Warning - Personal and sad...Enter at your own risk.
Tonight, I was reading another friend's blog. Her blog is a little more personal about daily life, little poems she writes, personal stuff. She lives in Philadelphia in a rowhouse. I like to read it because it reminds me when I lived there, in Philadelphia. One of her posts I read was about the day that her mother died. It was very personal and sad. Basically, it made me cry.
I'm not a big crier. Never have been. When you are raised with two brothers and a multitude of roughhouse cousins, you learn to suck it up. Scrapes, bruises and hurt feelings get pushed down when your next adventure is down the road. That's pretty much how I've lived. Suck it up and get down the road to the next big thing.
Lately though, I've felt a little lost. It's been about two months now, the same time I started this blog. It's taken me almost two months to come to grips with it. Honestly, it took me almost that long to realize that I was feeling that way and spiraling down a bit. Not suicidal mind you, just really sad and depressed. I didn't even write about it when it happened. I didn't want to do it at first because, that wasn't the reason for this blog.
I realized a short time ago that this blog actually started out as a kind of escape or release valve. Something to do that didn't relate to my normal, everyday life. Even when I started it, I didn't know what direction it would go. I didn't really have a "theme" in mind. You know, politics, history, current affairs, personal, etc. It just took a life of it's own with me using it as a way to make sense of our current situation and put down everything I found out. Mostly, to help sort it out for myself.
It's been very interesting to see that some folks I've never met before, but sometimes feel like I know, actually want to read anything I write or think that it is particularly intelligent or insightful. I've definitely learned a few things since I started out. One thing, I got re-acquainted with HTML which I hadn't used for almost 5 years. That was fun, too.
After reading my friend's post and bawling for a few minutes, I realized that this might be the best place to write down my feelings and not just posting interpretations of things I've read.
So, if you just come here to see what I've written about Iraq or politics or Islam, etc., you may not want to continue reading today...
My grandmother passed away on June 5th of this year. Even writing this makes me want to cry. Tears well up and my nose starts to run. But, I suck it up, because that's what she would have wanted. But it's hard. This lady was one of the greats. Someday, I might write about a bunch of my life and all the things that I learned from her, but not tonight. I will just say that this lady always believed in me. She always thought I would do great things. Be somebody. She always listened when I had a gripe, but always gave me just enough advice to let me make my own decisions.
For the last 16 years, she has told me she was proud of me. Proud when I left home and moved to "the big city". When I got my first new car. When I did really well in school. When I came to work for this company and was promoted several times. I never really noticed until she was gone how much I wanted her approval. Needed it. Didn't know how much I would miss her telling me everything would be "ok", that I was doing good.
But I do.
She was only 72 when she passed away. Not so old. I thought she'd live for another 20 years at least. Sometimes stuff happens that makes you sit back and re-think your life. When she died, it made me really re-assess my own life. What I was doing. If it was really what I wanted. Was I missing something.
She died June 5th, but I knew for several months that she was dying. Not that the news didn't come as a surprise. I was away on my first vacation in almost a year when I got a phone call saying she was in the hospital. I had went to visit some friends in Philadelphia in March over St. Patty's day. I hadn't seen them in three years. Until I saw them, I didn't realize how time had flown by. How much we had grown from rowdy 20 somethings tearing up the town to 30 somethings with houses and car payments and important jobs and family and struggling to keep our finances in order.
Hell, when I lived in Philly, I couldn't have cared less about my credit score. Now, I am crazy worried about it all the time. Worried about finances and credit cards and savings accounts and retirement plans. All the stuff I associated with "old people". (little laugh here).
So, there I was in Philly with my friends, reliving a little bit of our mis-spent youth, when I got the call. She was in the hospital with pneumonia. She had CHF (congestive heart failure). She was supposed to be taking medicine for that, but decided that she was better and didn't need to. She was living with my cousin Chris and her family down in southern Missouri, by the lakes. She had lived with my cousin for almost 15 years after my grandfather had passed away, helping her with her kids and things. That's a little bit of a story, but let's just say that my grandmother raised my cousin Chris and her brother since Chris was twelve, so, it was almost like mother and daughter.
When I got the call, I started counting back the months since I had seen her last. They only lived three hours from me, but I hadn't seen her physically for five months. Right before Thanksgiving. She had been calling me at least 3 times a month and we would talk for hours, but I suddenly realized we hadn't talked in almost a month. I had been traveling so much and doing so much, time just seemed to fly by.
They told me that she was very sick, but they thought she would be home in the next day, so not to cut my vacation short. But, when she got home, it was near her birthday so they were going to throw her a big shindig and wanted me to come down. I knew then that this wasn't good, but I went ahead and finished my vacation like she asked me to.
My middle brother in the military wanted to come up, but it was short notice so I floated him one of my free tickets. When he got to town, he and I and my brother Bill and his family all drove down to see her. There's been bad blood between my two brothers for about four years now, but that seemed to be put away for this one occasion. We all laughed and joked as we went down the road.
When we got to my cousin's house, I was completely shocked. My grandmother, who had always seemed so robust, like she would live forever, looked like a scarecrow in her motorized wheelchair. Her cheeks were sunken in instead of round and rosy. Her hair was thin and stringy. Her arms looked like sticks. Did I say I was shocked? She had definitely not looked like that in November.
She was tired and couldn't hardly speak. They were giving her oxygen and nebulizer treatments to try to break up the pneumonia. She was taking almost 10 pills a day and they were making her sick. But, she was happy to see everyone. The whole gang was there. We laughed and talked about the "old days". All my cousins, my brothers and I recalled all the crazy things we did down on my grandparents' farm. Like throwing rocks at the mud daubers' nests behind the barn and then running like hell. If you didn't get stung, you were the winner.
Geesh...talk about stupid. It's ok, you can laugh. I was only ten at the time. That's my excuse anyway. Or the time their cow Ida chased me across the pasture for the handful of alfa-alfa that I had and wasn't smart enough to drop. I barely escaped by dropping to the ground and rolling under the slat fence that was missing the bottom rung. That and one of my uncles ran the cow down and bull dogged it long enough to let my chubby little legs carry me to safety. I realized I had the alfa-alfa when I was standing on the other side of the fence. Everyone still laughs about that.
Did I tell you that my middle brother hadn't seen my grandmother in almost three years? He was married and lived a long ways away, so they could only get the big vacation thing going every so often. Most of us let him sit with her awhile and talk. This was when he was coming up for rotation in Iraq so we were trying to give them some time together.
After a couple of hours, my grandmother had to lay down, she was tired. We all hung around for awhile longer and talked some more about the "good ol' days". Eventually, everyone had to drive back. My middle brother had to get back home so he could finish his business. On the drive back, we acted like stupid teenagers again. Racing our cars down the highway and blasting the radio. My two brothers rode together and had some good laughs. My middle brother convinced my younger brother to moon me. Of course, we were doing about 90 at the time so I didn't really see anything because I was too worried about looking for cops and getting pulled over. Not quite as sanguine about tickets in my old age.
