Archive for February, 2012

Sacred Crossings: The Night Kenny Left his Body for the Last Time

In earlier chapters, I described what I dared put to paper about the night Kenny died. Today, 20-some months later, a bit of training as a hospice volunteer, and having witnessed the death of another loved one in my life, I can brave more recall, more important parts that may be valuable to you as the reader, that are certainly more available to my creative hand.

I didn’t know then that I could give him some comfort by closing his eyes during those last few hours of labored breathing when he couldn’t communicate. I didn’t realize I could continue to moisten his mouth. The hospice nurse left in kind of a hurry with no such instructions for me. I didn’t know they would leave us at such an auspicious moment.

So when Kenny took his final breath, his eyes were wide open as well as his mouth. I tried to close his eyes, but they flipped back open twice. Those incredible deep blue eyes that I so often sank into for love and comfort. That I so often admired and could see into his vulnerability, his true loving and his powerful oneness with God.

While I could cover his body and arms with the sheet, I couldn’t cover his face and I also couldn’t look at it after my attempt to close his eyes. It was too haunting to me—At that time I’d rather have remembered his eyes when they inhabited his Soul, his life here on earth.

So his body lay there while some friends gathered with me in the room. We called the mortuary, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. They were to come in a few hours. In the meantime, we told stories, laughed and cried and waited. And everyone present, of course, took my lead and didn’t look at Kenny’s body either.

Aside from those haunting memories, I do remember something really important:

Soon John-Roger had his aide, Zeus call to ask where “the body was being taken.” I told him which mortuary and that was the end of the conversation.

Just a few days ago, Kevin and I were looking at photographs of Kenny as a young man and I found myself recounting that phone call. In a burst of recognition, as Kevin held my hand and stayed with me in his empathy and love, I went from laughing at the photo of Kenny doing some funny antic, to tears of understanding and gratitude. I realized once again how blessed we are to be under the protection of the Mystical Traveler Consciousness, that part of us that guides our way back to the Heart of God. For I knew that John-Roger’s call was about checking in on Ken’s body to see if his Soul was on its way to the proper dimension in Spirit—to help it along if needed. So many times in years gone by when J-R was counseling MSIA students in the presence of many of us, and the subject of a loved one having already passed over came up, I would hear J-R say, “I’ve got him (or her). He’s OK. He’s where he should be.” And as I listened, I would well up with tears of gratitude, and I sensed so many others witnessing the counseling, did the same. Thank God the Traveler chose us. Thank God we chose back. Thank God our loved ones, even if they are not actively studying in MSIA, just by being connected to us devotees, are protected as ones of his own.

Back to what I didn’t know, but know better now: I could have closed his eyes so they would stay moist and more comfortable. And after he passed, if they were open again, I could have laid a clean cloth over them to help them stay closed. And I could have rolled a towel under his chin to help his mouth stay closed. I could have done a lot of things to honor his body, the Temple of his Soul, for as long as three days if I wanted to (legally). I didn’t know this. I actually kept a lot of information away from myself because I didn’t want to face his dying. For as long as he was alive, even as he got weaker and weaker, day by day, in my mind he was not dying. He would not be dying until he actually took his last breath. So I didn’t ask, I didn’t read much, and what I did read I forgot immediately. The only bit of compassionate education from the particular hospice agency we were assigned came from the doctor who one night only a few days before Kenny passed, told me I could stop counting liquids in and liquids out. That I should just focus on being with Kenny. Thankfully there was that much.

Only later when I was with my cousins supporting them as Cousin Nicky was passing, did I begin to get some education that mattered from the Hospice agency assigned to them. They instructed on meds, on bathing and changing, on when it was time to say our last goodbyes and so much more. Their loving, compassionate manner made all the difference. Their loving, compassionate manner gave me a measure of what was missing from the agency assigned to Kenny and me. Thankfully we had our MSIA ministers, our Circle of Light, our incredibly service-minded housemates. We were blessed beyond measure. Remember my talking about Circle of Light minister, Diana? She recounted her experience with us as “standing in for God.” And that’s how I experienced my presence at Nicky’s side.

I am blessed to be in a position to help others, having experienced the death of my husband in such a complex way. And to have the gift of awareness that allows me to grow from the experience, to awaken the parts of me that were afraid and unwilling to see. In tenderness for the lost part of me that I am gradually finding and surrounding with love, compassion, and forgiveness.

So now in my memories, whenever I may picture those last hours of Kenny’s life, I also remember the long moment just days before he passed, when he took my face in his hands, and held his gaze on my eyes in silent communion for a very long time. The world stood waiting outside our little bubble—it could have waited forever as I soaked in the loving we shared. It shall always remain a Divine Soul-to-Soul moment when time stood still, when nothing else mattered, when his death was imminent but yet so far away.

