I spent most of the day at the hospital, talking about really uncomfortable things.
If the heart stops, do we try to start it again? This has nothing to do with a broken heart, but a beaten, barely beating one. What then? If the heart doesn't quite stop, but falters, what then? How much do we try to restore it?
And what about an invasion, not of soldiers or marauders (or at least, not in any human form, but microscopic ones, who invade the blood and infect the body) do we fight them off? Do we go bravely into battle until they are routed, every last one of them?
When do we stop trying to... I can't even imagine the proper infinitive that belongs in that blank space. Is it to try, or maybe to will, or to fix and mend and heal and ---
Please God, let there be no pain. How about that? Just: no pain.
That's a perfect goal, though it doesn't fall into a tidy infinitive. Right about now, I am hungering for tidy, for neat little boxes that fit, with no lumps or leftover parts.
Thing is, life isn't tidy. at least, not any of the lives I've met. Not now. Not anywhen. Not ever. Life is filled with messy, and lumpy and almost-but-not-quite fitting. There is no symmetry, no equal and opposite reaction, no tried and true equation that says "for every Part A of Sadness, add a Part B of Kindness..." Every soul, every life, is a jumble of goodness and meanness and pity and thoughtlessness and grand generosity and fear and glee and on and on. We are human, and so we have within us the seeds of everything imaginable (and a few not so imaginable, maybe, things that, by definition, I cannot even conceive of right now, or then, or ever).
So the man laying in the hospital bed, in the room of the very uncomfortable discussions, was just that: filled with huge generosity and the finer points of cruelty. He was kind and happy and mean depressed and generous and growing confused. He was in pain and rich in spirit. He loved fiercely and hated with passion. It did not balance. The pendulum swung wildly, less a back and forth and more a whirling gyroscope that spun madly - but it was beautiful and drew your eye.
This is my uncle, whose madly spinning life is starting to wobble and sway and slow. This is my uncle, who is complex and difficult and brilliantly present, and his life is fraying around the edges. This is my uncle, and discussions concerning him are less about healing and more - Please God, let there be no pain.
And all the while, today, while we talked, my mother and my cousins and the whole team of caregivers who were present in that room, I could only think that the room was filled with a thousand thousand blessings.
My uncle is pretty sick. He's dying, in fact. Conversation is no longer about healing, but is laced with words like "palliative" and "comfort" and the alphabet soup of DNRs and POAs. We all hate it. We all love him. We all want to make sure that he's comfortable, that he's getting all the care that he needs. There was a team of caregivers present, to match the team of relatives and loved ones sitting in a small circle of sun and warmth and too-bright light that streamed through those huge windows. We all had a single purpose - let's figure out what this man needs and make sure that we can give it to him.
This man, this human being who has lived his life to the very edges, who is so very human, whose life is messy and whose breath is raspy and harsh and his arms seem to have shrunk even while his hands have remained so huge - big enough to conquer the world, surely - my uncle sits surrounded by care and concern and love. We cannot save him. We cannot heal him. We can go back and forth and around again about keeping his broken heart beating.
He is surrounded be love.
For all of his pain, for all that his ferocity and great, gawping energy is quieting - he is surrounded by love.
During Elul, I am called to shift, to change, to turn the kaleidoscope so that the light bends and flows and the jeweled bits dance. Here is my lesson on blessings today: they are all around us, even in the discomforting, uncomfortable parts. There is grace in that, and infinite, boundless love.
Stacey Zisook Robinson