My middle brother flew home the next morning and everything seemed to calm down. I was calling down every other day to see how my grandmother was doing. Some days good and some days bad. My cousin was trying to take care of her.
Some things started to happen. My father and my uncle and my aunt (gramm's three kids) were down there and going over every day. Even though the doctor had given my gramm's anywhere from six months to two years to live, I think the shock of her condition had convinced everyone that she was going to die some time soon. Me, I wasn't too sure because I knew how CHF could play out, but, I didn't feel like I had all the information so I was working with my cousin to get info from the doctor. There were a lot of complications. A hole in her heart that could get really big at anytime. Clogged arteries. This on top of the CHF and pneumonia was pretty bad. The doctor also said that some of her MRIs had what appeared to be lumps in her lymphnodes around her liver and lungs.
They wanted to do some tests and possibly arrange to have stents put in her arteries, but my gramms refused. I think she knew she was dying and didn't want to go through all the pain just to prolong her life another few months. Besides that, she had been saying for almost 17 years, since my grandfather died, that she was ready to go and join him. Sometimes she said bad things about him "leaving her alone". You know, their life wasn't always rosey and they didn't have a lot of money, but, the last 20 years of marriage (they were married for 36 years before he passed) were full of love. At least, that's the way I remember them. I have wondered for awhile if this wasn't a self fulfilling wish. That she stopped taking her medicine because she was ready to go. I don't know. It just seemed that way.
Sometimes, I've been angry at my cousin. She took care of my gramms, but she never had the will power to try and make her take her medicine or go to the doctor. If gramms hadn't been so sick and barely able to take care of herself, I'm not sure if my cousin would have been able to get her to the doctor. I try not to be angry about it because I know, in the end, it wasn't what killed her, but I know I thought about it a few times. Or, maybe I was just mad at myself because I hadn't been looking after her like I should have been, either?
I was back home for about two weeks when my gramms called me and asked me to help her. Her three kids were already starting to argue about who was paying for what (funeral). They were pestering her about what she wanted done. She had some insurance policies for the last 17 years, little things, that she had put my dad and uncle on as beneficiaries and they were supposed to take care of the funeral and stuff. She had another small policy that was supposed to pay for the double headstone that was to go on her grandpa's graves. I think she realized that she might have told each of them what they wanted to hear and had caused a bit of a problem. I don't blame her, because she was really sick. She didn't really care what they did, but she wanted them to be happy for a little longer.
She had told my middle brother that the thing that she feared most was that our family would break up after she died. She was right to worry.
When she called me, she sounded so weak. She said that the "elder kids" were arguing and she decided the best thing to do was to take them off the insurance policies all together and give it to one person to take care of. She didn't really have an estate. No property. No savings. Just her monthly check from social security a twelve thousand dollar policy and another one that was supposed to be worth about two thousand. She didn't have a will. She didn't have a living will either and she refused to have home nursing because she was afraid that they would make her go to the hospital and she just wanted to stay home. Die there.
So, I drove down and did a little stealth mission. I got her to sign a power of attorney. Had the insurance policies changed. Did a living will. We sat and sorted through her pictures. That was actually very interesting. She had pictures of our extended family and could still remember stories about them, fifty years later. I made contact with her doctor and made him give her some anti-emetics (anti-nausea) medicine. The other medicine that she had to take was making her very sick. She couldn't hardly eat and she couldn't keep down the medicine.
I found the smallest policy, supposedly worth two thousand, had a maturity clause and wouldn't mature until July of this year. Before that, it was basically worthless. I knew that was going to cause some hard feelings because that was supposed to pay for the headstone and then leave my aunt with a little something. Did I tell you my aunt is crazy? If we were wealthy, they would have said eccentric, but "crazy" is for the working folks.
Part of the arrangements that took place was to give my cousin Chris power of attorney for medical issues and to make her and I co-beneficiaries of the insurance policy. The plan was that she and I would make the funeral arrangements and then, when it was all paid for, we would give each take our remaining shares and disperse it to the appropriate family members. Mine to my dad and hers to my uncle. We decided to leave the little policy in my aunts name directly.
By this time, my dad had decided to get all of the funeral arrangements done. He consulted neither his brother or sister and that had caused a bit of a tiff (to say the least). That might sound a little macabre, but, it's best to get these things done when you are not dealing with your loved ones death or dying and having to make hard decisions. Having said that, since he and my uncle were originally supposed to make the arrangements together and share in the expenses out of the insurance policy, they were immediately at loggerheads over the price and details. They started pestering my grandmother about who was right and what she wanted. Stupid crap I couldn't believe somebody would ask a dying person. Like, what color coffin and how much money or what kind of flowers. My uncle got up in arms because my dad had went and did it by himself. My dad was acting pissy because he said my uncle hadn't helped him do shit when my grandfather died. He had also not helped pay for the funeral expenses (my grandfather died suddenly without insurance policy or will).
When I heard about this, I was pretty pissed off. So, when my gramms called and asked if I would take over, I was ready to do it. I knew that would later make me "the bad guy", but I figured I was hail and hearty and could handle them pestering me better than she could.
My aunt, the crazy one, was pestering my gramms about religious ceremonies and such. My gramms had her own beliefs. She was Christian, but didn't follow a particular church since my grandfather had died. When she was a kid, she was Catholic, but she spent about 5 years in a Catholic orphanage and had no love lost for the religion. Not to mention they excommunicated her over 50 years before for having married outside the church. They don't do that anymore, but back then, that was a no-no. She hadn't really had much good to say about Catholicism since then. But my aunt, who is definitely "non-denominational" seemed to get some bug in her head that my gramms was baptized Catholic and should therefore, die Catholic. I didn't know about all of this until later, but, that was another thing that kind of pissed me off. Trying to force some stupid religion nobody in my family followed down an old, dying lady's throat.
Well, we got all of the paperwork done. It took me three weeks and several flying visits because I had to arrange for public notaries to come to the house and search all her paperwork, etc. By this time, it was early May. The only thing left was her will. Not that there was any property, but I did want her to specify who got what and how much and what she wanted for funeral arrangements. Actually, she had already told me what she wanted, it was just a matter of writing it down and getting her signature.
In the meantime, the real world goes on and I had to fly around for some business. I kept tabs on her. She was losing weight and still getting sick. She thought she was taking too much medicine and refused to take the anti-nausea pills if she hadn't thrown up for a few days. Of course, that didn't work because she was instantly sick again so I had to keep getting on her and my cousin about the importance of taking the meds. Finally, I got back to town and took a few days off to finalize everything.
When I got there, she was really sick. She couldn't stay up for more than an hour or so. She was sleeping constantly. I knew that this was the end game. My cousin Chris took off work to stay home and take care of her. Sometimes, she was barely able to function. I didn't get the will done. You know, at the time I wasn't too worried about it because she didn't have anything. I knew there would be no probate court. I also thought that she might have a few more "good" days to get it done. Besides, she had verbalized to me about 30 times what she wanted done for the funeral.
