learning to face the inevitable

My brother Kevin called a couple of days ago. He brings flowers every week to our mother and shared her news with me. While the bloom's brighten her room they no longer can check a real, continuing decline in her overall condition.

My brother Kevin called a couple of days ago. He brings flowers every week to our mother and shared her news with me. While the bloom’s brighten her room they no longer can check a real, continuing decline in her overall condition.

This news did not come as a complete surprise. She lives in a caring community, the Jeanne Jugan Center run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Kansas City.

This Roman Catholic order of sisters founded in France in the 1840s now runs homes for the elderly in 31 countries. At their home in Kansas City they have three levels of supported living.

When my mother, Catherine, first came to live there a decade and a half ago she had a small apartment with a kitchenette.

Over two years ago, increasing physical issues demanding more nursing intervention this called for a move to the a wing providing more supervision. Just two months ago after a series of falls the staff determined that a move to their infirmary wing providing around the clock nursing care was warranted.

With each move she with family help has had to increasingly pare down her remaining personal possessions. Each change has meant a progressive loss of autonomy as well as the culling of the physical reminders of her past. Her world has retreated into one small room with occasional forays out to the chapel or community dining room when her energy permits.

At 90 years of age after a full, demanding life bearing eight children, raising an active family largely on her own as was the case for most North American women in the 1950s, having a late career and spending most of her free time with an invalided husband for the last eight years of his life she has every right to be exhausted. While she publicly set the goal of reaching a 100 years of life at her birthday celebration last October, recently her thoughts have markedly turned towards the coming end of her life.

She told my sister Mary a few weeks back that she would like to have a celebration of her life. When asked whom she would like to invite to it, my mother had many long deceased friends and relatives on her guest list.

While there is no pressure for me to head home immediately, my siblings will let me know when it is time, I recognize the real possibility of an imminent call. Hopefully my mother will rally and continue to revel in the exploits and gambols of her expanding clan. Her first great-great grandchild is expected in the fall. But the family knows and is preparing for the inevitable.

How are we preparing as a society for the inevitable before us? As we move towards a very different world which must come to recognize the real limits of the life-supporting capacity of the Earth, what kind of changes are we readying ourselves and our communities for? Can we consciously begin to pare down our material wants to only meet genuine needs?

We need to think right now about a whole range of questions from how we recreate, how we move ourselves around to how we more equitably share the earth’s finite bounty. As Peter Brown and Geoffrey Garver very basically state in their book Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy, “People need to think about pursuing joyful, grateful, and fulfilling lives in right relationship with life’s commonwealth.”

If we can do this, we will be well on our way to being prepared for the inevitable.

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition is hosting the next Whitehorse Connects at the Old Fire Hall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25th . For information or to volunteer call either Debbie at 456-2426 or Kim at 335-1428.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste notes

Saturday, May 22 – International Day for Biodiversity 2010 theme is “Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation; Recognizing the Role of Biodiversity for Human Well-being.”

Sunday, May 23 – Pentecost Sunday marks the day when Christians believe that the God the Holy Spirit came to the first disciples in the form of tongues of fire and rushing wind. A suggested reading is John 20:19-23.

Sunday, May 23 – Declaration of the Bab in 1844 celebrates for Baha’i the announcing by Ali Muhammed that he is the anticipated “Coming One” of all religions.

Monday, May 24 – Victoria Day across Canada or the Journee nationale des patriotes in Quebec.

Thursday, May 27 – Visakha Puja celebrates for Buddhists of all traditions the birth, enlightenment and passing away or Parinirvana of Gautama Buddha.