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Mary’s talk at the October 2016 Group Session

“Supporting the Dying”

Saturday, October 22, 2016 (Group/Hinsdale, New Hampshire)

Participants: Mary (Michael), Aaron (Todd), Ann (Vivette), Anon (Anon), Anon (Lystell), Bonnie (Lyla), Daniel (Zynn), Debbie (Tamarra), Denise (Azura), John H. (Lonn), John (Rrussell), Julie (Fontine), Karla E., Kyla (Amie), Lynda (Ruther), Michele (Lola), Natasha (Nicole), Pat (Treice), Peter (Magnus), Rodney (Zacharie), Val (Atticus), and Veronica (Amadis).

MARY: I wanted to start out telling everybody how much I appreciate all the energy everybody has been pooling and sending and whatever for Polly. As you see, she’s here, and we really didn’t think she’d be here last weekend. We got told she probably wouldn’t have made it to Monday.

And it’s been way up and down, but she is a trooper. And I think I’m going to be sappy and cosmic for the first time. (Laughs) Which I never do, but I’m going to. And I just have a feeling that she decided she wanted to hang around for this last group session, because she’s been a part of this for almost fourteen years, and she’s been to every single session and she’s been all over the world to sessions, and she’s been great with all the people.

I couldn’t have asked for a better companion for what I do and how she’s been with me, and how much she is so adaptable to people and places and has been great. She was great in Rome. She was a trooper in Rome and walked all over the place, and all the little Roman boys in Rome fell in love with her and were gaga over her.

So I really, really wanted to thank everybody, because we really—Donnalie and I seriously thought she was going to go last weekend. I mean, she was really on the edge, and I really didn’t think she’d make it this week.

And so I really do attribute a lot of that to all of your energy, because I really believe that that has made a big difference and that she’s … I think that …They took her off all her medications a month ago when they discovered that the cancer had spread to her stomach and her liver and her pancreas and her gall bladder, in addition to her bladder. And they thought well, - and her kidneys were failing - so they thought well, there’s no point keeping her on this heart medication that’s making her sick and making her shake like crazy and whatever. So they took her off everything a month ago.

Then last week they put her back on two of her heart medications because she started getting fluid in her lungs, and that was why we thought she was going to go, she couldn’t breathe. And then Wednesday, she coughed up a whole ton of fluid, and all of a sudden she just was bouncing around and barking and chasing the cat again. So I don’t know. I guess she’s not ready. And I think she also maybe … I was wondering, but Lynda and I both kind of observed—(Referring to the heater) Can we turn that or push it somewhere? It’s hot. (Group chatter about the heater.)

Anyway, she was very responsive to everybody yesterday evening. She greeted each person. It was almost like she made a point to say hi to each person that came in and wait for them to pet her, which is not what she usually does, so that was kind of strange. So it kind of made me think well, I think she just wanted to be here and maybe give everybody else a chance to say good-bye and for her to say good-bye, because I don’t believe she’s going to be much longer. I mean, her heart is in heart failure now, her kidneys are failing, she’s got cancer everywhere, so I don’t believe she’s going to be with us much longer. But she’s going out with a bang. She’s not just going to roll over, I guess. She’s decided she’s pretty tough. So that was the very first thing, that I wanted to thank everybody.

I also wanted to say before we get started that through this whole ordeal, which has been an ordeal, it has given me a new and very real, different perception of what people go through when you have family members and whatever that have these illnesses, and when they’re dying but they’re not dead and you have to go through all of this stuff, and the rollercoaster ride that you go through and the emotional craziness--it’s insane. And I have a tremendous compassion for everybody that goes through any of this.

I wanted to also share for two reasons. Most of you have heard me talk about, or you have in the past read sessions from, John in Chicago. And John and I have become really good friends over the years. He’s been one of my clients for seventeen years now, and he does sessions every week.

And he and I have been parallel counterparts for years and years and years, and I think that not a lot of people really know what that is or what that’s about, and it’s a really great example. Through the years we seem to do the same things at the same time all the time. And it doesn’t matter if it’s something big or if it’s something little; it doesn’t matter. We do the same things at the same time, always. And our imagery is different, but the subject is always the same and it never deviates.

And this year one of the ways that this parallel thing showed itself was between her (indicating Polly) and John’s dad. John’s dad started getting really sick the beginning of this year, and then he developed congestive heart failure at the same time, the same week that she developed congestive heart failure. He went into kidney failure the same week that she went into kidney failure. They were even on the same exact medications for months, both of them—the same medications. It was really weird and interesting, but it was kind of bizarre to be going through these things.