Bringing compassionate awareness to end of life issues is one of my passions now. Thus this blog and thus the compilation of the book. Wish me well! And I send my love to all of you who over the months have devotedly supported my efforts to bring myself into a greater Light focus around death and to bring this subject, however raw the accounts, to the Light of Spirit.

P.S. Today I attended a volunteer meeting of Hospice Partners of Southern California. A woman named Olivia did a presentation on “Sacred Crossings.” She calls herself a Death Midwife and helps families create a sacred experience for themselves of caring for a loved one’s body after death. I don’t necessarily advocate her business or her methods, but the subject is certainly worth exploring ahead of time so families can make educated decisions about the disposition of their loved ones’ remains.

Please do “like” this article, make a comment, share your experiences, however you are moved to do so. Or write to me directly at carol.jones43@yahoo.com. Baruch Bashan. The blessings already are!

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Kenny’s Run, More Passings, and the Beat Goes On

Tonight after I drove home from visiting my cousins in Victorville, there was a knock at my door. When I opened it, there stood Andree and Peter brandishing big heartfelt smiles and their Redondo Beach Super Bowl Kenny’s Run 2012 badges. This was their third run in Kenny’s honor, the first one being the day before we boarded Continental to Houston for that heart-stopping, telltale month of the melanoma march in February 2010.

How dear of them to honor and pray for Kenny and me. How integral they were in his care during those nine months of trying to halt that never-to-be-forgotten relentless invasion. I speculated that Kenny must have been with them on the run. He always loved training his body through sports and watching others doing their best and perhaps outrunning their last race.

And how perfect to receive of their love in this very tender way after I had been with Annabelle, whose husband of 60 years had died on December 26 of multiple myloma, a nearly always incurable form of cancer. My purpose in being there was to support my cousins, Anna and her daughter Teresa, in whatever way I could—listening, sharing my own experience, making suggestions, looking at pictures and reading articles about Nicky. To everyone else he was Nick. To me, I couldn’t call him anything else but Nicky, ever since as a child I wrote to him when he went off to the Korean War. “Dear Nicky, I miss you and I love you. Come home quick, OK?”

Teresa called me some days before Christmas to tell me her father (“Daddiola,” she called him) was bad, not expected to last much longer. Did they want me to come out, I asked. Oh yes, please can you? The next day I drove out to find them at the hospital with Nicky incoherent and in a lot of pain. They were about to send him home on hospice care. So we all trudged home where a hospice agency met us with a hospital bed and other such equipment. Nicky was worse by the minute, writhing and moaning in pain. The hospice nurse exclaimed that they were ill-equipped to manage his pain so she recommended we put him back in the hospital. This time a different one where he might receive better care. There they cleaned him up and administered some pain medication and kept him overnight until another hospice agency was arranged. This time, it was the Visiting Nurses Association.

This agency really knew what they were doing. By this time in my limited experience, I had now witnessed the workings of as many as four different hospice agencies, and I could tell the quality of care provided by VNA was outstanding. The managing nurse quieted Annabelle’s and Teresa’s fears about giving medication, she assessed the situation and Nick’s condition, and soon after a crisis nurse arrived to manage Nick’s pain levels, which were making him so uncomfortable. By this time he had not eaten in days and was not drinking, so we knew it wouldn’t be long before he took his last breath. I quickly understood my place in this family experience—I was to support them emotionally, to assist them physically as they requested, and to call upon the MSIA ministerial body worldwide to stand by spiritually to help anyone present to release anything no longer needed and to assist in ushering dear Nicky into whatever realm of Spirit was his next “grand adventure,” as Kenny coined it. So when Anna couldn’t watch and had to retreat, I held her in my arms. When courageous Teresa had to administer medications, I stood by assuring her she was doing the right thing. When everyone else was asleep, I sat by Nicky’s bed silently chanting and sending him Light and assuring him we were all there loving him and praying his journey now would be as gentle as possible.

On the morning of December 26, at about 9:30am, I had just freshened his mouth when David, Teresa’s son, noticed he had stopped breathing. That was it, his Soul had ascended, no longer inhabiting his body. The man that was their husband, father, and grandfather and my cousin was gone from this world. Today it’s only been about six weeks since Nicky passed. Anna is still very tender and going through the gamut of feelings one experiences when a spouse passes. Each one goes through grief over the loss of a loved one, their husband, their dad, their Papa, or father-in-law in their own very personal way. And in all that I witnessed, I recalled my experiences with Kenny, grateful for his extraordinary exampleship in leaving this world with dignity, grace, great love, and peace.

I was also reminded that not all hospice agencies are alike. And it’s worth shopping around while all principals are still coherent and able to assess the differences. The VNA team was competent, loving, compassionate, responsive, and seemed to love their work. We couldn’t ask for more. These are the hallmarks of the kind of people I would want around me when it’s my time to go. There’s much more to tell about my learnings and awarenesses between then (Kenny’s passing in March 2010) and now, but that’s still to come.

I invite you to comment on this article in the field below or email me directly at carol.jones43@yahoo.com

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