Did I say we hadn't told anyone that the insurance policies and such had been changed? Even today I wonder if it had not been better to tell them before hand. My gramms thought it was a good idea. At the time, I decided against it because I couldn't be there all the time and I did not want some of the others to browbeat her into changing it back. In the meantime, stupid arguments kept coming up about paperwork and arrangements, etc. Crazy stuff I can't even begin to tell you about or it would take a whole other post. I was able to end some of it by telling them I had power of attorney and wanted all of the paperwork and information about the funeral arrangements so I could put her affairs in order. Nobody questioned me because none of them had ever had to worry about wills and such so they did not have any idea about what powers I did or did not have. All the better to get everyone to shut up and cooperate.
Well, I'm going on about the stupid stuff. I stayed down at my gramms' for about a week. I helped take care of her and visited with her everyday. You know, my cousin had been doing it 24/7 for almost two months at that time and I wanted to give her a break. We had some quality time together. What is there to say? We talked and talked and talked. She told me she was proud of me and glad I came down to help her. I bought her special things like new pajamas and food she might like. Some special lotion and soap. She kept saying I didn't need to do it and kept trying to pay me for it. Said she didn't want to owe me anything.
Like she could. No long stories. There wasn't enough time and money in the world for me to pay her back for everything she had done for me. That's why I did what I did. Took all the heat about the finances and stuff. I owed her. We all did even if some forgot.
I think about the grand plans I had several years ago. We, gramms and I, shared a passion for history. We were always going to go to the Smithsonian Institute and spend three days walking around. We never got to that.
I almost forgot to mention, my parents have been divorced for about 16 years now. Even after they were divorced, my grandmother always told my mom that my mom was her daughter and no piece of paper would change that. My mom had went down with me the time before last and spent two days visiting with my grandmother. My mom's mother had died when she was 16 and she always told my grandmother she was the only mom she had ever had. Her mom had been sick a long time before she died, so this was very true. It was very hard to drive back that weekend. My mom kept crying. I think sometimes that she took my grandmother's death harder than my gramms' kids did.
After I spent that week with my gramms, I was planning to come back down the next weekend and get the will notarized and signed. We had to do this in stages because gramms was so sick and the notary had to come out to the house so we had to make appointments in advance. My gramms couldn't go anywhere by then.
During this time, my cousin who was taking care of my gramms and was supposed to be my counterpart with the insurance, started getting a little crazy, too? She was pissed because the others kept going on about the money. She wanted to disregard my gramms' wishes about a simple funeral and blow it all. The whole amount on the funeral and whatever. I had to keep bringing her back down to reality. The funeral would be nice and no expense spared, but we were going to do what gramms wanted, including splitting the remaining money between the boneheaded elders, but I was not going to do something crazy out of spite, as tempting as it was.
One thing my gramms did not want was a viewing. She said she didn't want some prolonged funeral with people walking around crying and looking at her body. Said she wasn't going to be there, so why bother? Chris was insisting that we do a viewing because she thought she and the kids would need it to get "closure". What a stupid word. "Closure". You don't get closure from viewing a body. Plus, her kids were teenagers, but had never been to a funeral before and certainly not their "nana". Like that would make them feel better.
What started out as a good idea to make sure everyone thought things were being handled fairly, turned in to me dealing with the crazy elders AND her.
After that long week, I had to fly to Denver for a meeting. On the last day, i was planning to fly out later, but I got a phone call that gramms had been very bad all week. Not sleeping and complaining of constant pain. Ripping her oxygen off. Refusing her medicine. They finally took her to the hospital. Funny about that phone call. I had three directly after that from three different people. All of them said, "don't hurry. We think she might come home tomorrow."
Well, my gramms was insistent that she was going to die at home with her family around and would refuse to go to the hospital, so I knew, if she was there, it was bad. I ignored them and changed my flight for an earlier one. I remember I was standing in the airport waiting for the plane when I got the last call of the morning, form my dad, still telling me not to hurry because they didn't know what was wrong and she could be back home by time I got there. I told him I was coming anyways because I was the power of attorney and wanted to make sure what was done or not done. My grandmother had signed a "do not resuscitate" order and I wanted to make sure that the doctors adhered to it. Sometimes, small town doctors can get a bug in their asses and decide they don't want to follow the directives about treatment. I was going to make sure that my grandmother's wishes were followed, whatever the outcome.
The flight was two hours. I got home, unpacked and repacked some clean clothes. My youngest brother and his family were insisting that they wanted to go down with me. I told them I was leaving in two hours and if they weren't there, I would leave directions (my youngest brother could never find his way down there by himself, even though we've went about 50 times). The set time came and went. I threw my stuff in the truck. Brother #2 called me and said they were on their way. I said I was waiting another 30 mins and I was gone. 45 mins later they called again and said they were getting gas and had to stop at the store then drop off their kids across town to be watched. By then, it was 7pm. I said, "too late. Can't wait. Directions are at the house." My brother and I had some heated words about why I wouldn't wait. He didn't understand that I had this feeling I had to go.
My mom jumped in the truck with me and we started going. It was a Friday night, so traffic to the lakes was heavy. I knew that it was going to be more than the usual three hours to get down there. After we had been traveling for about an hour, my brother's car zooms up beside me. They had gotten gas and decided they would just take the kids. They finally caught up with me outside of Warren. It took us four hours to make it down.
I got to my dad's place. Everyone had left the hospital and went back home. They didn't think anything was going to happen. The only person at the hospital was my cousin Chris who had been there for almost two days. They had waited a day to call me; I was a little annoyed about that. Seems like everyone was trying not to bug me or fooling themselves that she would be ok. On the way down, I had talked to Chris's husband who was worried because she hadn't slept for two days. I told him I would go to the hospital and stay there so she could go home and get some sleep.
Seems like the elders were all too tired and too sick and too old to stay there all night. This is a long story, too. Besides my crazy aunt, both my dad and my uncle have serious health problems and take a lot of medicine, too. They are so young, but so old at the same time.
I go the update from my dad. Seems gramms had lost consciousness and had not really woke back up in the real sense. She was talking, but mostly gibberish. Her eyes weren't open. She was flailing her arms around. She thought my step mom was her mother and threatened to hit her (my gramm's mom ran off when she was 10; that's how she ended up in the orphanage). But, she was not lucid.
I quickly finished dropping everyone at the motel. No one was coming with me. I told them not to. I would get to the hospital and see the situation myself. They should get some rest and go see her tomorrow. I called brother #1 (middle) and told him what I knew. He asked me to call him as soon as I had some info.
When I got to the hospital, I got the second shock. I walked into the room and my gramms was lying on the bed, looking even more frail if that were possible. They had her on oxygen and fluids and some monitors. My cousin Chris was sitting by the bed trying to talk to her. Gramms was flailing around but her eyes were closed. She kept making noises and every once in awhile, I could make out words. It was 11:17pm. She said, "Dad" and "help me" and "hurts". Once in awhile she would respond to my cousin saying "ok" or something to Chris trying to tell her she needed to rest or calm down. She kept trying to hold gramms' hands.
