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Journal: Some Jumbled Thoughts in Late Life

Along with all your loving-kindness and warm comments on Monday's hospice blog post, what a terrific bunch of personal stories, too, about your experiences with hospice including those that were not so positive.

The word “angel” came up a lot to describe hospice workers and I agree even with my (so-far) short relationship with them.

I could quote just about all of you but there are too many (you can read comments at the link above) so I will settle for two.

There are quite a few nurses among you and I sure do appreciate your input. Plus, Marian Methner told us about being part of a group creating the first hospice in Michigan almost half a century ago. The rest of us might not have this service today without people like her who did the heavy lifting to make it happen.

And I love what Harold had to say: “Resist a little, there's no rush.” Good point, Harold. I'm going to work on that.

What got left out of Monday's story is what I am thinking about this new stage in my life, and how it feels.

In the past I've told you that I have always used writing to help me figure out what often are muddled or incoherent or conflicting emotions. Sometimes over the years of this blog, I've cleaned up those personal scribbles and included them when it seemed to help tell whatever the story was.

Because thoughts and feelings have been all a-jumble since last Fridays' meeting with the nurse who spent four hours explaining to me what hospice is and how it works, maybe I will do that a bit more frequently now, call it “Journal” in the headline and see how it goes - for me and for you.

Here is today's stab at it, thoughts and feelings that have taken up some time in my mind since Friday.

Let me get this off my chest right up front: dying in the middle of a pandemic sucks. Just when holding a hand, giving a hug, or a kiss hello and goodbye might be more life-enhancing than ever before, we can't do that. And it makes me weepy.

Then I think of the thousands of people who are dying every day alone, without their families and sometimes not even a nurse to hold their hand.

So I move on. It's not that I can dismiss or not long for human touch (nitrile glove to nitrile glove doesn't do the job), but that's where we are and there is no changing it.

In a more visceral way than at any other time in the past three years, I am aware that my time is almost done. A month? Six months? Longer? I don't know. Some days or, more likely, nights when I can't sleep for a while, I'm shaken by the prospect of not being here anymore.

Other times, I feel serene and ready, that it's okay, that it is what is ordained by the universe and now it is my turn.

Those feelings are not anywhere near as clear-cut as those sentences may sound. Sometimes I try to imagine my little world here in Oregon, in my apartment or the nearby park without me and I cannot make being gone feel real. How could it be?

That sometimes turns into, how hard could it be to die? Every damned fool who ever lived has done it.

I keep waiting for my interest in the world around me to wane. I watched both my mother and my great aunt Edith disengage over the last months or years of their lives. I've read that it is a common phenomenon as people get closer to death.

All I've noticed so far is that I don't get quite as far into the weeds of news stories as I have done in the past. But I'm still following the latest political, virus and other stories closely.

What I still feel – maybe with more poignancy these days – is a deep attachment to the world around me. It's not my world anymore but I worry about how we, as a country, are failing at all the astronomical problems - pandemic, climate change, collapsed economy, racial unrest, the horror that is the president – piling up around us.

Not that I personally can change anything, but it nevertheless feels like I will be abandoning my best old friend at the worst possible time. As tattered and worn as she seems to be these days, Earth in all her glorious beauty has been my home all these years. I am so sad to be leaving.

Comments

Ronni, You are a marvel. I can't begin to tell you what you mean to me. Many times I have found myself saying to other people, "I have this friend who . . ." when, of course I've never actually met you. Your clear-eyed look at the world despite the mess we're in right now and all that you are going through is inspiring. We will all be leaving at some point, but I do hope that you will be with us a little longer. We need you.

Writing is in your blood. You've touched and influenced many people over the years with your words. Thank you for that.

I like what Harold said, “Resist a little, there's no rush.” When my dad was in Hospice in his seventh month, he asked, "Are you sure I'm really dying?" He was engaged in the world around him until the very last day. I wish that for you.

You continue to amaze me. Your grace and strength is enviable. Hoping that you'll stick around for awhile.

I really appreciate all that you have shared on this blog. I'm still in my 40s but I have found it invaluable as a resource in a world where aging and mortality are so rarely discussed with grace and honesty. I am sending you love and all my best wishes for whatever lies ahead. Your words and stories have made a true difference in my life. Thank you!