And then two weeks ago the doctors came to John and said your dad’s on his way out and you need to be aware of that. And he had to tell his mother and his brother, Dad’s dying. And it was two weeks ago that the doctors said the same thing to me, and I came home and told Donnalie and she talked to Alison about it. And then last week, as most of you know, on Friday Polly went into real heart failure and she was breathing 119 breaths a minute, which normally is 30. And they kept her in oxygen for four hours one day and for three hours the next day, and then they put her back on her heart medication and upped it to the max to try and get rid of the fluid in her lungs, which was making her not be able to breathe.

And that Friday John’s father went into heart failure, but his kidneys also started to really fail because they couldn’t readmit him to the hospital for his heart, because they had discharged him for that. So the hospital wasn’t—we won’t get into a political thing, but because of Obamacare the hospital was not allowed to readmit him for the same thing that they had discharged him from. So they readmitted him for his kidneys, and they put him on dialysis. And then on Monday John called me and said, “Well, the weirdest thing just happened. My dad seems to be doing much better, and he seems to have rallied, and I was thinking he was going to go and now I think he’s going to hang around.” And Monday she started being all bouncy and running around and whatever.

Tuesday she got not good and she was pretty bad, and she was very clingy and whiny and she just wanted to sit on my lap all day long. Tuesday John emailed me and said his dad took a turn and he was bad.

Wednesday was the morning that she—I got up in the morning. I got up at a quarter to five and I went into the bathroom, and the whole bathroom floor was wet with water. I thought that the toilet broke, that’s how much water there was on the floor. Then I started to clean it up and I noticed it wasn’t water, it was thicker than water, and she was sitting in the hallway, and I cleaned it up and I picked her up and took her downstairs, and she was shaking really bad. And she stayed on my lap for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, and all of a sudden then she just stood up, jumped off my lap, got up, spun around in a circle and barked at me and ran in the kitchen. (Group laughter) I was like, okay, that’s weird! I thought you were on your way out and now okay, whatever.

And John contacted me on Wednesday afternoon, and his dad died. And I panicked, because of course they’ve been paralleling so much and he and I are always paralleling. I thought, Oh god, this is it, she’s got this last burst of energy and she’s going to croak tonight. That’s just lovely. I’m like, oh my god. What am I going to do?

And Donnalie and I talked about it and it’s … I have to say that my brain at this point is in super-protective, defensive mode and it won’t let me … Every time I have a feeling of sadness or—it isn’t just sadness. I get this feeling that’s mixed with this terror feeling, and it just … It happens for about a split second, and my brain just kicks it right out. And then I don’t even remember what I felt for a minute or two, and then I’m like, what was I just doing? And I’m like, oh yeah, I felt that weird thing. But it just goes away, and then I don’t feel anything. It just … My brain won’t let me do it right now.

And Donnalie was talking to me about, we should really think about what should we do when she goes. And I’m like, I can’t. My brain won’t do it. Every time you ask that question my brain goes blank, and I can’t think. And I’m like, so I guess I’m not supposed to think about it right now. And John contacted me and interesting enough said the same thing. He was like, “I have like a minute where I start to cry, and then all of a sudden it all just turns off and I just feel nothing.” I’m like well, there we are again! Okay.

But I was actually—and I talked to him about it too, and I was like, damn you anyway, why’d your dad have to go now? (Chuckles) I’ve got people coming. I have a group session. (Group laughter) I can’t do this right now. And he was like, “I’m so there with you. I really am putting a lot of energy that way,” because he was like, I hope she doesn’t go before this happens.

Then yesterday I just felt like nope, I don’t think she’s ready yet, and she seems to be like no, I think I still have something left to do.

So I wanted to let everybody know. I know that the upcoming days and weeks are probably not going to be real easy because this … It’s inevitable, and I know that, and I accept that. I’m not going to lie. I’m going to be a puddle. (Laughs) It’s interesting to … I’ve never had this experience before where I’ve had a companion that has been with me every single day for all these years and has been everywhere with me. And I mean, it’s … I mean, even my children have not been with me every single day for the last fourteen years. And so it’s a very strange experience and feeling, and it doesn’t surprise me that my brain won’t let me go there yet, because I just can’t.

But I know that it has been staved off by all you guys, and I really thank you for that, because I would’ve been a … I would’ve been a wreck. I wouldn’t have been able to do this, this weekend; it just wouldn’t have happened. And we didn’t have to go there, so every single one day that we have is good. (Laughs)

So … But I get it with how—you know, whether people are dealing with a loved one that’s had a stroke or has cancer or has heart failure or has dementia or whatever, it’s hard. And it’s really tough to be the one that is not the sick one and to deal with that, and to keep functioning in your own life as best as you can, and to be as supportive as you can, knowing that you’re helpless, that you can’t do anything about it.