I knew immediately that the rest of the family had been fooling themselves. I don't know what the doctors had been telling them, but it was apparent she was having multiple mini-strokes. I asked Chris what had been said. She seemed really bewildered and insisted that Gramms might come home in a day or two. I knew if she did, it would be to die. I asked when the doctor was coming again and Chris said not until morning. I asked her what they were giving her for pain. 2mg morphine, push (shot in the arm) every two hours if we requested it and she had just had a shot 30 mins prior.
2mg...I could take that and still be walking around, fully functioning. I was a little pissed. Couldn't these assholes see she was dying and in a lot of pain? Who the fuck was running this place? Chris said they didn't want to give her anymore than that because they didn't know what the problem was and they were afraid it would slow her respiratory system down.
What a bunch of small town fucks! I'm in the business, so I understand their aversion to risk, but this looked fucking insane. Even an idiot could tell she was dying. With the way she was flailing around and crying, I knew she was in pain. I wasn't going to stand for that shit. Nobody should die like that. I started walking to the nurses station. Chris was telling me that they wouldn't do anything unless the doctor ordered something different. Shit, I knew that. I was going to make them call that asshole and wake him up. I had power of attorney and they were going to make her comfortable, if that was the only thing left I could do. About that time, the respiratory therapist came in and wanted to give her a treatment.
Now I am thinking, what kind of fucking rube fucking town is this? Trying to give her a respiratory treatment while she's dying? Then, my normal self kicked in for a second. I knew that, if she did pull through from some small modicum of a chance, you don't want that to be negated by pneumonia, which would happen if the fluid was coughed up out of her lungs. So, I told Chris to go take a break and I would sit with gramms while he gave her the treatment. I figured it was a good time to ask some questions and not freak Chris out. I think she thought that gramms was going to pull through. I thought not, but I figured Chris could go home and get some sleep for a few hours. The RT said that they wanted to do another MRI in the morning to verify what they thought it was. But, since gramms had a do not resucitate order, it seems that they were not in a hurry. The only thing that irritated me, and I said so, was that taking their sweet time on the test meant the doctor wouldn't diagnose and therefore, would not prescribe additional meds. The RT told me we could talk to the nurses when he was done to see what could be done.
In the meantime, the RT is giving her the treatment. She is very restless so I hold her hands and tell her that it was me. I made it down. She said, "Ok. I love you". I thought I would fucking lose it right then, but I held on and kept talking to her softly, telling her she didn't need to worry, I would take care of everything. I told her she needed to rest her hands for a bit because the guy was giving her this treatment. She said, "Ok." The rest of it was just words I couldn't make out. She said, "hurts". I could here here breathing. It was a rattling noise in her chest.
You know, I've heard people talk about the "death rattle" of a dying person, but I thought it was bullshit. It was real. It was right there. I could here it and I knew this was near the end. She said that it "hurts". I asked what, but she couldn't or wouldn't answer. Later I realized it was her head. The ministrokes were causing blood vessels to blow. I thought it was her chest. They had the bed almost all the way down. I knew she liked to rest with it at a 45 degree angle so I lifted the head. She seemed to quiet for a little bit. Chris came back in the room and we both held her hands and talked to her. She got restless again. Her hands were going and she was moaning quite a bit with just a few words I could make out.
She said, "help me...help me." I didn't know what she wanted. I asked her, "what?" Do you need some water? Does it hurt? She said, "help me" again and "hurts". At that point, I had only been there for about 20 mins and I was already done with that bullshit. I couldn't believe they were going to let my grandmother die in pain for want of a fucking test. I told her I would take care of it and she said, "ok". That was all I could make out. Her eyes were closed. A little open, but not really. I could make out her faded, cornflower blue eyes a bit beneath the eyelids. They were faded and cloudy. I knew that she was barely there. I said, "I love you" and she said, "I love you" back. I told Chris I was going to get that fucking doctor out of bed whether he liked it or not and started to walk out of the room.
Just then, my stupid cell phone rang. You're not supposed to have it on in the hospital. I grabbed it and started to turn it off, but saw the number was my middle brother. I had forgot to call him to tell him what was up. I ran down the hall and outside. Quick conversation with him, I told him I didn't know much more than earlier accept that I didn't think she was going to make it. I was on my way to the nurses station to get some info and I would call him back when I had the answers. We hung up. It was only five mins or less. I started walking back down the hall. Chris came running around the corner crying hysterically. She said that gramms had stopped breathing. "She's dying".
I grabbed her by the arm and we ran back to the room. The nurse and the RT were in the room taking her pulse and checking her heart with a stethoscope. I barely made it in the room when they looked up and shook their heads. She was still breathing, but just barely. Making little gasping sounds every 15 seconds or so. Not enough to sustain life. I tried to go over to the bed, but Chris grabbed me in a bear hug and started sobbing hysterically. She was nearly choking me with her arms locked around my neck. I was trying to comfort her, but I didn't know anything to say accept it was ok and she had done the best she could. The nurse said there was a DINER, but we were powers of attorney and did we want them to do anything.
If you are lucky, in this lifetime, you will never have to tell somebody not to do anything. To let your loved one die, because, no matter what you tell yourself, what you think you know, you will never be prepared for that moment.
I asked them if they would leave us for a moment. They left, silently, like we were already at the funeral. What could they do? How many times had they seen this little play? I took my cousin's arms and pulled them away as gently as I could. I pushed her around the bed and made her sit on one side and I on the other. We held gramms' hands. I kept telling her it was ok and I loved her. Chris, too, while she continued to take little gasping breaths. Her lips were blue. Her eyes were completely closed now. She wasn't thrashing around and moaning anymore. It was quiet except for those little breaths and Chris and I crying quietly. Trying not to disturb the lady in the other bed.
Finally, she took one last breath. Just like that. 11:57 pm.
Once upon a time, Chris and I were like sisters. We were the same age. None of the other girl cousins were our age. We had to stick together against the guys. We dreamed of growing up and owning a flower shop together. Now that seems funny, but back then, we had dreams. Then we grew apart. I was all business and she was all family. There we were though, together again in a quiet room, just like when we were little and had sleep oversaw and talked about our dreams and boys and stuff while we slept in her bunk beds. But this was far removed from there. The only thing that was the same was sharing something special between just us once more.
I didn't pray or anything until that moment. I had been there for 4o mins before she died. Sometimes now, I wonder if she didn't wait for me. I think she knew that Chris, in the end, would fall to pieces. She had been taking care of gramms for so long. Gramms was really like her mom, you know? Her mom was the crazy one. This was her real mom, lying in a bed in a cold hospital room. Now she's gone and Chris has no one.
