Today my Grandmother died.
The dying process that is quick for some became long for her. A year of being on more morphine, pills and insulin than most hospitals would administer. All pieces of this puzzle were made known to my mother, who took the role of caretaker and support for over ten years. The karma of care is something passed on so strongly from mother to daughter. Felt from infancy, giving back that unconditional support we recieved as an infant? It’s no match for what we want to do when we are adults and feel like we can do so much. But in the end, what little we can do hits us all at once and we’re lost.
I held my mother in my arms this morning and said “I am so proud of you”. Because no one could have done what she did, maintained consistency as my grandmother deteriorated, hallucinated and grew weak. No one could have been her at that moment and not broken down.
My grandmother raised two girls as a single parent. In a conservative town where divorce was considered loosely hanging skin on society, she took on the responsibility as she could. Worked at the same bank for 30 years, trained male employees to become her superiors. She was the valedictorian of a high school class of one in Oregon, a farm town where there were more sheep than people. Getting lost on our way to the movies, reading, riding bikes down her street, and Jello with fruit. All memories I take with me.
When my mom became aware of grandma’s situation, I asked her how she could keep watch over a woman who was falling apart. Her answer was simple:
When someone refuses to give up on you, you don’t give up on them.
My mother explained that when her Dad left, Grandma didn’t stop being a Mother. She didn’t shirk responsibility when she had no support. She didn’t give up. She may have stumbled on that path, but she didn’t forget who her girls were. This past week, my mother held my grandma’s hand as she chose to stop eating, stop taking medications, and release herself from pain. To release from this earthly shell we all have to leave eventually. To become the matter of the next life, whatever that may be. It was a holding cell of the next world and we all could recieve her wishes as she passed. Painful, powerful, complete.
There is a chant that the Kundalini Yoga community recites when someone leaves this planet : Akal. It means undying, deathless. The death place where, when you are asked to go there, you can go with grace and dignity. For the past week, when my Grandmother decided that death was her choice, that it was her time to go, she left on her own terms. It’s the place where change feels like burning and everything crumbles around you but you stay still. You stay deathless, for death is your peace.
Death isn’t about giving up, it’s about letting go. It’s about being there for someone in their last hour and allowing them to let go. It’s not giving up as the letting go is painful. I will take the lessons of my mother and grandmother of that deathless place. May that deathless place give you strength when all karma is burning into dharma. May you remember those who held your hand into the deathless place. May you become deathless as death surrounds you. May you all be light when your time comes to illuminate the deathless path. Sat Nam.
Eileen Arabella McKay. Akal.