We’ve made it to Northern California, continuing our incredible journey, walking on a trail that we’ve never walked before, all without a map. As I’ve said in an earlier blog entry, what’s really weird is everyone eventually takes this journey, but there is little preparation to know the way into death. For Andy and our family we are navigating through by trusting the unknown and what lies ahead, not knowing how things will play out, or what the end will look like.
We are inspired by our spiritual values that are based on yoga philosophy and Buddhist teachings — but what I reflect on is this path is so much like what Andy and all PCT hikers do on the trail — to just keep forging ahead, never knowing what was going to be around the next traverse, over the next crest or even where we will would find the next watering hole to replenish and refresh.
Fortunately we’ve found a perfect place to ‘camp-out’ and at the same time replenish and refresh. We are staying in the Guest House at the Crystal Hermitage in Ananda Village. The house sits on the ridge of a sloping mountain surrounded by beautiful pine and oak trees. We can see a peek of the Yuba River and all kinds of wild life including deer and fat furry squirrels. Andy feels at home now is this quiet serenity.
It’s just the three of us — Andy, me and Alex (Michael is closing down the Laguna house). I haven’t referred to my daughter, Andy’s sister Alexandra during this journey, but she is an intricate part of Andy’s life. If I can say so myself, she is a beautiful strong young woman who loves her brother dearly and has been by his side since we began hospice a month ago. They have a very close bond with one another, having experienced so life together.
What do you say and how do you console a daughter who is loosing her brother? I have to reach deep inside me to find words that support her grief. Even though Andy is still alive, we are loosing little bits of him everyday. And its painful beyond belief. We are loosing his fast analytical mind, his agile ability in the kitchen concocting a new culinary masterpiece and his talk and hopes and dreams of his next adventure.
We cling to what is still left — his smile and wirily humor about the mundane things such as modesty — I should say lack of — and his meager attempts at hygiene as we both step in to do the dirty work. We still have his never wavering love and gratefulness for all we do for him now. It is so amazing that he still shows his care and concern for Alex despite his slowed speech. It brings me to tears when he says to her in broken down gasping breaths, “How are you doing Alex?” He says this in the midst of his own obvious frailty and broken down body. This is the spirit of Andy — compassion for others.
Alex and I cry a lot together and talk about what the end of Andy’s life will look like. Neither of us has seen someone die. She is afraid to leave his side fearing she will not witness his last breath. I know from my research and trying to be more informed, despite being map-less, that he could take his last breath without anyone around. Alex is fearful of the future of what her life will look like without her brother and regrets that she didn’t spend more time with him when she was able.
All of this is so delicate. I can share with her my process and that through my spiritual practice I have been preparing for Andy’s death as best as I am able. I also know in my heart that I have spent so many meaningful moments with Andy, more than most mother’s do in a lifetime. I hope that as his life comes to an end I will have no regrets, only memories of a beautiful boy that brought so much joy and excitement and the true spirit of what it means to be alive.
One last thing to finish this entry . . . in the middle of many sleepless nights Andy and I sing or chant together. We sing silly little songs, some sanskrit mantras or we make up some of our own little melodies to suit the moment and bring peace and tranquility to our hearts and minds. Here are two that we ‘sing’ frequently:
In breath, out breath
deep breath, slow breath
calm breath, ease breath
smile breath, release
present moment, wonderful moment
~Thich Nhat Hanh
May the door open to my heart,
may all people be free from suffering,
may all have joy flow in.