So, we continue to hold her hands while they grow cold and I say the only phrase that came to mind. I think it's in Revelations. Maybe I won't quote it right, but I don't want to look it up in the bible by the bed: "And the Lord said, there shall be no more sorrow, no more tears; nor pain nor crying nor death. For these things too have passed away."
Chris is still sobbing and the nurse and RT come in the room. They check for a pulse and then gently remove the oxygen tubing from my gramms' face. They ask what we would like to do. My tears are starting to dry up some because I know that I have to make some calls. I ask them if we can stay in the room for awhile because I have to call the rest of the family. I think that her kids at least will want to come up and have a few last minutes with her. I know she's gone, but I knew that we were not going to have a viewing and this was the last time they would see her. They are very understanding and say we can take as long as we need.
Chris is worried that they will try to take her away. I told her they couldn't do anything until we signed the release forms and not to worry. I ask what she wants to do since I need to go make some phone calls. She will stay in the room for awhile. She needs to call her husband and kids to let them know. The kids will be particularly devastated. They had been helping to take care of Nana, too, while she was sick and she had lived with them since they were babies.
I walk outside and smoke a cigarette trying to pull myself together. I make the first call to my middle brother. I had just talked to him a few minutes ago and felt that I should call him first. Besides, he is the sensible one and I knew that I needed sensible for a few minutes before I make the really hard calls. When he answers, I tell him he is the first to know and that Gramms had just passed away. He says, "No". It's not the last time I hear that, but I tell him, yes, she is gone. He tells me he knows that I have the hard job now, but if I needed anything, I could call him. Even if it's just to talk.
Next I call my aunt Jeannie. She is my uncle's wife and the only one whose cell phone works in that god forsaken part of the world. I say, "Aunt Jeannie, I need you to do something for me." She breaks in and says, "No." She already knows what I am going to say. I said, "Yes, Grandma has passed away. I need you to tell uncle Lewis (Jeanie's husband) and then go get my Dad. Have them call me from your phone." She keeps repeating "no". Finally, I interrupt her and tell her very strongly that she must go do this or put somebody else on the phone. Frankly, I don't know how long I can hold on before I break down and start weeping myself.
I am chain smoking in front of the hospital and this point. Finally, she goes and does what I ask. She tells me she is going to hang up because she needs to call my cousins. That's the only call I needed to make because everyone else is at my Dad's and they will get told at the same time.
I wasn't there, but I was told that my uncle fell to his knees and started crying. My dad went a little crazy and jumped in the car, almost leaving my step mom behind. My sister in law takes the keys from my aunt and uncle because she thinks they can't drive themselves. My mom, she volunteers to stay with my brother's children so he can go. He hadn't gotten to see Gramms since her birthday. My mom tells me later, she had her time with Gramms the weekend I brought her down with me and she spent two days talking to her and she wanted my brother to have his last chance to see her.
I went back in the room and told Chris to go make her calls. I sit there for what seems like an eternity looking at my Gramms and holding her cold hand. I can't really cry. I don't know why. I think I know that the others will be devastated and I will need to keep it together to handle the details. While I am sitting there, the lady in the other bed says, "excuse me? Can you help me?" I open the curtain a bit and see her trying to sit up in her bed. She is about 80 years old and a commode sits near the bed. "I hate to bother you, but I can't get out of bed by myself and I'm afraid that I will wet myself before the nurse gets here."
I get up and help her put her feet on the ground and then hold her arm while she shuffles to the commode. She is not embarrassed so I am not embarrassed either. Once she is seated, I tell her I will be on the other side of the curtain to give her privacy, but she needs only to say something and I will come back and help her to bed. I sit back down by my Gramms and take her cold hand again. I can't cry, but I don't want to let go of her just yet. I am thinking how life must go on. There is this lady in the room and she is not dead and she needs help. I can do that easily. Finally, she asks for my assistance again and I help her get back in bed. I tell her that my grandmother has just passed and that some family members were coming. I hope we don't disturb her. She says not to worry about it. She's old and she knows these things happen. She thanks me for helping her and I remember my manners and tell her she is welcome, she can call anytime while I'm there and I will help her.
I find out later that she is 82. Her husband had been dead for 15 years and her only son was in a nursing home. She has no one. I wonder what will happen to her, but I don't have much time to wonder. Chris comes back in and is crying more. She told her husband not to wake the kids that they can tell them in the morning. The nurse comes to have us sign a release so they can call the funeral home to come and get the body. There will be no autopsy or anything else, so hospital will not hold her body. I sign the papers but tell them not to call the funeral home. They are not to come for the body while the rest of the family is there.
after what seems like an eternity, the first of the family arrives. They come into the room and start weeping. Some of them go back out quickly. I learn my youngest brother had an asthma attack and he is in the emergency room getting a treatment. When I walk up front, he is coming out. They wanted to give him a sedative, but he refuses because he wants to see our grandmother.
Did I tell you we all owe her? I once told a story about my youngest brother. In his youth, he was rebellious to say the least. He ended up spending a year in jail in Arizona for something stupid (the thing that caused bad blood between him and my middle brother). She wrote to him at least once a week and always sent him a little money for commissary so he could get papers and pencils and stamps to send out letters and to get iced tea and things when he wanted. I will tell you that my brother came away from there a changed man. After the year in jail, he came back and got his shit together. Got a job, a house, custody of his kids and remarried to a nice girl. He said if my Gramms hadn't written to him, he doesn't know what would have happened while he was in there.
He walks up to the room. The elders, including my crazy aunt, are standing outside the room. As we walk up, we can hear them talking about the funeral and things. They are already starting to have a "discussion" about who was responsible for what and what it would cost. My brother hears this as he walks into Gramms' room. While we were away, the nurse had come in and removed all the catheters and such and covered her up. She looks peaceful, but she does not look like she's sleeping. Her lips are blue and her skin is cold. It's not her so I don't let it bother me. Just her old body. My brother is only in her room about 15 seconds before he comes storming out and almost runs be over. He tells me later he was upset that she was dead and the rest of the hoodlums were standing outside talking about money. How could that be?
I'll talk more about this strange phenomenon that came over my family later. You'll understand better why this was so bizarre. And they were starting to argue (not so bizarre). I tell them to hush and this was a hospital with other sick people. If they want to talk they can go outside. And they do, with the exception of Chris and my Aunt Jeanie. The other three go outside and start in amongst themselves. I wasn't planning to talk about anything until the next day and told them so. They are looking at me like I was still some punk kid and shouldn't interrupt the adults while they are speaking. They continue to say mean things to each other and accuse each other of planning to rip the other off of whatever measly amount might be left over or do something against Gramms' wishes for the funeral. All are claiming that they know what "mom" wanted and if the others didn't do what they said, they wouldn't sign any of the insurance forms or be party to the funeral costs, the others can figure out how to pay it.