But I also think Elias said something to John to tell me the other day. He said, “But you’re not helpless, because you have each day, you have the choice to behave in the way of being grateful for what you have right now. And so you can’t change the choices for anyone or anything else, but you do have your own choices to not live in the future, anticipating what is inevitable. And you’re not helpless, because you do have today, and you can deal with whatever today brings.” And that was very encouraging to me. It stuck in my head.

Because I’ve been feeling very helpless for months and feeling very upset, and I can’t do anything, and everything I do do it seems to be wrong, and everything—you know, we tried this medicine and it makes that go wrong, and then we’d try a different medicine and it makes something else go wrong, and it’s like everything I do seems to make something else go wrong. So you end up feeling like really, you do feel helpless because you feel like it doesn’t matter what I do, everything I do is wrong and it’s just making it worse, or it’s not helping.

And I think that it’s so automatic to—without even thinking about it—to hope. You don’t even MEAN to, and you just do it. And you just—you want to believe that there’s a different answer than the one that you got. And sometimes there isn’t a different answer.

But it’s really interesting to me. I thought—you know, I have dealt with death since I was a small, small, small child. I had two sisters that died, everyone in my family. I’ve had friends and relatives. I can’t even count how many funerals I’ve been to in my life, which is unusual. And most people haven’t been to as many funerals as I’ve been to in probably FIVE lifetimes, and I thought that I could deal with anything.

I’ve been around death enough; that’s not the problem. I have never been in a situation where the person or thing is sick and dying. My mother died of brain cancer, but her third surgery, she was brain dead by the time she came out of it. So they put her in hospice for two months because her heart kept beating, but she was brain dead. We didn’t even go see her every day, because there was nothing to see. And so we just kind of had the perception that she was dead as soon as she came out of that surgery, even though her body was still here. I’ve never had to deal with an illness that is leading in that direction, and how long it can go on.

And I don’t think it’s ever registered with me when other people have talked to me about their mom or their dad or their child or their partner that has had cancer for a year or two years and they’ve been dealing with that every day of their life. I don’t think I got that, what they lived through and what they have to deal with. It’s hard, and it’s an emotional rollercoaster, and I get it now. And I have unbelievable compassion for other people.

It’s funny. I can’t get myself to cry for her yet, but I have clients that call me and tell me about these situations that THEY’RE in with a family member or a partner or whatever, and I’m sobbing on the phone with them going, “Oh god, I understand! It’s terrible!” I just want to grab them through the phone and go, “I know! It’s terrible!” But it’s an interesting experience.

So, I thought I would share. And also, I’m learning that it brings up a whole ton of questions with people. This year has been really interesting, how many people have had serious things go on, and illnesses and deaths. Two weeks ago I had three sessions with three different women in three different places, and all three of them, their mothers died the night before. On the same day! It was nuts! I’ve never had that happen before in twenty-plus years.

And it’s interesting that people end up with all these questions, and I was realizing wow, I have a lot of these questions too, and I don’t know what the answers are. And spewing Elias quotes doesn’t cut it. I mean, these are real people with real things going on, and they need some real comfort, and I was stumped. I didn’t know what to say to them. It’s like, what can you say? There’s NOTHING you can say. Well, at least I don’t know what to say, because it seems like there’s nothing that can comfort them.

And I think that that has been an interesting experience also, and how awkward we get when someone is really hurting and we don’t know what to say to them. It’s almost like they become a leper. You don’t want to get near them, because then you’re going to be expected to say something profound and you have nothing profound to say except “I’m sorry.” Okay, what does that even mean?

And so it’s been an interesting learning experience for me. Well, we’re always learning something, right? (Chuckles)

So, I just wanted to share that with everybody and let you know that it’s not over yet, so in the coming days or maybe weeks I may be still up and down. And until that last day comes, just so everybody knows that it’s not personal, I’m not ignoring anybody and it’s really not personal. My brain just keeps turning off and it’s--I’m just doing as much as I can while we’re in this boat. And we’ll get there eventually. (Chuckles)

But anyway, so then I’ll just let the dead guy take over. (Chuckles)

It’s really yucky being so vulnerable, you know? (Group laughter) It kind of sucks. (Group laughter)

PARTICIPANT: You get to be the example of yuckiness today.

MARY: Oh, thanks! (Group laughter) Not that I really want to be an example of yuckiness. But oh well, somebody’s got to do it, right? (Laughs)

(Talk ends after 30 minutes.)