I was coming home last night from visiting Betty. Her rehab in the nursing home is progressing. She feels better than a week ago, she is getting stronger. She said it would be a miracle if she can go home by April. And it will be.
The forty-five minute drive on Ridge Road from Horseheads to Trumansburg is one of my favorite drives. The rolling fields, old homesteads and barns are breathtaking in every season. Each time I drive that road I am filled with awe. Last night it was dark. I couldn’t see the scenery but the silence of the road, and being the only one on it for at least thirty minutes of my drive was a new, peaceful way to experience this drive I love.
I was listening to satellite radio, as I often do. I roam the channels. Sometimes looking for relaxing SPA music, sometimes Classic Rock and Roll or varying types of Blues or Jazz. When my kids are in the car, they take over the roaming duties, looking for current stuff. I enjoy listening to what they like to listen to. But last night, I had the channels all to myself. I came onto a station that was playing songs I listened to as I became an adult. Back then I thought I was an adult already — but that is another story. Singing along I noticed how my voice isn’t as good as I used to think it was. I conversed with myself in my thoughts: “If I took some lessons I could actually be pretty good.” “Yeah, but not good enough to be a real singer.” “Agreed.” Then I continued on down the dark road comfortable yet at the same time pondering over the various conversations I had just had with Betty and her daughter, Nancy.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, family differences, bank accounts, her breathing, doctor’s appointments, Betty needing to advocate for herself when the staff give her meds she doesn’t need, the food being served not being adjusted to someone who is diabetic with high blood pressure, water retention from congestive heart failure and other complications – – last’ night’s meal was a chile dog on a white bun, potato chips, a piece of cherry pie and a small cup of canned fruit cocktail. Salt, sugar, little to no fiber, how can this be part of a rehabilitating environment? The issues to deal with when caring for someone elderly you love are great.
All of these thoughts were there, in the background and as always, after my visits with Betty I was poignantly present to the gift that life is and then, an old favorite came on the radio. “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. I turned up the sound and sang along.
“I close my eyes
only for a moment and the moment’s gone.
All my dreams
pass before my eyes of curiosity.”
As I sang I thought about how the moments in my life have come and gone, continually. I thought of how sometimes I have thought situations were unbearable or that that they would never pass. I felt trapped. And then, that too passed. It all passed. Everything in my life up to that moment (which has now passed) when I was thinking these thoughts. And my dreams. How many I have had and they have come and now passed. Traveling and living in Europe. Learning Italian, working for the United Nations, becoming a mother – having two beautiful children. Returning to the US. Loving and caring for my children all the way through the difficulties of my divorce and along the way finding a man that was part of a dream from long ago. Marrying him, leading transformational programs for hundreds of people, building a beautiful home, returning to school, working with people, making a difference, bringing my voice to issues that really matter to me and to the world. Being known in my community as a resource. Life is rich and my dreams have been many. My dreams have been full. Whatever I have been willing to dream and hold has past before my eyes, I experience it and then… I dream some more.
“Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.”
Like Betty, someday I will be facing the ending years of my life. All that she dreamt, like me, has passed before her eyes. She has had a rich life. She has loved and been loved. She has laughed, cried and now she is resting, working on getting stronger so that she can continue to dream. And then she, like I, will die.
“Same old song
just a drop of water
in an endless sea.
All we do
crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see.”
This was when my eyes teared up, my voice cracking as I continued to sing along. The beauty of life and the slipping nature of how it continues on. How thinking that what matters is that conversation from a year ago or that thing I need to do next week or next year, when really what matters is this moment right now. That this moment is a moment well spent. That we are present, experiencing it, experiencing the love surrounding us, the beauty of the world and the people who are important to us. That moment passes and then there is the next one. It is never stopping. Ever.
“Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind.”
Egyptians, Romans, Mesopotamia, Native Americans, grandparents, parents, Betty, me, my children. All of us.
“Now, don’t hang on.
Nothin’ lasts forever but the earth and sky.
It slips away.
And all your money, won’t another minute buy.”
I had never heard the lyrics this way. Don’t hang on. My first thought was Betty. Don’t hang on. This moment, right now is passing by. Another will be here to follow. Enjoy each moment with her as they pass. My children, right now are growing, learning becoming more and more independent. “Don’t hang on. Nothin’ last forever…” All of it is changing, moving, slipping by into that next beautiful moment under the sky, on our precious earth. Money will never change that.
“Dust in the wind.
All we are is dust in the wind.”
It seems to me that being able to come to a place of acceptance of our inevitable death is one of the most empowering things we can do. How to do that is an interesting question. I am grateful for Betty for many things. One, being that as I walk with her through this phase of her life, she is giving me the gift of cherishing life. Of cherishing all that I have, all I have done, all that I will do and that in the end, I too will be dust in the wind. There is something liberating about accepting that. I am overcome by a sense of peacefulness, a vulnerability and a deep sense of compassion for humanity.