I am shaking a little right now. I’m rather upset. The truth of war is ugly, so ugly it gives nightmares to the strongest men.
In my research I ran across a link to a video about a massacre in Iraq last year. It took some digging to find a copy, all the links were gone. Not surprising. I managed to find an embedded copy that I am not so sure I even want to see. The first few seconds were enough.
A little while later I was trying to catch up with my nerves. My boy came in, walked up to me and gave me a huge smile. I realized how much he looked like one of the boys in the video. Except the boy on the video had a hole in his head a tennis ball would fit in. That boy’s eyes were open, vacant, empty. My mind merged the two images and suddenly I was holding my boy and crying.
The letter arrived today. Now Lufkin has yet another reason to scream at the liberal crazy guy. View the letter update here: And The War Goes On.
My wife and I had a little “discussion” today. She, like almost ever other American, sees the war the same way the military sees homosexuality: don’t ask/don’t tell. The reality of war is far from her mind. I don’t know how to get her to understand. I don’t know how to get the rest of America to understand the horrors of war.
It has taken a few days for me to get around to this post. I’ve been thinking about how to write it. No luck yet.
Last Thursday my three siblings and I were together for the last act we’ll ever do as a family. It’s likely I’ll never see my oldest sister again. I will see my brother and youngest sister very little. We finished the task of dealing with mom’s stuff by signing the papers to sell the house. It’s over.
All these years that house has been “over there,” the anchor of a family separated by different attitudes, lifestyles, and religions. We all have a few happy memories but in all none of us had a happy childhood. Mom was not always easy to get along with. We loved her, though, at least three of us did. Not to sure about my younger sister. Anyway, the house was the anchor. Now that it is gone there’s nothing holding the family together at all.
Mom and dad would be very sad, probably, about the disolution of their little family. I’m a little sad too. All that is left of mom and dad is a stone in a cemetary where their remains rest. That and an assortment of stuff scattered among our things. There’s memories, of course, plenty of those.
What is a family? In some cultures family is everything. In most cultures family is important. It seems less important in this country. Families don’t get along very well here. In our case it’s not so much getting along as it is that we’re so different we don’t have anything but a few memories in common. I, especially, am the odd person out (as usual). Christianity is a big part of my brother and younger sister’s life. I am Buddhist. Where do we find a meeting of minds? We don’t. They dance around subjects, avoiding anything that might lead back to a discussion of beliefs or point of view. I miss all of my family. I’ve never really been a part of it, though, for a very long time. When mom died I lost my last best friend outside my own family. When mom died, too, she took with her the reason we’ve all had to act like a family.
Maybe it’s more difficult for me because I do not have a circle of friends like my three siblings do. My oldest sister has fewer but she has her family. My brother and sister have a huge circle of friends, all of them tied to their church or their spouse’s family.
Thursday morning I walked through the house one last time, taking pictures, trying to stuff memories on the camera along with digital images. My brother could not walk through the house. He struggled with just being at it that last morning it was in our family. Neither of my sisters made it by to say goodbye.
My oldest sister and I were talking before the signing. She said, “it’s just like mom died all over again.” I had been thinking the same thing for a day or so. It wasn’t mom dying, it was the family she raised. We killed it with the stroke of a pen. Each of us walked away with a check that represented the final vestiges of all that had kept us together: that old house.
I don’t really know what to say now. It’s just over. The anchor is gone. What do we do now?
I am unique. I do not think like anybody I’ve ever known or learned about. This is a fact. It does not matter whether or not you believe me. You who live in a world of same-kind-of-people find the notion of a unique human unacceptable. “Don’t be ridiculous,” you say, “humans are humans.” Not so. There may be others in this world who think as I but I have yet to find one. And this uniqueness has been the death of me.
My mom fought a hard fight. She ran that race right down to the wire. She was a strong woman. In the end, though, age and biology overcame her indomitable will to live. She died as we sat close by in the late hours last night.
When we got her back to Hospice she went down even more rapid than she had been. Over night Wednesday I slept on the roll-away while my brother and my sister’s daughter stood by her bedside. From what I heard and was told they had a veritable camp meeting. She sang gospel songs and talked about Jesus.
Towards morning she became so weak she could no longer speak. Through the day she lay twitching and unresponsive as the nurses came and went with medications they hoped might relieve any pain she was in. I spent the day by her side as I promised, telling her I loved her and I was proud of her.
In the evening around eight or so I stood by her, rubbing her neck. She’d pointed to it though it was all she could do to communicate with a wavy hand. Her muscles were tense. All of a sudden she scrunched up, her eyes clenched, she turned a very dark red and shivered. She apparently suffered a stroke or something as I was holding her.
In a few seconds she stopped the incessant twitching she’d been doing. She became rigid, eyes fixed with labored breathing. We called for the nurse who said call the family by her side. I called my wife who had just left for home half an hour before.
For more than two hours her body clung to life though the eyes were vacant. Her breathing stopped and it was over.
I can’t say mom was a perfect mom nor that my childhood was wonderful. What I can say is that my mom loved me, my family, my siblings and their families with an unending and undying love.
Like most kids I didn’t spend enough time with her through the years, all wrapped up in my own life. In the end, though, I was there. I promised I would not leave her side and I didn’t.
When my dad died I was angry at God and at Dad for going so quick. The moment he left us I started a journey that ended the moment my mom took her last breath. Though I miss her very much already I have an understanding of life and death, a strength of purpose, I never had before. I was able to be strong for mom and family because of what I’ve learned from Gautama the Buddha. The answers I found in his words are the foundation upon which I have stood through these past few weeks. With mom’s passing I am firmly on a new path, putting behind the old, setting aside the days of confusion, moving forward.
I want to be the best Buddhist and the best servant of mankind I can possibly be. These weeks with my mother showed me where I can find strength. I learned I can do many things I would not have thought myself capable. I have a strong desire to give the same kind of compassionate service to others as I have given to my mom as Jesus and as Gautama taught us we should.
Yesterday is over. Tomorrow is full of promise. Today I shall be sad, I shall cry, I shall remember and I shall look upon a hundred, a thousand different reminders of the woman who gave me life and say “Thanks, mom.” I shall say goodbye and I will be assured that I have done my duty as a son, given her all my love and provided all I could for her as she ran her last mile, the one we ran together.
Yesterday I talked with my wife about the question of “assisted suicide” and all that goes with someone deciding to die or for someone deciding FOR someone to die. Today in a very real way I have to make that decision.
We’re not talking Kavorkian machine here but the decision is the same.