I've Landed!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Turning Away




Taking two years of classes on aging was a great thing for me.  It added so much to my knowledge as a nurse.

Well into the program, I hit a glitch.
One whole semester was on Death and Dying and I almost turned away and bagged the program.
I'm sorry.
I like you, maybe even love you, but I certainly don't want to spend 3 months learning how to help you die!  Ahhhhhh!!

But.....I did show up for the first day of class, resigned to a bad bad bad 3 months of focusing on your eventual death.

I cannot tell you how shocked I was!

"Oh, this class is not about other people's death!  This class is about your OWN death.  That is all we are going to focus on....YOUR  death."

Excuse me?

And the professor was not kidding.

I became physically ill, but I didn't want anybody to suspect me of also being mentally ill so I did not bolt, but stayed.  It was a "pride" thing...fool the masses...pretend to be "ok".  But aim for low profile.
D- is a grade that would work for me.

I barely heard the words, "Looking at our own death is like looking at the sun.  We cannot look at it straight on, because death, like the sun, burns too bright.  We look at it obliquely."

Or even turn away.

First assignment:   Draw Yourself Dead

Next class we had to bring in our art work.

On a white sheet of typing paper ...in gray pencil...I had drawn me in a casket.  My casket only needed buggy wheels to resemble a pram completely.  I had the half-hood up.  My blankie covered me right up to my tiny face and  my cap covered my hair.  I did draw me with long eyelashes and I have no idea why I would think I had long eyelashes in death since I have not been blessed in life with lash-babe eyes!  But there they were!  Long lashes softened & beautified my closed eyes.

Our professor had a field day, a fun time, making fun of us.
Hey, I wasn't the only one with a sickly dead picture of myself!

After most of us were sufficiently humiliated, he allowed Kassie to show-case her picture, since she had brought an Easel with her and a Huge Flip Chart!  I kid you not.

Kassie walked up front, established herself as leagues ahead of the rest of us and displayed her art work.    We sat there silent and stunned seeing a huge picture in full color, a casket prepared for a queen, a dead woman, Kassie, with flowing tresses (she was as generous drawing her hair as I was generous drawing my eyelashes!), a dress that revealed arms, hands, legs, feet (no shoes).  If that wasn't enough, she had bagged the flower idea and used balloons.  Lots of balloons.  A party surrounded her dead body!
Turns out Kassie was a hospice nurse at one time in her early career and she had already "gone, where no man dares to go".

Learning not to turn away was a very very very hard thing to learn for some of us.
Nay, for all of us.

Slowly I began to glance at my own death.  Out of the corner of my eye.

Slowly I began to understand why we turn away from looking at people who are limping toward death....or why we look away from reminders of mortality...why we may avoid funerals, or why we fill our days with anything that will keep us from seeing and thinking.

Drawing myself dead was just the beginning of sinking into the abyss on a scaffold to have a peek out of the corner of my eye.....a peek that became more and more and more........ less terrifying.

I am better now at not dismissing and distancing the elderly of whom I am one! 

Stay with me for the brief ride and you will be blessed.

Enough for today,
Riverwatch