I am getting really sick of this crap. I feel a cold anger come over me. She hasn't even been dead an hour yet and they are acting like morons. I get out a cigarette and light it, slowly taking a puff and exhaling. I turn "the look" on them. The look I learned at my father's knee. The cold, calm police officer look that is about to tell them that they fucked up and their only chance to keep this from going ugly is shutting up and doing what the police officer says. All of them stop and look at me. This is the moment. I wasn't going to say it until the next day, but I just can't listen to them anymore. Staring coldly at them, I say, "All you all don't have to worry about signing or paying for anything. The insurance is in my name and I made the funeral arrangements. When I get done with the paperwork and paying for everything, you'll get what's left over. End of story." I turn my back on them and slowly take another puff and exhale, staring at three very stunned people.
I feel cold satisfaction in this. Before, I didn't want to say anything because I knew it would cause hard feelings, but, just then, I couldn't give a shit less how they felt. They had turned into people I didn't even recognize. These were the people that taught me manners. Taught me about honor and courage and not to lie, cheat or steal. Told me to respect my elders. I had no respect just then. I had really hoped, regardless of the stupid things that had been done and said before she died, that, when she died, this stupid money thing, this stupid twelve thousand dollars, wouldn't matter worth a shit. But no, they couldn't wait for just awhile. To let everyone have their moment of grief.
In reality, the insurance is in Chris and my name, but I didn't want to tell them that. I figured they would find out tomorrow the extent of the situation. I didn't want them jumping on her right then. So, for the first time in my life, I lie like hell. Of course, she comes out the front doors, just as they all start in. I am waving them away, but Chris comes over and does the stupid thing. The thing that I want to kick her ass over for weeks to come. In her world, when her little family has a problem, they hold a "family meeting." In which case, she announces that "we" (she and I) will hold one tomorrow morning before we go to the funeral home so everyone can stick their two cents in.
I am seriously furious at that moment and am giving her the "cut" motion with my hand. I don't want their input. I've had it for 8 weeks. I know what Gramms wanted and it ain't going to change. But, she is all touchy feel good and waves me away, pronouncing this meeting that I know is going to be the second worst day of my life. The first one had just happened. At this point, they are all grumbling and such. My dad is pronouncing this "bullshit" and insisting he won't come to some stupid family meeting. Frankly, I am counting on that. I just wanted to get these things taken care of and be done so I can have my moment of grieving.
They are asking why they weren't told about the changes. Chris is starting to back track a little because I don't think she expected the hostility. I turn my cold cop stare on them again, puffing the last of my cigarette, "Precisely for this very reason. You all were determined to turn this into some shithole affair with everyone trying to spite the other. Gramms didn't want that and she asked me to come down and take care of it. Now, this is what you get. If you will excuse me, I have to go sign some papers. You too Chris." And I take her arm and lead her away. She turns back to them, "10 AM. Be there." I really jerked her arm then. I ask her what she was thinking, but she gives me some Brady Bunch bullshit about resolving family conflict. I ask her if she has been struck blind, deaf and dumb lately because she obviously cannot remember what it's like to have all of the contentious family members in one location. The last time that happened, there were fists and ugly words thrown around.
She insists that it is the right thing to do. Me, I'm thinking, "Holy shit! If this is bad, wait until tomorrow!" At that point, it's too late. Besides, I'm staying at her house so I can get up and go with her to the funeral home and I don't have much choice.
I go back into Gramms room and tell the others that I have to have sign the papers and the funeral home will come shortly. I suggest that they might want to go home now. Chris proceeds to give them the 411 on the family meeting, while I roll my eyes and proceed to sign documents releasing the body. That's all it is. Just a body. At that point I was just hoping she wasn't looking down and wondering how she raised so many morons.
It's now 1:25 AM, June 6th. We leave before the funeral home comes. I take my cousin Chris home so she won't have to see. I don't want to see either.
Tomorrow will be exciting to say the least.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Warning - Personal and sad...Enter at your own risk.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
In the last post on this subject, we left off where Mohammed has married Kadijah, his first wife. While Kadijah is considering Mohammed for marriage, she discusses him and her slave's claim of divine intervention of the angels or spirits with her cousin Waraqa.
If you recall, Kadijah claims a "relationship" with Mohammed and further refers to him as "son of my uncle". We are assuming that Kadijah and Mohammed are either cousins by blood or marriage. At the same time, we hear Waraqa referred to as "Kadijah's cousin". This must make Waraqa Mohammed's cousin as well.
In this case, Waraqa replies to Kadijah:
'If this be true, o Khadija, then Muhammad is the prophet of his people. I know that a prophet is expected at this time.'
Either the family isn't particularly close (could be a very large, extended family) or Waraqa decides to support his cousin Mohammed for familial reasons and/or he is in collusion with Mohammed. Whichever it is, Waraqa puts in a good word for Mohammed. He and Kadijah are married.
If you remember, also, Waraqa is designated as a Christian, which is interesting considering the family runs the local pagan worshipping grounds. So, the first thing we need to discover is, how does Waraqa become a Christian? The story goes like this:
Waraqa had been one of the men of the Quraysh known as the 'four inquirers', who had gone in search of the true religion of Abraham.
How does Waraqa even know that he should be searching for the "true religion of Abraham"? His family is pagan. However, they reside in Mecca which has it's fair share of travelers, including some Jewish who are "following the path of Abraham" who is known to have traveled between Ca'anan (Israel/Palestine), Syria, Jordan and parts of Saudi Arabia. It's likely, like Mohammed, Waraqa was exposed to all sorts of cultures. It is during this time that the pagan rituals begin to evolve. Probably from exposure to these monothetic religions:
Some decades earlier the Quraysh had begun to establish the of 'The Hums', which imposed acceptance of Quraysh priority over the other Arab tribes. 'We are the sons of Abraham, men of honour, governors of the house of Allah, inhabitants of Mecca . No Arab has such virtue as we, nor such dignity as we.
The Quraysh are the guardians of the house of worship or Ka'bah. This is Mohammed's tribe and family. Here, they begin to assert their dominance, their special place above the rest of the pagan Arabs who regularly venture to Mecca. The story here seems to imply that, even though they are pagans, they already believe themselves to be the descendents of Abraham. This appears to me a little "artistic license". Based on what I have read, the assertion of Abrahamic descendents really didn't start until AFTER Mohammed began to study the other religions, Judaism and Christianity. This is similar to the early parts of the story insisting that Mohammed already recognized Allah as the one and only God.
Accordingly the Quraysh abandoned certain holy ordinances of pilgrimage enjoined by the religion of Abraham...
Reading on, the Quraysh seem to want to insure their monopoly on worship at the Ka'bah as well as concessions and clothing. Much like a modern day sports arena:
"No man of the Quraysh should honour territory which is secular in the way he honours that which is sacred. For if he does so the Arabs will slight his honour, and will say of the Quraysh, "They have honoured that which is profane [outside the sacred limits] in the same way as that which is sacred [within .The sanctuary of the holy territory of Mecca ]."(...)
But they imposed the ordinances on all other Arabs born either without or within the limits of Mecca .
