in the way when you are not the one in the midst of it all. Grandma is at peace now and not struggling for a breath and now gets to be the person she always has been with the body to let her do what she wants for a change!! I know she will always be watching over us and smiling that little smile in amusement at what we are up to….

    Please don’t feel alone, you can feel scared, but not alone…promise, ok?

  9. JohnMc

    Craig, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I really wish I had met your mom on this side. She sounds like a remarkable lady.

  10. Ron Langbecker

    I hope you truly know how many people you have inspired and touched with friendship. You certainly are not alone Craig.

  11. Your mother died an enviable death, surrounded by your care and love. . . . YOU’re the one in need of care now. Be kind to yourself — it’s what she would want.

  12. It’s so peculiar. I feel whole, and healthy, and sane, and calm. It feels quiet and natural, not forced or faked, or like I’m holding it together.

    There will be rough bumps ahead, I know. But it’s so much better than I ever expected.

  13. Dear Craig, truest condolences and thoughts: exhiliarating and terrifying about covers it, I have found: but it’s natural. You are well equipped to pass though and gain understanding from it all if anyone is.

  14. I’m sorry Craig.

  15. Kraig

    After our great friendship in DC, we reunited this evening for the first time in ten years at the Yellow Dog Café. I have never seen you stronger, so articulate and present. That our lives would intersect at this point both humbles and renews me.

  16. indigobunting

    Kraig and Craig at the Yellow Dog Cafe? I would have loved to have been there. Now I have to know how Kraig happened to be in town during this time.

    I’ll call soon. Promise.

  17. Kraig

    I’ve been back in the US waiting for my residency permit to be processed in Brazil (I had overstayed my tourist visa). I had planned to visit Craig in October but decided instead to head up to my home state of North Dakota to campaign for Obama. Fortunately, I found that I had a week to spare following the elections and when I needed to report to the Brazilian Embassy in DC to finally gain my visa, so I decided to make a trip down here. As we all know (and if don’t, Craig will wisely remind us) I can’t take much credit for the timing of all of this.

  18. Beth

    I don’t have any words of wisdom, but I have love, and i’m sending you lots of it.

  19. Craig, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I was trained in Peru…even Pacos (shamans in the Andes) have another trusted shaman to perform the death rights and lead the soul out to the stars…..its not your role to be the shaman right now….just the son….

    I was in the jungle Peru two summers ago and had a fellow shaman from Oregon “meet” her parents (both are passed away) during an ayuhusca ceremony. She was so relived to know that they were “still right there cheering her on” We all cried in the group when she shared her vision the next morning……
    I will offer prayers for your family at my fire cermony this weekend ….in munai (love)

  20. Thank you, Kay. Yes, it struck me at last that my being there with her at the end, and tending her, was the shamanic work I was supposed to be doing at that moment rather than helping her spirit out and up. Or rather, my tending to her and helping her relax and let herself go in those last hours were the very things that helped her die a peaceful death.

    Interestingly, she didn’t need any extra help crossing over. My friends have had visions of her, as I have I, of a woman newly young, strong, joyous, and laughing (all the dreams or images remarkably consistent in many details); I have been conversing with her, and have been surprised by some of her answers (which lends credence to the idea that I’m hearing her and not my own mind’s longings); and I have been suffused with an extraordinary peace and even happiness, even as I’ve rambled about in an empty house, or when I’ve called out, “I’m home!” when I walk through the door. I hear her and feel her everywhere.

    I’m going to be officiating at her funerals (we’re having two, one here in Florida and the other in Maryland for the more northerly branch of the family), and have been working on that quiet little ceremony, which has also been helpful.

  21. Helen

    Oh, every time I read about death I get scared about my own end. But like Mali said, what a gift you gave your mother, just like she gave you a pretty incredible one. And I’m glad she and the dogs are partying it up somewhere else now! Blessings…

  22. Lightwalker

    I am so very touched by the open heart exchanges on this blog. I never met Craig’s mother, though her greatness is evident. What an amazing relationship between a mother and son. Craig, you are so blessed to be surrounded by friends who so freely share their feelings. I have been blessed by what I’ve read. Very beautiful.

    I feel privileged . . . thank you for sharing this with me . . . for sharing your Self with others . . . and for being a loving and compassionate being for your mother and for your family and friends. You are feeling everything from this experience aren’t you?

    Blessings and much love,

  23. I certainly am, J. I feel wrapped in the love and support everyone has been showing.

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