Life is full of contradiction and contrast. As I read your words this morning, I'm sitting on a bridge that divides my city into clearly defined and disparate East and West sides. I am sitting across the street from the almost defunct but historically significant building that has housed the people who have produced our community's daily newspaper for almost a century. They have been dwindling down for the past few years and just recently the fancy new press was shut down and the paper is now printed in a neighboring state. One day in the not too distant future there may no longer be a paper here.

I'm here tthis morning for a shift to watch over the first flights of this year's brood of peregrine falcons. They are all turning 40 days since hatch date this week and that triggers their first flights. If they fall into the busy street or the river, or if anything else goes badly, like a talon that got stuck on one of the window screens last year, we step in and try to keep them safe.

This morning the sky is blue, and despite the unseasonably warm temps, there is a cool breeze here helping to keep the eyasses (technical term for baby peregrines) comfortable and perhaps give a boost to any that take the leap today.

Transitions seem to be what life is mostly about. We are always in the process of becoming something just a little different. Every day is a new day and we are never quite the same as we were the day before. As the saying goes "you can never step in the same river twice."

You're on a remarkable journey Ronni and it's not over yet. Thanks for allowing us to share in it.

I seem to be spending more UNsatisfying time in the weeds. I remember a time when a newspaper was filled with stories that drew you in with: who, what, where, when, why, and how much. Now that they've done away with editing and aren't constrained by the cost of newsprint, articles seem to go on endlessly without covering much in a coherent manner.

Thank you for all of your heartfelt thinking...and feeling.

Consider yourself hugged!

I agree with Cathy! You are on a journey that you have shared with us. How generous of you to share your thoughts and feelings.

May you have peace today.

Ronni,

You may be leaving, but you are among the first to see the new world beyond this one.

As bad as things are on the planet at this time, I think we are starting to get it right. The fact that we are sharing this conversation that you started so many years ago is proof of that: your words brought people together in friendship, community, partnership, mutual support.

It may be sad to leave us, but its only for a little while, and you set things up so well for us. You created a family. Much love,

I am sad you are leaving. A friend I never met. You have made my life better. A hug and a kiss. Sandra

The Earth is just as sad to see you walking into the sunset.
Dont underestimate your strength,there is still lot of life and oomph left.
Just keep the Oxygen close enough.
The very best to you.

I m sad that you will be leaving sooner than myself, although I may be hard on your heels. You have been a stone in the waters--your ripples of wisdom spreading wider and wider. You have helped myself and my husband in so many ways, Roni.

Take care on that final journey to further Living or to peaceful rest.

My private quotation this week, giving me pleasure, is by Algernon Swinburn?, of all people:

We thank with brief thanks giving
Whatever Gods my be
That no life lives for ever.
That dead men rise up never.
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Some days I hang on to this, some days I do not need it--when the sun shines and I know that it will not stop with me...

So much love to you, Ronni, slip away quietly, it's this river.

"What I still feel – maybe with more poignancy these days – is a deep attachment to the world around me. " Your words resonated with me. It's a wonderful world, this little blue dot in space rich with its almost miraculous abundance and diversity of life. It's good to be reminded to pay attention to it.

Yes, it will be a shame not to have you as part of the mix. As I read somewhere (or heard?):
"As long as someone remembers you, you continue to exist.". I intend to read your daily journal until you reach the point of no return. It is enlightening, entertaining, and good brain exercise! B

You finally did it. You made me cry. Now I'm going to feel like crap all day.

Thank you, Ronni
o/

I love this piece of writing. I, too, can relate to thoughts on the world when I am no longer in it and the loss penetrates so deeply it take my breath away. It is all I know and love. My presence on this planet.

Some don't wake up, that's how they go. My ggrandmother fell down the stairs in her nineties and broke her neck.

I am curious as to my going, maybe it will be in a whimper and not a bang. Just a quiet exit. Two I know at the moment are in the long goodbye which makes me and those who love them cry at odd hours for the lost and lonely memories with only one home now, that soon to be gone also.

You opened up many thoughts with this post. Thank you.

XO
WWW

I'm sad for you that you will be leaving this Earth as well. My dad used hospice (his illness was very difficult) and our experience was that the careworkers readied him and us for the process of transitioning from life to death. It was sad for all of us and he understood that his time on Earth was coming to an end. My parents are divorced but were able to continue a sort of friendship. My mom is a reform Rabbi and although my dad was not religious, she performed a Vidui (Jewish final confessional prayer) with him, which gave him great comfort and relief. We felt that, in the end, he moved gently from life to death and hospice played a positive role.

