On May 29 she went into the hospital for a planned pacemaker replacement. All went well and she was to return home in about a week. But, as Ajahn Chah frequently taught, “it's all unsure”. With all discharge planning complete, she became ill, spiked a high fever and began to hallucinate. My brother phoned me with this news and I arrived the next day. She had developed an infection and was now in very serious condition. She was transferred to a larger hospital a short distance away. While in the ICU there, a superb team of doctors and nurses managed to successfully fight the infection. Once again it appeared that she would soon be able to return home.
As she made steady and even dramatic improvement medically, her mental and emotional state took an equally dramatic decline as she grew impatient, angry, demanding and even abusive to those caring for her. She is angry and fearful, not really at the prospect of death, but at the very idea of not being in control. I have seen her react to not getting her way numerous time over the years. It is never pleasant. In this case, in an effort to retain that all important control, she is refusing to participate in her own care. It is a challenging situation for all concerned. Not unlike the challenges faced by countless people and their loved ones the world over.
I have tried to see this through the lens of Dhamma. The aging, sickness and death which we all face sooner or later is serious business. It is a subject that I reflect on frequently. There is nothing I can do to alter the course that my mother has chosen to follow. She is competent and mentally intact, at least by traditionally accepted standards, and free to make these choices that are harming her both physically and mentally in this life and beyond. She has unknowingly given me a most valuable and unforgettable lesson on the urgent importance of a deep and committed practice.