They next invented new observances for themselves. They announced that it was not proper for the Hums to prepare eqth [milk be dried and reduced to powder], to melt fat, or to enter a camel‑hair tent whilst they were in a state of purity and sanctity [performing the ceremonies of the pilgrimage]. They added even to these rules, saying that persons who had come from outside the sacred city ought not to eat food they had brought in with them, whether they came as pilgrims or visitors. The pilgrims first circuit of the Kab a should be made in dress provided by the Hums, or, if such could not be procured, in no dress at all; but rich men or women unwilling to do either could walk around the temple in the garments in which they had arrived, provided they afterwards threw them away and neither touched them any more nor allowed anyone else to touch them. The Arabs were induced to agree to this and made the circuit of the Kaba, the men naked, and the women clad only in an open cassock.
Now they've got it covered in one. But, Waraqa and some friends decide that this is too much. Maybe they are tired of paying so much? Or, they were just good hearted and were disgusted with the rip off of the pilgrims? Maybe, the fact that their religion or worship can change at the drop of hat makes them start questioning if it is true? If the gods really can help them, control the universe, bring miracles? Which ever it is, they begin to question these practices:
One day, when the Quraysh held a festival near one of the stone idols which they honoured, for which they slaughtered sacrifices, near which they assiduously prayed, and around which they walked in procession, four men (one of whom was Waraqa) separated from the rest, saying one to another: 'Will we make a covenant of mutual friendship and protection?' And each said, 'Indeed we will! Our people have no religion! They have lost the religion of their father Abraham! What worth has a stone that it should be walked around, which can neither hear nor see anything, neither hurt nor profit anyone? O ye Quraysh, seek a religion for yourself, for, by Allah, you have none whatever.'
"O ye Quraysh, seek a religion for yourself, for, by Allah, you have none whatever". An interesting phrase, introducing the name of Allah. At this time, remember that there are still 360 gods of the Ka'bah, one of which is the head god, Allah and they are invoking his name in sort of a curse: "by Allah".
The four men spread out and begin seeking their own faith:
Waraqa decided on Christianity and followed the books of its teachers until he had obtained knowledge of the scripture. Ubaydullah remained in doubt until, after the revelation, he made profession of Islam and went to Abyssinia ; but when he arrived there he became a Christian and died thus, after having renounced Islam.
The third, Uthman, went to Byzantium , where he became a Christian and attained high office.
Three of them become Christians. Interesting.
The fourth man seems to remain confused about what religion represented the true Abrahamic religion:
The fourth man, Zayd, became neither Jew nor Christian, although he renounced the religion of the Quraysh and abandonned idols, blood, and sacrifices slain for idols, and condemned the burying alive of female infants. He said, 'I worship the Lord of Abraham', and, when he was a very old man, was to be seen leaning with his back against the Kaba, saying, 'O ye Quraysh people! I swear by Him in whose hand the life of Zayd is, there is not one among you of the religion of Abraham, except myself. O Allah ! If I knew which way is most pleasing to Thee, I would worship Thee according to it, but I do not know it.
Also interesting, he indicates that the pagans are STILL worshipping idols as he searched, making sacrifices before them and killing their female children. The female children were always looked upon as a burden because the family had to raise and feed them, they weren't able to work in the family business and the family had to provide sizable dowries for them upon marriage. Always an issue with poor tribes.
Of course, Zayd continues his search and, like many before him, he is told that a prophet is coming, by a Christian:
He passed through Mesopotamia, and then wandered through the whole of Syria until he found a monk in whom the knowledge of Christianity was concentrated. Him he asked about the orthodox religion of Abraham, and the monk replied, 'You are in search of a religion to which no one can guide you at present; but the time is at hand when a prophet will arise in your country; he will be sent with the religion of Abraham. Adopt it, for he comes now, and this is the time.'
I find that last part very interesting. Here he meets a Christian monk who, having dedicated his life to Jesus, tells Zayd that his religion is not the "true" religion of Abraham. Would a Christian monk have said that? He then goes on to tell Zayd that another is coming who will lead him (Zayd). In other words, "do as I say and not as I do".
This passage actually serves two purposes:
- Mohammed continues to receive credibility by being associated in name or implication with an existing, growing and popular religion.
- At the same time, Christianity is denounced as not being the "true" religion by one of it's own followers. Thus, supposedly giving more credence to Mohammed's later claims that only Islam is the true religion of Abraham.
Before Zayd could come back and spread the word about the coming prophet, he dies:
Shortly after this Zayd departed for Mecca , but he was attacked and died by the way.
Maybe I am looking for too much logic in a story, but, how does anyone know that Zayd is told that a new prophet, Mohammed, is about to come forth if he dies before he reaches Mecca? How would Ibn Ishaq know to write that Zayd knew?
In the end, a few important things must be noted:
- Christianity is spreading
- Judaism is strong
- Mecca is awash in businessmen and pilgrims of all religions, exposing all of it's citizens to knew thoughts, not just Mohammed
- The Quraysh, guardians of the Ka'bah, decide to consolidate their position and finances through control of all aspects of worship there.
- The Quraysh want to draw in as many worshippers of as many religions as possible so they begin to claim some relationship with Abraham and include some aspects of Judaic worship
- Waraqa and several friends, obviously exposed to these many cultures already, decide that their religion must be questioned. Possibly because, if it can change so much and be taken over by secular greed, then the gods cannot be true gods.
- Waraqa and two other friends convert to the ever growing religion of Christianity
- The fourth, Zayd, still searches and is told by a Christian that another prophet, Mohammed, is coming. Thus giving credence to Mohammed and denouncing Christianity at the same time.
One thing that is missing in the next leg of the story is how Mohammed develops his own religious understanding. The next paragraphs begin discussing Mohammed appearing on the scene of a dispute, already anointed with religious knowledge and ready to be the prophet.
Thus matters stood when Allah sent for Muhammad, His prophet, and revealed to him His religion and the proper usages of the pi grimage
The problem with logical story telling, when one makes a very big deal out of third party characters, they usually have a more profound effect on the story or else, why mention them? But the author of this biography misses that chance and, like Jesus, who disappears from the gospels from the age of 12 to the age of approximately 30, Mohammed appears on the scene at about the age of 35, already anointed the messenger of Allah.
We know that this is not acceptable is the story of Jesus and it is no more acceptable in the story of Mohammed as those intervening years have a large impact on Mohammed. With the emphasis on Waraqa, I think it is safe to assume that he (Waraqa) has an impact on Mohammed.
We will explore that in our next posting.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Monday, August 23, 2004
Let's recap what we've learned so far:
- Mohammed was born into a pagan society
- Mohammed's family were "guardians" of the Ka'bah or "house of worship" for a pagan cult
- The Ka'bah housed 360 different pagan idols
- At a later date, Mohammed returns to Mecca and the Ka'bah and destroys all idols but Allah, the great creator spirit.
