Zen Spot #63 — Mindfulness, meditation and a father’s peaceful passing January 30, 2018 00:05

We were watching Goodfellas

My father’s hospice bed was facing the TV. My mother and Antoinette were sitting on my father’s right side. I was on his left. The way my father’s breathing changed…noticeably…into a very quick, shallow, mechanical staccato right when the movie went to commercial was, at once, startling and expected. I’d read enough about the final days of those with cancer to know we were close to the end.

Morphine

He’d been in bed, at home, for three weeks, knowing that it was only a matter of time. My father proved to be my father to the end in that he never showed a lick of pain. In trying to educate myself about his final weeks, all the information I could find prepared me to watch a man dealing with a level of pain that would be significant, even as a coma would engulf him in the final days. Morphine is available and recommended. The coma never appeared.

We administered morphine twice over the last two days. His response to our questions about his level of discomfort, after he had lost the ability to speak, was to simply and rigidly wave his hand, in an arc, over the area below his navel, from hip to hip. There was no discernible relief because there was no discernible pain. I often wonder if he indicated discomfort, knowing we’d administer the morphine, with the hope that it would somehow relieve our pain.

The accidental Buddhist

My father was a devout Catholic. Never missing mass, he prayed faithfully and, more than anybody I’ve ever met, practiced The Noble Eightfold Path. He was humbled and committed. He struggled and was more poor than I ever knew. His generosity and patience belied his struggle. Years passed before I realized. 

In particular, I remember a light blue polyester hoodie, the sleeves of which strained awfully to reach the top of his wrist knuckles. People remarked that he was cheap. Twenty-two years of a sweatshirt that didn’t fit because he was poor. The money he earned went to my mother, brother and me. Selfless.

Self. Less.

Crossing over

The nano-second his breathing changed, our eyes locked on each other. We stood up and surrounded him. We knew. He was still breathing but he was already gone. His jaw slacked and exposed his lower teeth. More time was taken in between each breath until he froze.

I expected something different as he crossed the finish line…relief, fear, sadness, pain, confusion. None consumed me. I was on a first name basis with each during the previous weeks. Now, there was peace.

Just peace.

I wonder where he went.

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What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?