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Thursday, May 8, 2014

On The Exit Ramp...

B took an unexpected trip to see his nearly 91 year old mother last weekend at the Care Facility in New Mexico, near her daughter, where she has been now for more than a year.  She is what he calls – “on the exit ramp.”  She is not “dying” at this moment in time – although we weren’t sure, as she had recently been hospitalized, the body possibly shutting down, and we thought this might have been it.   Still, she is clearly on the exit ramp of life.   She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago.  She still recognizes her son, and remembered who I was, even though I was not there on this trip.  But there was no enthusiasm in the recognition as in previous visits this past year… 

The first day he just sat with her at her bedside for hours as she slept.  The staff would get her up to eat her meals in the dining hall – via wheelchair, but she kept her eyes closed – not engaging.  There is no emotional expression anymore, except a look of confusion or worry.  She appeared to be on automatic, as if blank, withdrawn into herself.  Sometimes there were glimmers of understanding, sometimes not…  And yet, she seems to be *aware* at some level.  She cannot hear, has a Cochlear implant – which helps, but not completely.  She would occasionally open her eyes to see if he was still there – but was otherwise unresponsive – less engaged; although, she has learned some simple sign language with a couple of members of the staff, and seems to respond to them, which was surprising…

And we wonder, has she truly reached the end of her life, or does she have many more years living like this… Of course nobody really knows…

In one of B’s communiqués to me, in response to my question about how he was feeling about all this, he wrote:

Acceptance of her present place and behavior on the exit ramp.

Yes, of course, acceptance of where she is, and whatever behavior she is displaying on the exit ramp, without trying to *make* her respond, or converse, or be what *he* wants her to be.  And so he sat, quietly, in her wheelchair next to the bed, just being present, silently reading his Kindle as she slept…  The only question she asked: Are you going to be here?  We think she meant, when she woke up.  Maybe this is why he wanted to go alone.   So he could fully *be* there, be fully present, without distraction…

On the second day she was roaming the halls in her wheelchair when he arrived. He was quickly in tow, following behind as she walked the wheelchair, until she was ready to go back to bed.  In the photo below she is taking a break and seems to have fallen asleep again… Yet, we aren’t sure if she is truly sleeping, or just turning inward – disengaging from the world…  “But where does she go?” – my sister-in-law asked…


B continues to amaze me with his wisdom in this situation.  I don’t know why it amazes me, it just does.  Perhaps because it’s usually what *I* need to hear.  He reminded me through this visit with his mother that it is about learning to see how life plays itself out from the perspective of the Eternal Being that we are – that embodies the body; that is non-reactive to, and non-judgmental of what is happening, but is just Aware…  And this is the key, to always return to this internal space of *Awareness* of the Eternal Being that we all are.  That no matter what life dramas/events we are entwined in/with, we can return to that place of Silent Awareness within.  Our Eternal Being accepts every situation and others with a sense of openness and curiosity, with a sense of compassion, with no need to “fix” it/them – *allowing* everything.  I know this is true…  I just need reminders…  And it doesn’t mean that one doesn’t *feel* anything about what is happening either.  Even the feelings are allowed to play themselves out.  I learn so much when I actually *listen* to him. J  When I’m on the “exit ramp” I want him sitting by my side to usher me across the threshold…  But of course, we’re all already on the “exit ramp” aren’t we… J - some just further along than others…


12 comments:

  1. Beautiful. He is so wise! You are so lucky, and so is he.

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    1. Yes :) We both have our moments of wisdom. LOL... Glad you added that last - "and so is he" ;)

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  2. Your B is a VERY wise man! I enjoy when you share his wisdom along with your own here. :o) My heart goes out to him, in this learning of acceptance of this last stage of his mother's life. I like think, that in those times where his mother seems to be disenganged, it's really a meeting with the Divine--comfort meetings. :o) To just accept, to just be witness with someone--however near & dear--during the last journey along the exit ramp (great expression!) is profound. To just be there, to just be witness... The allowing... That's really all we can do, can't we? And, yes, we're all on the ramp--in one stage of another on that outward journey... Much to think about with this--thank you! ((HUGS)) P.s. And of course, have to say LOVE that colorful quilt on B's mom's bed. ;o)

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    1. Thanks Tracy :) That colorful quilt is actually a prayer quilt made by some of the women at her youngest grand-daughter's church...

