I’m a planner. I’ve scheduled my yoga classes, workshops, teacher training, retreats and travel through November of 2020. I also outline all of my yoga classes in advance. Admittedly, once I get there, I usually have to adapt my class based on the needs of the students who have showed up, but I still begin with a plan.
Every morning I think about what route I’ll take when I’m walking my dog, Wilma. Should we do steps or hills, today? Should we walk to the park or along the waterfront? The only thing I don’t plan are meals. Thankfully, I can leave that to my creative-chef-husband, Rocky, or we’d probably eat take-out Indian food every night.
This week I watched an insightful video by author, Elizabeth Gilbert, talking about the recent death of her girlfriend, Rayya Elias, from pancreatic cancer. She shared that she wanted to make Rayya comfortable during her last days so she created the perfect atmosphere, a beautiful space for the two of them to share their last days together. She tried to think of everything that Rayya would need in her final days. Unfortunately, Rayya wanted nothing to do with Elizabeth’s plans. She had her own ideas of how she wanted her last days to go and they had nothing to do with the plans her partner had made.
I realized while listening to Elizabeth’s story that I had fallen into the same trap of thinking I could plan the best, most loving, most comfortable ending to my sweet Mama’s life. Two weeks ago, she came down with C Diff, a very contagious bacterial infection of the colon, and it seemed to most of us she had begun “her final journey.” I sat by her bed every day, holding her hand while she slept and told her how much I loved her. I talked about her life and who might be waiting to welcome her into the Spirit world. After six days of this seemingly perfect good-bye routine, Mama opened her eyes, sat up and resumed living as though it was the most natural thing in the world. She surprised her caregivers, the nurses, hospice and especially me. Apparently, she had her own idea of how she wanted her final days to go and they had nothing to do with my plans.
I should have known that death could not be planned. Neither can birth. Years ago, I thought I could plan my babies’ birth. I was a yoga teacher, after all. Didn’t I have an inner knowing? I was sure I would have twin girls in April by natural childbirth. Instead, I had twin boys in March by C-section. The nurses told me after the boys were born that when I arrived at the hospital waving a three page birth plan, they giggled to themselves, knowing from experience that birth rarely goes as planned. As it turned out, having twin boys in March by C-section worked out just fine. Next month my boys will turn 21 and it has been an incredible, spontaneous life together so far, filled with all the unexpected ups and downs that come with being a family of four. I wouldn’t change a thing, even though very little of it followed my plan.
Last week at the Alzheimer’s Residence where Mom lives, one of the residents, Earl, turned 100. When he was 99 he got kicked out of hospice because he was not declining quickly enough. He was not following the hospice plan, I guess. At his birthday party, he announced his plans to be around until at least 102! He spends his days enthusiastically, by which I mean loudly and off-key, belting out WWII fight songs, which might just be the secret key to longevity.
As for Mama, instead of planning her final days, I’m going to stick to planning her 86th birthday party in March and then maybe Mother’s Day and the 4th of July. I’ll try to take it one day at a time and leave the planning to a Higher Power. I’ll focus on Mom because you know my boys aren’t going to ask me to plan their 21st birthday celebrations…Sigh. Hey, I have some great ideas, Boys!