Friday, March 28, 2014

Energy Is Eternal Delight

Some 21 hours of travel from the apartment in Copacabana, Rio to the Jewish Home for the Aged in San Francisco. I left the possibility open of just going home from the airport, but after two weeks without visiting my Mom and another week ahead as I go to Portland, I walked from the BART Station with my two suitcases to see how she was. After all, when I was a kid, she put peanut butter sandwiches in the outdoor milk box (anyone remember those?) to sustain me when she was out doing errands— seemed like the least I could do to pay her back.

She’s now one month short of her 93rd birthday and though she’s rail thin, the accumulated weight of all those years is weighing heavy on her spirit and her energy is low. She lies in bed for more hours a day than not and has three different awake modes when she’s sitting in her wheelchair: One is a disturbing spitting and throwing things, angry at the indignities of aging without the words to express it. Another (more and more rare) is the beatific smiling mother beaming unconditional love and exclamations of astonishment that her children could be so wonderful. The third is dipping in and out of sleep while sitting. You never know which one will greet you when you walk in the door.

Walking in with my suitcases, I was delighted to see that she was sitting up without any signs of hostility. I wheeled her over to the piano and started playing and a faint smile emerged and a slight nod of recognition. But her energy seemed lower than ever. It took all her effort just to purse her lips for a kiss or speak a word. She has no diagnosed malady beyond dementia— I could simply feel her life force fading.

By contrast, I was loving seeing her and playing piano for the many folks who came to gather around.  One man new to the Home was beaming song after song and feeding me with his pleasure in the music. In spite of just a few hours of sleep in the last 36 hours (and those 21 hours spent traveling), my energy level was high. As Blake said, “Energy is eternal delight” and doing that which eternally delights us gifts us with unlimited energy. By contrast, the loss of energy, whether from the accumulation of years or some spark of enthusiasm fading, is hard to watch and harder to live.

It’s a blessing to have a life reach the end of its natural cycle, but it sure ain’t easy and a mystery as to the timing. Who directs the show? What invisible hand calibrates the level of life force and decides how long it will glow? Never felt the need—and still don't— for the simplistic answer of "the big guy with the beard," but these are questions beyond scientific answers.

Meanwhile, grateful that she is still here for me to kiss and hold and grateful when I am graced with energy’s delight and can help spark a bit in her through the power of music.

But writing this at 10:30 pm, I think some sleep is in order.

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