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  3. Such a lovely post...and so meaningful. A lesson for all of us.Enjoy the ride, wherever it takes you, and when it comes your time to take that exit ramp I pray everyone has someone so wise to sit next to them and just be.

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    1. Thank you Patricia :) Yes, I know, so many of us women are the ones sitting with our spouses on the exit ramp - as you know... Or don't have spouses to sit with us when our time comes. If that is how my life unfolds then I hope I can do it with courage, wisdom, and acceptance... I have no idea how I would be in those circumstances... I think losing a spouse is so much more painful than losing a mother who is in her 90's. And what a wonderful prayer. If I were alone by then I was thinking of having some Buddhist monks chanting... Just sounded very comforting when I read about it... Or I could have all my wonderful blog friends come to sit :) Have a wonderful Pilgrimage to Ireland!!!

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  4. Beautiful story. B's mom is lucky too to have such a kind son who will just let her be and go through her pathway to the beyond. He has a lot of understanding. So many people let their fear of death effect how the interact with those "on the exit ramp." Doing, fixing. As you say, he has no need to do that. What a relief that must be for his Mom. Blessings.

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    1. Yes, B *does* have a lot of understanding, and insight as well. And - he has only gone 3 times in the past year - and only stayed for 2 days... So he doesn't have to do this *every* day, or several times a week either - like his sister... Don't know if his patience would hold out. And I don't think his mother is *aware* that she is "on the exit ramp." She is very much just living in the moment, I think. I know that you took care of your mother *at home* "on the exit ramp." That takes a lot of patience and understanding as well. I wish that people could talk about the "exit ramp" more with their families. I have tried to approach the subject with my mother, but she gets upset. She's very fearful of death, despite her faith.

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  5. A perfect lesson in non-judgmental acceptance. I enjoyed reading this. My partner's mother has Alzheimers which mostly affects her short term memory and her emotions (contrariness). What else is there to do but to "compose with the moment" even if it appears that there is nothing to compose with? It must be a comfort for your husband's mother to sense his loving presence.

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    1. Hi Lynne! Alzheimer's is such an enigma. So far B's Mom has not exhibited the contrariness that I have others speak about. But her memory fluctuates... Mostly now she is withdrawn. I love your phrase "compose with the moment" - kind of like just going with the flow depending on the day. Yes, it would be nice to know that she was comforted by B's presence, she would keep opening her eyes to see if he was still there, so maybe so... Sometimes it seemed as if she didn't recognize him and that he was just one of the staff... Who knows... Thanks for your comment. :)

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  6. Ah this rings such a bell, a lovely chime actually, for me! When my mom, also diagnosed with Alzheimer's, was on what to us was an entry portal more than an exit ramp because she had been describing seeing my papa and several of her sisters "over there" in the light, she loved soothing sensory experiences. We would rub her hands with lotion, read and sing to her, play Hildegarde von Bingen chants in the background, etc. which delighted her so very much. These were precious moments and B is fortunate to be able to walk partway down the path with his mom. When Mom finally passed, the smiled, exhaled and was gone. At that moment, I actually had a smile on my face because I knew she was teaching me not to fear. And then, of course, the tears won out. Blessings. <3

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    1. Thank you Susan! How heart warming your experience with your mother! Sounds like she was well loved. Thank you for sharing it. Yes, "entry portal" too! :) In either case a "transition" into another state of Being. And what a way to pass over, with a smile on her face! One can only hope that we all recognize "Home" when it happens. And what a loving way to go - in full consciousness...

      B's mother likes soothing sensory experiences as well. She now has a "muff" that she likes to put her hands into - evidently likes the feel of it. She likes her shoulders rubbed. She also rocks herself back and forth in her wheelchair. We were told that she is "self-soothing."

      We got word this weekend that the "nurses" think she is deteriorating quickly - still, one never knows when "she" will go through that portal... Yes, definitely glad that B got to spend this time with her now...

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