How I wish I could post something meaningful... something deeply profound, and even touching... as you have reached out and touched all with your insight, and beautiful 'word-smithing'.

You have made a difference in the lives of many, and we are grateful.

Thank you for you! And, stay as long as you are able... and then go, in peace and love!

Keep writing, keep thinking and living until the very last minute. My wish is that you are here to have the satisfaction of casting your vote in November so you can leave after taking one more positive step in creating a better world.
You have done so much. You have created this big beautiful community In the online world. You have brought together so many and made us think.

I am one of those nurses in your audience and I’ve been the caregiver for 4 family members In hospice. They will guide you. I have had the honor of being with patients as they breath their last breath.

When I was young the thought of going through the birth of a baby seemed like the scariest thing in the world but then I had to think that each person who ever lived had a mother who went through it. Now I am older and death can seem overwhelming and I tell myself the same thing, everyone goes through this. In my nursing practice everyone whom I was with seemed ready to leave and that provides comfort.

May peace be with you. I hope you can feel the love that may not be able to physically touch you but surrounds you and Energetically hugs you.

Dear Ronni,

I am so glad you've got this great hospice team!

Best love,
Page

Ronni, your writing has meant so much to me in the brief time that I've been a fan. And so much of what you write stays with me throughout the day and the week. Endless thanks. I can't imagine a world without you in it yet, so, like Bruce, I have to admit that you finally made me cry. Sharing your departure is the greatest gift you could give to this troubled and yet so wonderful planet as well as to your readers. I will be forever in your debt. A departing quote from one of my favorite poets, Tony Hoagland: "The whole world in unison is turning toward a zone of nakedness and cold. But me, I have this strange conviction that I am going to be born." Tony was taken from us at 64 due to pancreatic cancer, but he certainly left his mark. Just as you have....

Ronni, I am sad too that you are leaving. Thank you for so generously sharing the beautiful gift of your wisdom and wit. You’ve illuminated our world in so many ways, and it will never, ever be the same without you. I will miss you very much. Peace and love to you.

Thank you so much for all you have written, for all your insights and al your comments. I consider you my friend too and I call on whatever Gods may be to bless you now,here, and in whatever lies in the future for both of us. All my love and blessings.

Ronni

Hospice is a wonderful program with many services and assistance. Thankful you are in their care. I was privileged to work with our local hospice program and house (fundraising, volunteer management).

Peace and comfort to you and enjoy some pampering, you deserve it.

Suzette

Just a hug and a “thank you” for all the years you’ve been my friend.

I'm here too, reaching out and gently squeezing your hand thru cyberspace. At a loss for words, but my caring is genuine.

Yes, I too think sometimes of dying and think, well, millions have gone before me, and so how hard can it be? Then I think of how we're all made up, a lot, of old, now dead stars, so maybe we are already a lot closer to that other realm called death, than we think.

And I think the earth will miss you too, Ronnie. There was a custom in Ireland, the dead person would be taken back to their land for a drive or walk around. The thought being that the land could say goodbye to them and they to the land. Every day I walk the paths and roads of "my" land, and I can well believe that we may miss each other.

Yours is a bright, inquisitive, lively spirit, and wise, it will continue to instruct and enliven those left behind time out of mind.

May your days and nights be filled with beauty, love, and peace.

With love Salinda

Tears, for sure, but also a feeling of love.
Because you mentioned it, I checked out "When Breath Becomes Air" from the local library. Read it at once. Again, tears, but what a wonderful bit of writing. What a wonderful person. Thank you for giving so much.

Ronni, May I share a poem with you today? I don’t know who wrote it — I’ve heard it variously attributed to Henry van Dyke, Victor Hugo and Mary Pickford! And I can’t square my atheism with my love for this poem, which I first heard at the funeral of a dear friend’s husband.

“I Am Standing Upon The Seashore

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
‘There, she is gone!’

‘Gone where?’
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, ‘There, she is gone!’
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;
‘Here she comes!’

And that is dying.”

Will there be others to take up the glad shout at your arrival? Who knows. But I am humbled and privileged and tearful to see your departure from these shores.


