the original kStyle blog.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dying Takes Longer Than I Thought

One of the basic Buddhist teachings, especially prevalent in Tibetan schools, in the immediacy of death: You could die today! Wake up! Wake up! That teaching (as outlined in Lama Surya Das' Awakening the Buddha Within), plus a friend dying at age 25 of cancer---along with reading Thich Nhat Hanh's beautiful teachings on dying; an article by a massage therapist about his work in hospice; and a book I once produced on hospice---these sparked my desire to volunteer in hospice.

I had this notion that people on hospice were about to die. Right now. Any second. Because, after all, we could die. Right now. Any second. So, hospice patients could especially die. I was surprised to learn, then, at my training that there is the dying process and then there is active dying. Patients can begin hospice once a physician estimates that they have six months or less to live. Humans begin active dying--with its particular set of signs and symptoms--two weeks to a few days before leaving their earthly shells. And this article states that there is also a pre-active dying phase.

Which is to say, I began visiting hospice a month ago and both of my patients are still alive without even a trace of the rattles. Disorientation is another sign of the Angel of Death, but one of my patients has advanced Alzheimer's; disorientation is a given. She had thick oral secretions during one of my visits, but then they went away. I had expected that I'd be getting a new patient every-other week, but it turns out: Death, like Buddha, takes its time.

This makes sense: One cannot rush a natural process, not really. As the Chinese proverb goes, You can't make shoots grow faster by pulling up on them. Anyone who bakes yeasted bread knows that wait and patience are as essential as flour. Bread is alive and happens on its own time. My friends who are mothers have found that the baby emerges when it's ready, defying Mom's wishes from the start. And once, a friend was alarmed that her first tomato plant was producing only small, green, hard tomatoes. She thought that her plant was defective or diseased. It's just that it was only June, and tomatoes take time.


Blogger Narya said...

Both in pastry school and at the bakery, if you ask the chef or Bossman how long to bake something, the response would be/is: "Until it's done."

3:27 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

I like them.

9:16 PM  

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