This month has seen: highs and lows; sick and extra sick; fabulousness and fantasticness. Looking back over these portraits each month I'm not sure who this person is but she seems okay.
This months artist is Vernon Ah Kee. His large scale portraits and art works fascinate and move me every time I stumble on upon them in books and magazines. One day I hope to see one in the flesh. You can view some of his work here at the Milani Gallery site or check out this google search of images. love B xox
I imagine it’s what we all want, to
die gently in our sleep. Or perhaps spontaneous natural death; one minute
you’re there and the next you are not, no medical explanation. Like someone
reached over and flicked your off switch. In reality very few of us get to go
Some feel I’m morbid thinking about
my death, as if I’m wishing it apon myself. Others think it’s understandable
given that I’m chronically ill, when in reality I’m no closer to death than
anyone else. Being chronically ill does however make the impermanence of health
and life all that more acutely obvious to me. I have heard the Buddhist
concepts of non attachment and impermanence expressed as the ‘glass is already
broken‘ (forgive me for I can’t remember where or by whom) and so my ‘goal’ in
contemplating my death is‘I’m
The sciencey bit
The process of dying is well
documented from the scientific observer and palliative care perspective. It
starts along time before the final moments. And when I read the ‘sighs that
your loved one maybe dying’ I realise I’m all ready there. Chronic illness
certainly is it’s own unique form of limbo. And so, I guess my point of
concentration (having read a few of these descriptions now) is the process of
“There are some outward signs that these systems are slowing
down. The person will begin sleeping more to conserve the little energy that's left. When that energy
is gone, the individual may lose the desire to eat and then to drink.
Swallowing becomes difficult and the mouth gets very dry, so forcing the person
to eat or drink could cause choking. The dying person loses bladder and bowel
control, but accidents will occur less frequently as those gastrointestinal
functions shut down as well and he or she consumes less.
Anypain that the dying
person feels at this point can usually be managed by a doctor in some way, but
it can be unbelievably difficult to watch these final steps of a person's life.
The stage right before a person dies is called the agonal phase. The
dying person is often disoriented, and it will seem like he or she can't get
comfortable. It will also seem, disconcertingly, that the person can't catch a
breath. There may be agonizing pauses between loud, labored breaths. If there
is fluid built up in the lungs, then that
congestion will cause a sound known as the death rattle. As the cells
inside a person lose their connections, the person may start convulsing or
having muscle spasms.” from How Stuff Works
As the dying person
But perhaps that doesn’t let us in on the emotive
side or that tricky first person perspective. Will I be consumed with fear?
Will I be able to be open to the experience?Will I worry about those things left unsaid or not done?
Will I be surrounded by loved ones, with a complete stranger, or alone? In
thinking about these things, considering my options, am I being prepared or
grasping at a fake sense of control?
And then there is this song that pretty
much sums it up for me…
Hope There's Someone by Antony and the Johnsons
Followed closely by this art work, Breath by artist Phil Dadson. When I first saw this work installed in an art gallery I was transfixed, left
standing watching as others came and went.
But what about me, what do I think I want…
I have never been present for a human
death, I have been there several times near the end but have never had the
honour of being there at the end.That’s how I see it, an honour.Like the honour of being present at a birth, there is honour in bearing
witness to a death. I do wonder who will bear witness to my passing? But I also
understand that ultimately you do it by yourself. If I am alone so be it, but
if you love me and feel you are able to be there in the moment with me you are
welcome and I will never think less of you if you cannot be.
I know that I want to be as present
as possible when I die. I don’t want to be pumped full of medications to the
point of not being conscious. This maybe hard for anyone around me, as I know
how distressing it can feel to watch someone in what appears to be pain and
unrest while dealing with your own grief. I have no real way of knowing what is
going on for those dying, perhaps the stories of those that have had near death
experiences or even the amazing story of stroke suffer and neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor can shed light on
what it might be like. Personally, I suspect from my own adventures, if the
pain becomes too bad I will loose consciousness by myself. I’m not saying I
won’t take a little light relief though :)
I would like to go quickly but I know
that there is a chance that I will drown slowly. The lymphatic nature of my
disease can mean you get a build up of excessive amounts of lymphatic fluid in
the lungs which finally becomes too much. I know this will be very unpleasant
for anyone watching. I will understand if you can’t be there. Personally, not
breathing properly I find quite distressing. Mostly because between asthma and
this disease, which every now and then gives me breathing difficulties, I know
how hard it is to remain calm when your body is fighting for air. My hope is
that near the end I will find that calmness. I guess it’s time to start
I know that I am very happy to go
into palliative care. I have no romantic notions about dying at home. I don’t
want to make life harder for anyone by insisting on being at home (that and
chances are I will never own my own home). I want those I love to be looked
after as well as myself in those last days and that is what good palliative
care is all about, they are the ‘midwives of death’ there for you and your
In summary I know I want to have a
good death. I know I want to die quickly but I plan to be as prepared as
possible for a long drawn out death.
Things I like: about death
All the links above and these... This story by Nancy Updike from the This American Life podcast, episode 523 : Death and Taxes This conversation with Roshi Joan Halifax about the painful truths of death and the impermanence of life. This Book Graceful Exits: How great beings die (death stories of Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, and Zen masters) compiled by Sushila Blackman (seriously amazing book)
Love B xox
P.s. Here is a link to part on of this series if you haven't read it already :)
I continue to be amazed by this transformative process....
This months artist is fashion blogger Meagan Kerr. In her project Fat Girls Shouldn't Wear Stripes she photographs fabulous woman breaking the many
contradictory rules of fashion that society pushes on fat women.