Ronni,
Of course you aren’t ready to be detached from the world. You, more then most, have been fully engaged in the world your entire life. It will take more than the introduction of hospice for your profound interest to fade. I wouldn’t be surprised If it didn’t continue unabated until the very end. You are one of those unusual people, Ronnie, whose driving intellect and zest for life is an eternal flame.
This poem by Walt Whitman may never apply to you, but in case it does, I’d like you to read it while you still can:

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Everyone's comments are my comments. I feel exactly the same...you have shared your life with us like the dearest of friends...and you are the dearest of friends even though we've never met. Thanks for everything and lots of hugs!
Carol

Over the years, your voice has been a major influence guiding me through this aging adventure, and I thank you. I'm glad you're not ready. Harold is right ... please don't rush. Your existence continues to be VERY valuable to a great many people.

Dear Ronni, thank you so much for sharing your feelings today. It's so important, and can be painful, but you help us to feel our own feelings too. Please continue to, as you feel like doing so.

I don't think I'm close to dying yet, but I also often think about this precious planet and what it's going through, and have the feeling that I don't want to leave it while it's in crisis. It's been comforting, though, to see how quickly the air and water have cleared during the decreased traffic since the pandemic hit, which I think shows a resilience that I didn't realize before. And the Earth will ultimately be fine--it's gone through ice ages, meteor strikes, mass extinctions--the question is whether humans will make their home uninhabitable for our species, which would be shocking and sad if we ceased to exist, but ultimately the planet might be better off.

Another thought: This very well might not be the end of the road for our souls. There is so much, from ancient spiritual traditions to scientific research to people's experiences, to suggest that just as matter is neither created nor destroyed, so too our souls; they just change manifestations.

I feel sad and thankful for you sharing.

Was just thinking that it might seem like a longer time if you do more shows With ALEX, he seems to bring out the feisty you, and how about notes to your Son, and grandchild too...love you and your writing, and share on.!!!

What a lovely piece you wrote, Ronnie.

I echo everyone's comments.

I'll miss you so much, so do try to stick around until after the election!

As I've said many times before, any comment I would make has already been made by others and more eloquently. You are a world class, 5-star, Pulitzer-prize quality writer, Ronni!

Although there are well-publicized reasons not to admire Woody Allen personally, I do ascribe to his comment about death: "I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens." Sums it up perfectly for me but, of course, I may not have the final say--as much as I would like to.

It's a challenge to be optimistic about the future of humans at this juncture--too many of us just do not seem able/willing to do what is necessary to bring COVID-19 under control. Still, we survived smallpox, tuberculosis and the 1918 flu pandemic, so maybe we as a species will make it through this one, too.

Imagine that all of us are holding your hand...

What beautiful writing, not just from beloved Ronni, but so many of the comments.

I feel so fortunate to be in this family of smart, caring, extraordinary people whom I've never met, with our captain at the helm.

I'll never forget you Ronni. You came to me at a time when I needed you.

Peace and love.

My husband was in hospice care for a short time. I cannot say whether it was more helpful to him or to me. I do know it opened up a faith and dispelled a fear of death for us both. There was an acceptance. "All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well," Julian of Norwich.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Don't worry - you are not abandoning this world - you are leading the way to a journey we will all be part of someday. With amazing bravery. Please keep shining your light as long as it feels right - you have had a profound impact on many.

About 50 years after Trump. That would be a good time to come back. At least that's what I'm planning.

Who knows ....... maybe we do come back. 2070 AT. Let's all meet up then.

🌻💙🌻


Dear Ronni,
I envy you. I expect that I will die with many of my life stories untold, unheard. But then I realized that that happens to most people, I’m no different. I wish I had your writing ability. What a gift to your family and friends, years of wit and wisdom from the crabby old lady. You will live on through your blog.

I am sad you are leaving. Thank you for everything you've done through these pages. My particular favorite is "A Mother's Last Best Lesson" which I will reread as long as I am able.
I bid you peace.

Those we love, those who are memorable, and let's admit it, those who were a handful, live in our hearts. At 72, I know that's not a cliché. Who knows if they have some kind of afterlife, or come back? It's not important to me. They continue to guide me, to generate love, warmth and sometimes longing. Look at what you have done here, and you will see you naturally will continue to be part of a great many lives.

Another welcome post. Your journey so far has been fascinating and it’s not over. No tears today, no goodby. You’re not leaving us yet! As several have mentioned, not everyone withdraws from the world as death approaches. My dad was very engaged up until he fell into coma.

