Posts Tagged ‘death’

Death and Renewal

Friday, February 1st, 2008

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In the Medicine Wheel as it was taught to me the west road is the way of death and renewal. It is also the way of the masculine, our fathers, our emotions and air element. Over the past week as I assisted my father in his journey down the west road I was conscious of these things. It was just a year ago that I assisted Craig Marvel down the same road. As we prepared for Dad’s funeral services we got word of the passing of Gordon B. Hinkley. Though their lives were very different all three men shaped me in many ways that I am not fully aware of. I love them all dearly and am looking forward to more associations in this life and the next.
I subscribe to a world view that allows for limited contact with those who have passed beyond this mortal life. These experiences are usually brief for me but very real. People talk about a ’sixth sense’. I have felt that and it is real. To quote Bob Marley, “Who feels it knows it.” THere is usually some meaning or message associated with these encounters. Up to the week of my father’s passing I sometimes wondered if these experiences were only in my head. Things that happened in the Freeman Hospital in Joplin Missouri removed those doubts for me. Dad and I shared an experience that left me convinced that it is real. I am glad we had those moments of confirmation and that we both knew it. Death is not the end but a portal into the wonder of eternity.
As a person with my father’s condition approaches death they become increasingly hypoxic. Hypoxia as I understand it can lead to hallucinations. This would seem to make those often reported end of life visions of departed loved ones easy to explain away. I was not hypoxic or under the influence of any known hallucinogen. We both had the experience. I am satisfied of that. This was a couple of days before Dad’s last mortal breath. As he came closer to that portal those who loved him gathered from both worlds to celebrate his graduation. If there was a degree to be bestowed it would be measured by the quality of the lives of the 106 (2 more on the way) descendants he left this world. As my wife’s grandfather was wont to say of his progeny “There is not a scrub in the lot.”
I think that a big chunk of this life’s work, at least for a lot of us, is to idealize and worship our fathers/mothers, see the human failings they all possess, become dissillusioned and perhaps angry, to learn to see them as they really are, forgive their imperfections and finally embrace the whole of who they are. The operant verb here is forgive. Without that we pass through this life unfulfilled, having missed the greatest thing because a heart occupied with resentment for the very source of our existence can not embrace the creator who granted our parents the power to give us life through their bodies. It is a simple matter of the free flow of divine energy or love as we call it.
This was my course. I lived it all, at one time thinking my father was a god, an idiot, a tyrant and finally a loving man who only did for me what he thought I needed, and, in a very real way, gave me what I needed to stumble on and climb over to find myself. How can one argue with that?
The past week has been the most compressed and intense learning period of my life. I have heard others speak of the passing of a parent and wondered what that would be like. My experience was tender, powerful, faith affirming and very instructive. Dad’s last teachings for me were among his greatest. I was accompanied by a feeling of love, peace and joy that brought great comfort. There were times when I cried hard which is a good thing to be able to do, but for the most part I was upheld by a profound sense of joy to be able to witness his passing and assist him as I could. I came to appreciate my immediate family more that I already did. I was especially glad to have my three daughters there with me as we laid him to rest. This event only comes once and I feel like I got my money’s worth.
Before Dad passed I heard him say “Hoka Hey” which means in Lokota “It is a good day to die.”

Flying East

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I caught a flight to Tulsa Tuesday and drove to my parents home in SW MO. I have been spending time with my folks at the hospital in Joplin. Mother, Dad and I made the difficult decision to take him off life support Wednesday morning. Dad was against it until he was convinced that my mother would be well cared for. I could see the relief wash over his face and a calm set in. After the ventilating tubes were with drawn from his throat he slowly became stronger and brighter. Finally his speech came back and he became very much himself for a while laughing, telling stories and talking to distant family on the phone.
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Owen and Hannah Byrd.
Dad expressed a desire to go home so the cardiologist gave his OK for Dad to go home to hospice care. I went ahead to help prepare his hospital bed at home. When he arrived he was very anxious and in a lot of distress. He had been given Ativan to make him less anxious for the drive home. It had taken the opposite effect (1 in 1000 chance) making him very agitated. It was a very difficult situation. Though Dad was very distraught I felt a strange and wonderful sence of peace as I assited my father in the most difficult work of his life. It was clear that he was ready to go and wanted to but was unsure about how to do it. It is hard waiting for death when it comes in the form of suffocation from within. As I satr with him holding his hand, wiping his face and giving him ice and water to drink I had one of the peak emotional and spiritual experiences of my life. I understood that although death can be difficult it is also sweet for those who have walked in integrity as he has.
We administered morphine to settle him down and to help with the feeling of drowning in his own fluids. That is how he will eventually go as his lungs slowly fill. His heart is too weak for proper circulation.
This is a tough situation but I have felt a tremendous amount of peace over it. He is going out with a lot of dignity and courage. It is amazing to watch him do this once in a lifetime work. I am glad to be able to assist him as he passes into eternity and back to his ancestors.
Though the eagle is generally flying west he was able to head east first to be in his home with his family all around him. Life doesn’t get much better than that in the end.