16
Feb
10

home again

It has been nearly two weeks since I returned from the Mennonite Arts Weekend in Cincinnati (MAW). I wanted  to write about this  earlier,  but I couldn’t seem to find enough interior space to organize the experience into words and sentences. This was our last trip together, Big Dawg, Adopted Daughter and I. We would not get to retirement at 50. We would not head out together to roam the country, visiting churches in an RV with a big PEACE sign on its side. This trip to Cincinnati would be all of it and none of it. She wanted to come along. We rented a very big van with room for her to lay down all the way and still plenty of room for all the equipment and artwork I had to bring along. A dear old friend (DOF) flew in to go along with us. The trip was a sober reality, not the devil-may-care trip we’d dreamed about.

We arrived early, set up our hotel suite and headed into the weekend’s business on the following day.  AD slept all of that next day. The trip was more tiring for her than she’d expected. We three, BG, DOF and I went on to set up my installation and panel display in  the gallery and the projection equipment in the chapel for my presentation the next day. The hosts of the event were very gracious and helpful, but there were snafus and unexpected problems to be solved, so set-up took a very long time. Anxiety was not completely absent. I had spent two years thinking about my theme of suffering as Sacred Spaces/Common Ground, and six months in actual preparation. All the while working at liturgical installations at our church, keeping house, keeping the blog, maintaining activity in an online Mennonite listserve, mentoring a young woman friend, and then since January, taking on the responsibilities of primary care-giver for AD. I was exhausted and sad…running on empty. This was not what I had expected the MAW weekend to look like. It was to be a celebration, but I did not feel celebratory. Four friends and Darling Daughter came to support and celebrate with us. I could not manage a light heart.

At 9:00 on Saturday morning, I began my presentation:

I chose suffering as my contribution to our theme for this weekend—The Art of Place: Sacred Spaces and Common Ground. Before I plunge into my talk, I want to say that it is a great privilege to take part in this festival of the arts and to be here with you tonight, sharing some of the experiences that have transformed my life. I’d like to thank Hal Hess, Anne Hevener and the committee for inviting me to share my journey with you this weekend.

I concluded with a PowerPoint presentation of a cross-section of my work. It went very well despite the hang-over I felt from too much insomnia sedation  the night before. I see this as God’s grace and myself as messenger. During this past year I seem to have miraculously acquired a skill in reading a prepared text in an intimate, conversational fashion and I cannot account for this. I had hoped to make contacts for my liturgical art, but that didn’t happen. I had lots of positive feedback from lots of people, but it was all centered on my Dying to Live installation…my cancer story.

The rest of the day was a bit of a fog for me as I hadn’t had much sleep and was running on fumes. By afternoon I was a ghost and spent a couple of hours asleep on one of the back, padded pews of the church, while the assembled faithful blended their voices in Mennonite singing. If I haven’t ever mentioned Mennonite singing before, let me do so now: every Mennonite grows up singing and reading and/or playing music. Even the poorest congregation sings beautifully. They are not so up to speed in the liturgical art and dance as worship category, but music is exemplary, so I must have slept very well. I don’t remember ever waking up during those two hours, and when I did wake up, I wished I hadn’t had to do so.

My memory of the event is hazy. I know there were fun times with friends and wonderful events, but I can’t seem to recall them very well. It is as though a veil covers my memory. I felt relief once we arrived home on Monday. My buddy OM came to help us put the seats back in the van and stayed for dinner. Empress Bird joined us at table as well and that was good. Afterward, Ad rested while BD, OM, EB and DOF all played Scrabble. They had a hilarious time and it was good to feel joy and light around me.

The next day AD slept a lot and wasn’t feeling all that well. I found her mood and affect markedly different and didn’t know what to think. As novice care-giver I was concerned. The following day the new strange behavior continued. When the hospice nurse came, she took all the necessary readings and suggested it was time to start oxygen and increase the morphine. So, the oxygen machine arrived and the meds increased, and  AD began to feel better.

Before DOF, who is a former dancer and interplay leader,  left for the airport, she and AD did some hand-dancing together. It was lovely to see Ad’s face light up like a child seeing a robin’s nest of hatchlings for the first time. Small pleasures count big sometimes. After DOF left, we began slowing putting the pieces of our life back together…post Cincinnati… looking toward the next phase of living and loving together. The oxygen machine is a noisy presence, hissing and phewing its life-sustaining presence. We named it Darth Vader! It’s hard to ignore and hard to accept. Morphine is strangely helpful, both for the sufferer and the care-givers. I watch her take it and feel relief as though it were a healthful potion rather than the addictive opiate that it is.

I am waiting for the hospice nurse to arrive. I need to know that stats. My AD doesn’t say much about how she is feeling…doesn’t often know…I rely on the stats and the experienced nurse to tell me. When we’ve reached a new plateau in the dying process it is always a shock to my system, so this time I’m prepared. No more flying around in my head. I know there is a process underway here. The cancer will take over and the morphine will increase and eventually the two will shake hands and my dear friend, AD will go home.

But right now, we still have work to do and lives to live. We are busy…she with dying well and I with helping her to do that as best I can. It is not time for grieving yet. I am so busy keeping lots of balls in the air and picking them up when they bounce to the floor. Sometimes have to dust them off before tossing them back into my small universe. Dear God, don’t let go of us.

Our nearly twenty old cat, Frank had begun sleeping most of each day with AD. They were a great comfort to each other. This morning at 5:20 a.m. he  was in a lot of pain. We knew it was time and woke AD to say goodbye. We took him to the Emergency Vet Clinic straight-away. She says he will be waiting for her.

The nurse left. Oxygen has increased from 2 to 2.5; morphine increased by 2.5 ml. Ad is sleeping now and I have to get on with my list for today. I’m glad I had a chance to talk with you.

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3 Responses to “home again”


  1. 1 Anne
    February 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Excellent synopsis of a very full 2 weeks. Thank God for “Darth Vader” and morphine and for your loving attention to AD (along with all the many balls you’re juggling). Glad you are staying connected to we cyber-folk.
    Hugs….

  2. 2 janie
    February 17, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Thanks for the update. We love you and lift your household up to the great arms that hold us all!

  3. 3 Naomi
    February 17, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Thank you Anne and Janie. Glass bottom boats…post for today.


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