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Old 07-09-2016, 03:55 AM
MysticVoyage MysticVoyage is offline
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 33
8 Days Meditating on my father's breath - a hospice experience

My father died a few weeks ago. I've had several conversations, real and imagined, describing the experience. The experience of going through hospice care with him, of watching his body slowly shut down over 8 days.

The best way I've come to describe my personal experience of hospice is meditating on someone else's breathing. When we first learn to meditate, we focus on our breath. We follow our breath and come back to our breath while the mind slowly calms down. As Dad was not responsive for much of the 8 days, I basically watched his body breath.

I was focused on the rise and fall of his chest, the sounds of his breathing. The shallow breaths followed by deep sighing intakes. Every now and then, he would stop. And I would wonder - is this it? Is he done? After a bit - sometimes as long as 15 seconds - he would start up again. And I would resume watching him breath.

Whenever I entered the room, I would let him know I was there. And whenever I left, I would let him know I was leaving and that I would be back. But I made sure he knew it was OK to go when the time came.

My mom came in at times, but could not bear to see her husband of 60 years lying unresponsive. It pained her too much. She would retreat to her room. At times, I would join her, know she needed some comfort, my presence, as well. At one such time, remarking on how much time I was spending in Dad's room, she said "You can't do anything you know. There's nothing any of us can do." I said simply "It's not about doing at this point - it's about being".

Many times we - the family - would ask the hospice nurses "how long? How much longer do you think he has?" They were always non-committal, as they knew they didn't know. They had seen patients go in hours, and in weeks. Some showed the tell-tale signs of imminent death, others didn't.

It reminded me of a story from the first bicycle race across America, a few decades ago. The TV commentators interviewed the half-dozen contestants as they trained for the race. One of them talked at length about his constant meditation, his various Buddhist practices, and how he hoped that would help him win the race. Another simply rode his bicycle a lot. He was asked - how far do you go each day? He would respond - "Until I'm done pedaling.". This, to me, was true Zen, though the rider had no knowledge of Zen.

This is how I looked at the process my father was going through. How long will he keep going? He'll keep breathing until he is done breathing. And I'll be there watching him breath, just being and breathing with him.

The assisted living facility Dad and Mom lived at was very generous. They did not want us to have to leave the premises to eat unless we wanted to, and so comped all our meals there. I was at lunch with my mom and two sisters when one of the staff came to our table and whispered in my ear "Your father has passed".

I asked the hospice nurse (I cannot say enough about the kindness and compassion of these hospice workers) what his final moments were like. She said he opened his eyes - the first time in 6 days. She though it was an involuntary movement and gently closed them. Then they popped wide open again, looked off into the distance. She told him is was OK to go, he took one more breath, and was gone. He was done breathing.
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Old 07-09-2016, 06:26 AM
wolfgaze wolfgaze is offline
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Thanks for writing about this life experience, Mystic...

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Old 08-09-2016, 06:11 PM
rhubarbrosie rhubarbrosie is offline
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 93
Your writing has made me less afraid. Thank you for sharing.

My elderly mom has COPD / CHF and she almost died several months ago. If her passing could be as quietly peaceful, even transcendental, as your dad's seems to have been, I'll be very grateful.
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Old 09-09-2016, 04:46 AM
MysticVoyage MysticVoyage is offline
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 33

Surround her with as much love as you can. My best wishes to you, your mom, and your family.
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