Sunday, December 27, 2009

If you aren't busy being born, you are busy dying

For over a year now, I've been focused on the fact that Sam is dying.  If the sleep apnea doesn't get him, the bronchiecstasis will.  He's a little weaker today than he was a year ago.  He is missing more and more days at Esperanza because we just can't get it together get him strong enough to go.

A couple of weeks ago I started thinking that this terror of his death has me "stuck".  I am missing out on the joy of today because of the terror of some future event.  He might go another 50 years or he might die tomorrow.  But hold on, that is also true of ME.  That's... NORMAL!  Well, gosh.  

In the meantime, what IS extraordinary is that I love my job.  I get to take care of Sam.  I get to love Sam.  I get to wake him up and see his eyes crinkle up with joy when he sees me.  

I live with a secret.  I look fairly common place, but in my heart is a source of joy and pain that is absolutely profound.  The same thing that brings me my greatest joy is the thing that is the source of my deepest fear and pain.  I have a son who is full of life and joy and who is sick more often than he is well and who is going to die.  Taking care of him is the greatest honor of my life, my highest achievement and it's not going to make me famous or solve world hunger or stop war.  (Sorry, Dad.)

Caregiving transforms me.  Caregiving is my spiritual practice.  Caregiving is Zen.

I rented "How to Cook Your Life" and watched it last night. I love it.  Edward Espe Brown is so sincere and transparent.  He recites a poem from the last letter his mom wrote before she died.  It's by Donald Babcock and first appeared in the New Yorker on October 4, 1947 (V.23, No. 33, pp 38-39)

The Little Duck
Now we're going to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn't a gull. 
A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn't cold, and he is thinking things over.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
And he is part of it.
He looks a bit like a mandarin, or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree.
But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn't know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you.  He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity - which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
He has made himself a part of the boundless, by easing into it just where it touches him.

Maybe I resonate with this poem because I spent so much of my youth cuddling in the gentle heaves of the mighty Pacific, past the breakers, and feeling rocked by the womb of the world. But I do resonate with it.  This poem came to me last night when I needed it.  I am the primary caregiver to a philosopher who is just like this duck.  I can learn from him how to repose in the infinity which is now and ease into the the boundlessness of today.  That is religion.  That is something I can do.  Today just might be the best day of the rest of my life, and today is beautiful.  I get to go feed Sam.


1 comment:

  1. Jeanne I wish I could say something profound but you've said it all. Thank you for your sharing