I wished we could have met in person. Smoke a doobie, have some wine and you tell me all your wonderful New York stories. The one that sticks with me was when you fell down an open elevator grate in the sidewalk. And you felt like there was a guardian angel watching over you. Remember? Maybe He/She is right there with you now.

We love you.

Love you Ronni , All the comments above contain all you mean to me.
God be with you in this time, He beings peace beyond all understanding.

As hard as the post is to read, it is glorious in it's truthfulness. I know we feel connected with you in our hearts in this time! I love your honestly about the most intimate time in your life! Thank you so very much. xoxoxoxoxox

Saying goodbye is very sad. A forlorn sadness in these times.

You will know, Ronni, when it's time. It doesn't sound like it's your time yet. With cancer, things can change precipitously. It's good to have the support of hospice. They are great to talk about death with. It's hard. A hard thing to process.

Thank you for your writing. I am grateful for you.

Ronni,
Thank you for sharing yourself with us. I hold you in my thoughts and am listening to everything you have to say about how you feel.
I appreciate you so much.
Sending you love always,
Tamar

Ronni we have communicated in the past via email when I told you I'm a hospice RN and thanked you for this blog. I'm glad you have decided to take advantage of hospice services and I wish for you comfort and peace. And once again I thank you for sharing your story. It's an important story, one that I am certain will be a help to others in their journey. Peace.

I do appreciate your thoughts leading you toward coming to a level of acceptance for whatever timeline may be your future as seems a very realistic approach to living at this time.

I cling to the expectation we will be reading you and commenting here after the Nov. election totals and final results are known which may not be as immediate as we've known in the past. So, perhaps you will be around to begin to see hope for the beginning of efforts to resolve some of our nation's and earth's problems. If not, some might say you could be observing from "the other side."

There are likely many more stories I've anticipated hearing from you that you may yet write, but whatever your focus here I'll continue to value reading.

Echoing everyone else's thanks and love. I am (only a bit) younger and am not currently dying (to my knowledge) but in so many ways, I feel that I am with you. These days I walk through the world simultaneously treasuring it and also feeling that i I am saying goodbye, taking my leave. It makes people and all their busy little doings seem very poignant. I actually scrolled down through your post verrrrrry slowly because I didn't want it to be over too quickly.

I think about death a lot. Not morbidly so, but curiously so and I have so many questions that simply won't be answered until I experience that very moment. But the things you are experiencing, your thoughts and the feelings you share on this blog are so dear to me. As a society we don't talk much about death, the very mystery of it, the awe of it. And to date I haven't run across anyone who can tell me what it was like. I'm not particularly afraid of death, but like you, leaving any time soon saddens me. I really love this old world, the beauty of nature, the smiles of the people I love.

Though you are weary, I sense that you have much more to say on the matter, and we, your students, have our pencils ready. Don't you dare leave a minute, a second, before you're ready.

sending love.. and hugs..

Your last two paragraphs says it all.
I saw this the other day on Facebook...a comment, which I loved.

"For me death is an infinite blip. When I die I will cease to experience life and, importantly, time. The universe will eventually fizzle out and collapse and then reform into something new. This may happen several times before what I consider to be ‘me’, my soul if you like, can take form and exist again. At which point I will become aware of being alive again. Eons will pass and I will never remember this life, but I can imagine there will be something again. It’s immortality in a way without the curse of actual immortality!"

"...how hard could it be to die? Every damned fool who ever lived has done it."

Hahaha! Oh, how I truly appreciate the good laugh!

My estranged friend was in hospice care, at home, for some days. She had always valued her privacy and enjoyed her solitude. I respected that. But now I have time to replay the past in my mind, I think what she would have wanted was the personal human touch. I'm so so sorry I didn't go to meet her and warmly hug her.

The hospice carers were wonderful. The care was seamless.

I am glad that at the very end my friend was not alone. But on this point I wonder if it makes any difference? I've read that the dying seem to wait for relatives to leave the room before they make the final exit.

I am glad to read that you are being cared for, and well.

I've always liked these poems:
"Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.....
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die."

".....
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened. ...
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was....."

"....
(S)He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
....."

I find them beautiful.

I love you, Ronni B.


And me too, Rick.

Ronni Bennett
Email: ronni@ronnibennett.com
Phone: 212.242.0184
Blog: Time Goes By

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Ronni, thank you for being so generous as to share this with us. Earth has been and is a better place for your presence. I’m treasuring every moment of your continued existence from afar.

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