Tag Archives: life status change


The art of dying — part 1

The art of dying — part 1

What an upbeat and practical way to look at death in the future. (Click on the link above.)

After dying, we’ll still need to live somewhere, won’t we?  I have thought a few times about making a piece at the pottery wheel that would like nice on shelf in the kitchen as a nice tuna casserole cooking dish, and then on some other shelf as a receptacle for someone’s dusty remains.  (I thought about it a bit too late in the case of my late brother-in-law, the demise of whom is mentioned earlier. Other arrangements are made.)

This fellow shows such style in thinking with such deliberation and choosing to learn a new skill in the process. Bravo.

Here but for a liver — you can help

After a long struggle and multiple peaks and valleys of hope and despair, my sister’s husband, John, has died.  At the time, he was waiting for a donor liver, and had every reason to think one would come into his world soon. (Shortly before the last days, the family had the urgent call to come to the hospital and prep for surgery, but the organ available was then judged unsuitable.)

A post-mortem request from the family is that you — you — declare that you are an organ donor.  I know that as in all matters public and private, people will fall into teams supporting and decrying the practice. Some note that organs and tissues are recycled in an unfair manner, with the less-deserving somehow showing up high on the list. (Think Dick Cheney’s heart.) That may be true, but as more organs come available in more geographic regions, the wait list shrinks a little and the bottom moves upward.


It’s an easy pledge to make on your part — see my Washington, DC, driver’s license here, which I didn’t have to print up myself or anything — and when the time comes, you won’t even know it has occurred so it will cause you no trouble.

Pledge to allow the possibility, and tell your mates you have done so.


Back in Washington, DC

Back in Washington, DC

Finding my way

Helen Hine 2

I escape the death house. 

When I went in to leave off some food I would not be able to use before leaving Mexico in two days’ time, Helen was lying on her bed, bloody from breaking through her own skin, wet from urine, clutching Deborah, the young housekeeper recently brought in to help, with a relentless grip on her arm and thick braid. She was saying something in neither English nor Spanish over and over, not responsive to anyone.  An hour earlier I heard a solid five minutes of “no, no, no. . .” 

It seems that Helen was going to die on this night, 30 October.  I had understood that her son Keith was on his way, coming last night, but family friend Pablo said that he had no valid passport, so will arrive with his wife on Friday 1 November instead. I would like to meet him, after our brief phone conversation in which he seemed to share a lot about Helen’s life with Agostino, his readiness for her death. He thanked me for what I have done, which is nothing aside from an email to strangers to ring an alarm that there has been a downturn.  I sent also the two photos I had taken of Helen, and the mention that I had wanted to write up notes about my conversations with her.

While I thought she was in the process of dying, I left for the sacred space of San Pablo (discovered while I was on a solo walk on March) to hear the music of Nybram, a musical group from Colombia.  I heard them in concert two nights earlier in another sacred library space, Biblioteca Henestrosa.


I have almost written some positive things about the Catholic Church here. Its buildings here in Oaxaca are ancient by US standards – 200 years old, some much more — generally open to the public for a sit-down, cool in the summer, warmish in the winter, with artwork ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Churches are state-owned and the flock of padres and sisters are not supposed to be on the streets in clerical garb.  But the spaces that seem “sacred” are libraries.

One big rich guy – the cousin of Carlos Slim — has attached his name and money to a foundation that funds the salvage and beautiful restoration of libraries, open to the public. In the case of the two I mentioned, Henestrosa and San Pablo, glorious open courtyards, chapels, and contain fountains and space for music, dance, lights, and books for reading, for adults and children.  On this night, chairs were arranged around the central fountains for the audience. The program was completely different from Tuesday’s, what I would call music associated now with Christmas, though not of this century:  Adeste fideles, late-16th-century melodies Greensleeves and Coventry Carol, the traditional Dona Nobis Pacem.  

Nybram is a sextet of voices, cello, violin, mandolin/lute, flute and soprano saxophone, which I’m not sure I’ve seen or heard before, but the range of which seems identical to that of the violin and the human tenor voice, so that the toss-off from onto the other is understood by looking more than hearing. The primary vocalist of the group is Julian David Trujillo Moreno, and it is this voice that completely fills the space and pierces through whatever else I might have been thinking. 

A gang of four unison chanters trouped through in medieval monk toggery, singing Latin texts a capella with a chiming bell while ascending the stone stairs to the balcony, then descending, echoing all the way, tapping into a modern sense of the romantic and sacred, pure. The sextet alternates or joins in.

If tonight I were Helen, writhing at the end of life, this voice, this perfect music, would keep me alive another hour or another day, lodged between here and somewhere else, painlessly sensate.

In William’s words

I’m pretty sure that if he were awake to do so, William would allow me to lift his email to friends yesterday.
We arrived safely in Oaxaca.  I has rained every day, sometimes at night, usually late in the day.  The casita is nice, grapefruits that grow outside the door give just a little juice.  The caretakers are named Helen and Augustine.  They both move very slowly and must be in their 80’s.  Helen is the only one who talks and you have to lean in so her hearing aid will work.  Both our little houses are in a compound that is sweet and unkempt at the same time, as mine might be if I was older and less able to sort and clean.  Cathy, the owner, lives in Woodstock, N.Y. We sent a deposit to her in cash then paid the balance of our rent to Helen in Oaxaca, so we are supporting the old folks in the compound.  It feels a little like an old folks home.  We have a cleaning lady who comes twice a week, I think mainly to empty the fecal paper basket since it is not allowed to put paper in the toilet, and will clean and wash the sheets.  A man comes around every day in the alley calling “aaaagua,aaaaagua” and Helen told us if we need a five gallon bottle of water to give him 17$ plus one for a tip.
    I am still not sure why I am here in Oaxaca.  My first attraction is always the materials of construction.  Almost everything her for construction is concrete based: bricks, adobe bricks, plaster, tile.  Lots of paint too.  I spend an awful lot of time fantasizing about my future compound, with its rain collection system and solar hot water. I have already purchased a motorcycle and my helper is going now to purchase some bricks and mortar — not. 
    I saw an add for teaching children English.  I wonder if that is something I can do.  I don’t really understand the mechanics of English.  I got so excited when I reheard the word “subjunctive” listening to Garrison Keillor. I am sure my teachers tried to learn me but I just didn’t.  I am finding fascination in Garrison’s show that had Guy Noir’s client responding to questions with only questions, or the Car Guys with a listener’s letter about all the words like “disgruntled,” where there is no word gruntled if the dis is removed.  I’ll teach them children about hosopotomei and grungification.