Cancer

Vulnerability

Have you ever felt that nothing protects you from the mishaps of life?

During my life time  I’ve felt vulnerable only in several occasions.

One that is embedded in my memories would be the day my best friend’s husband called me to tell me that she had been hit by a car and had died almost immediately after.   Words fail to describe how vulnerable I felt during those brief moments.  Pain ripped through my body and soul as I realized that things like this happen, and that they can happen to anyone. 

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Going down memory lane would have to  be,  the day I was rushed to a nearby hospital and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit without even having a diagnose of what was happening to me.  I was terribly ill, but doctors couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with me.

I could have been easily on a House episode during that time.  I was so afraid of dying, my life had been turned around and no longer was I healthy or would be in the near future.

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It seemed my life had fallen into a pit, that I no longer controlled the events that were taking place.

I felt the raw vulnerability of a newborn.

I felt naked in a world of dressed people with nothing to protect me from anything or anyone.

When we’re ill our world changes and our independence is lost with so many other things.  We feel that nothing stands between us and life.  All our barriers are gone, leaving nothing left except our bare essence.

It’s like taking a free fall into a bottomless pit.  You just fall suspended in time and space without a notion of what will happen next.

Today as I visited my father-in-law I looked at him and these thoughts crept inside me and left me cold with despair.  He clings on to my mother-in-law,  not wanting to let go because he’s afraid something will happen while she’s gone during every other night she travels home to catch some sleep and do some laundry.  She usually rushes back back with the break of dawn the next morning.

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I know exactly how he feels and I really can’t blame him.  He’s not acting up or being selfish for wanting her and her only.  She’s his life line,  the one that protects him from life itself,  she  has become the barrier between him and cancer.

How would you deal with this re-discovered vulnerability? Why do I say it’s re-discovered?  Basically because  we’re born vulnerable and stay this way until we are old enough to face life and begin constructing barriers to protect ourselves.

Do we need to go back to our childhood and just learn to toughen up?

I really don’t have the answers, because each one of us is different.  Each and every one of us deal in different ways with our issues and work around them.

However, who ever will try to cope with vulnerability needs to accept that life sometimes brings on terrible things upon us.

We just need to learn to work ourselves around them in a way that we can learn  to cope with life’s tragedies and pits.

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It’s like learning to walk again.

The best part of this all is that after facing our vulnerability we come out stronger.  We pull through without knowing we were strong enough to make it all way down.

Even if we thought that our free fall would last forever the sudden thump of the ground below us makes us realize that we’ve made it through.  The thump hurts like hell, but we’re still alive and struggling to leap on our feet.

I made it through and so many of you too, and I have faith that my beloved father-in-law is also going to make it all way to the bottom to just jump right up and stand once again.

It’s all about embracing our new circumstances and moving on.

Welcoming back our own vulnerabilities as if we were children learning to walk once more.  As a child taking his or her first steps towards a new stage in their lives.

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Vulnerability is painful, but at the same time beautiful because we can emerge from it as the phoenix with re-owned strength and courage to face whatever it is we need to.

And that my dear friends is what life is all about!

Death · family

When the Dead Take Turns to Say Hello

Our next door neighbor passed away yesterday. Julia made it to the very old age of 95.  She almost made it to the century.  I carry some fond and other not so fond memories of her (you know the ones related to when your growing up kind of thing).

Yet, the memory I will always carry is that she was the one who came over to my house to press my wedding dress.  Since she didn’t have daughters of her own  my mom let her press my dress and arrange it beautifully on my bed so a wedding picture could be taken.

You’ll need some background information to understand how this works.  When I’m referring to “our” I’m talking about my neighbor as I grew up in my parents’ house. I moved out almost 26 years ago, but Mom still wants me to go home each morning to have breakfast.  God forbid if I say to her  “to your house”.   She could give Big Bangs Theory’s character  Wolowitz’s mom a run for her money.

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Usually as I get out of my minivan, unbuckle the baby and get ready to enter my mom’s gate, I usually say hello to my neighbor’s son and to whoever is around taking care of her. We constantly see each other, that’s how close our houses are.

My mom has gained a status of “frequent flyer” for the times she’s over helping who ever is there with whatever is needed.  She not only pitches in, but also shares if we bake or if she’s cooking a special or any kind of  meal.  We’ve always had this type of relationship.

Some days ago, her nurse  told me and my mom,  in one of those over the fence conversations that Julia had told her that she had seen her sister Angela (who has been dead for a while), as well as other siblings who have passed away over the years.

Julia said that she had seen everybody except her mom.

Funny thing, she didn’t mention her husband once.  Probably she wanted to be single again in her afterlife.

Once we got inside the house, I told my mom,

“You know, probably she will be passing away soon, she’s beginning to have deathbed visions.”   I had witnessed this before when my great-aunt had passed away some years ago.

My mom just looked at me and said, “Do you think, that’s true?”.

“I really don’t know, maybe yes or maybe no.”  I replied carefully.

I really didn’t want to begin reading around in the internet about it because I thought it would spook me out.  Nevertheless I ended up trying to get some more information.  I stumbled along a great article written by Daniel Kessler titled “Do the dead greet the dying?”

Daniel recounts his own experience with his teacher and father as he was with them in their deathbeds.  He started out explaining that these visions were “most likely caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain or a side effect of morphine.”  But were they?  What do we really know?  We’re not the ones who are dying anyway.

He ended up publishing a book titled “Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms:Who and What You See Before You Die” .  It’s a collection of testimonials of deathbed visions, which seem to be very similar.

As my mom and me were having our conversation, my aunt dropped  by and made her contribution.  She didn’t want to say it wasn’t true, but felt the imminent necessity to establish her Bible knowledge of what our dear Lord said about the dead.

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I didn’t want to get caught in an argument I knew for sure I would lose.  Not because I couldn’t stand a healthy debate with her, but because no matter what information I threw at her she was going to bounce it back at me easily with whatever information (true or not so true) she believed in, logic does or will never have a place in any thing they argue about it.

So, I simply ended  it with an open question.  “Do we really know what happens after we die?”  That was a killer, and as a matter of fact it ended the argument.

Nevertheless, we pound our head with questions about life and death all the time, asking ourselves often many questions as,

Why do the dead come to say hello to the dying?  Are they the welcome committee?  Why are some in those visions and why some are not?

With the passing of each person that is close to us we face death and it’s mystery.  I certainly would want to see my loved ones welcoming me when my moment comes.  My mom has always been there for me (a little too much sometimes), but hey it’s okay.

I’m more than sure that as she always took care of me when I was alive, she sure is going to make it to my deathbed to welcome me into another life as she welcomed me into this world when she gave birth to me, and hopefully a bit further along the road,  the love of my life will also be there if he’s gone before me.  Love so unique and profound like ours are lived only once in a lifetime.  What can I say?

Bottom line, my blessings will be outstanding if my afterlife welcome committee is set up with the right people.

So my dear friends, what can I say other than our goodbyes are their hello into a world that remains a mystery to those of us who are among the living.