- Mohammed's birth story is a conglomeration of his true birth story and that of Jesus and/or Moses
- Mohammed was an orphan that was alternately cared for by his grandfather and uncle who each, in their time, ran the Ka'bah
- Mohammed was approached by a Christian monk, Bahir, who allegedly knew him to be a prophet at the age of 12
- Bahir told Mohammed's uncle Talib to be wary of the Jews who would try to harm Mohammed if they knew he existed
- Three Jews or Christians, in similar fashion of the three wise men sent to search for Jesus, were sent to dispatch Mohammed and were convinced not to harm him by the Christian monk, Bahir. The only difference being that they did not later approach Mohammed with gifts fit for a king.
- Mohammed begins to travel with his uncle on caravans and meets all sorts of interesting people with interesting stories.
- Everyone tells these stories sitting around the camp fires at night and exposes Mohammed to other religions and cultures outside of his pagan-Arab society.
- Eventually, Mohammed is old enough to handle caravans by himself and continues to do so until about the age of 25
Now we come to the point where Mohammed marries his first wife and gets his first indoctrination into Judeo/Christian religion. Go to the inner sanctum to learn more.
Mohammed's First Marriage
According to the Sirat Rasoul Allah (Messenger of God) by Ibn Ishaq, Mohammed is brought to the attention of Kadijah and found that he was a good trader. He always insured that the caravan made it to it's destination and got the best prices. She hired Mohammed to take care of her goods and business. Kadijah was a widow and a merchant woman in her own right. Apparently, being able to handle your business affairs as a woman was something that was occurring before Islam came along. We'll address it later, but I would say, meeting a strong minded and intelligent woman was probably one of the reasons he later supports women to be educated and have their own property rights. Something else he incorporated into his religion.
On with the story. During this time in trading, the stories continue to support Mohammed's recognition as a forth coming prophet:
On his arrival in Syria the apostle of Allah alighted in the shade of a tree near the hermitage of a monk, who approached Maysara and asked, Who is this man under the tree? Maysara replied, This man is one of the Quraysh from the sacred city. And the monk said, Under this tree no one ever alighted except a prophet.
You may wonder why these stories written so much later have so many references to Christian's and Jews recognizing Mohammed as a representative of God or Allah. It's quite simple actually:
- To establish himself as a legitimate contender for the title of "prophet" of the monotheist God, Mohammed needed to link himself to the established monotheist religions
- When seeking converts to a religion, many religions take on the aspects of the potential converts existing religion or worship. In this case, continuing to claim to be recognized by Christian and Jewish religious icons as a "prophet" has to be a plus
- The wealthy land owners and merchants were largely Jewish and Christian. The nomadic pagan Arab tribes were not so wealthy. When trying to build a church or religion, who are you going to convert or get your donations from?
Here we have another moment of Mohammed recognized by the angels of God no less as important:
Maysara saw, at noon during this return journey when the heat was strong, two angels shading the apostle of Allah from the sun while he rode on his camel.
Did I mention that Maysara is Kadija's slave which she sent along with Mohammed on their first trip? When they return from this little trip, Maysara proceeds to tell Kadijah about this miraculous occurrence. Now, I don't know about you, but as a woman, I find this story a little suspicious. Sounds like Mohammed and Maysara were conspiring a little bit during the trip. Mohammed knew before he went on the trip that Kadijah was a widow and wealthy to boot. Mohammed, despite the commissions he might have held from the his caravan management, was in no way wealthy. Plus, Kadijah was a "noble woman" of the Quraysh tribe (origin of the word Qu'ran?). Sounds like a little collusion to me.
Something to note here, regardless of the story's claims to date, Mohammed is hardly a practitioner of monotheitic religion at this time. He does not see the light until sometime after marrying Kadijah. However, even the pagans believed in angels or spiritual entities that intervened in daily life. This story, written so long after the fact, was probably a cleaned up version of Maysara telling his mistress that Mohammed was blessed by the gods.
On top of that, Mohammed and Maysara arrive back having nearly doubled Kadijah's profits. Having been told of Mohammed's divine intervention by the angels, Kadijah offers herself as Mohammed's wife:
Khadija ‑ who was an intelligent, noble and good woman, predestined to great favour by Allah ‑ sent for the apostle of Allah and spoke the following words: 'O son of my uncle! I have taken a liking to you on account of our relationship, your respectability among the people, your honesty, character and veracity.' Then she offered herself to him for a wife.
"Son of my uncle"? This is either the pejorative "uncle" used by many Arabic cultures to describe an honored elder male, regardless of relations, or, this let's us know that Kadijah was a member of Mohammed's family, either through birth or marriage. She seems to confirm the latter by continuing with "on account of our relationship". This may mean "business" relationship, but I am thinking, in that day and age, it is likely a familial relationship.
According to the story, Mohammed goes and tells his uncle who then approaches Kadijah's father on his behalf. The story goes on to say that all was arranged (apparently with ease), Mohammed gives 20 camels as a dowry and he and Kadijah are married.
I was looking for the connection, but I saw a slightly different story that indicates that the bargaining process was not so smooth. Apparently, the father was not so enamored of Mohammed. Who could blame him? We are talking about a guy with no property, considered a poor relation by his own family, an orphan, with little money except what he obtained from managing caravans. He doesn't really have much to offer. And, I imagine that Kadijah's family probably profited nicely from her "holdings". Even if they were that progressive to allow a woman to be on her own, so to speak, it is highly unlikely that she lived outside of the family home or tribal affiliation after her husband died.
The story goes on to say that Kadijah was insistent that her father accept Mohammed. This is either an early story of star crossed lovers or, more likely, Kadijah thought this might be the only way that she could leave her family and take her wealth with her. At least it would only be one guy she was sharing it with and not the whole family. The alternate story includes Kadijah and Mohammed conspiring to get her father drunk and agreeing to said agreement. They were hastily married the same day before the guy could sober up. And, they made sure that there were witnesses to his agreement. Mohammed's uncle, Hamza, was one.
You can't really blame Hamza. He probably considered it a good idea considering that Kadijah's wealth would stay in the family, so to speak, if Mohammed and Kadijah were actually cousins. Remember, this is during tribal times and it was not (and is not) unusual for first cousins to marry.
Whichever story is correct, Kadijah and Mohammed were married. According to the story, while Kadijah was alive, Mohammed was a one woman man. Imagine that! There is probably a very simple reason for that. Kadijah had all the wealth. Even during those times, the woman was entitled to what she brought to the marriage if the marriage failed. In which case, it would be very smart of Mohammed not to try and introduce another woman into the situation. Kadijah would probably not feel very inclined to share, either her husband OR her wealth with another woman. It's not until she dies later that Mohammed takes more than one wife. We'll discuss the actual reasons for taking more than one wife a later as well.
This particular story does not give certain information, but it is purported that Kadijah may well be at least 15 years Mohammed's senior. If he is 25, that would make her about 40. Of course, we are talking in ancient calendars here that did not necessarily follow the Roman/Christian calendar of twelve months. This could make Mohammed anywhere from 19 to 30, depending on which calendar was used, and Kadijah could be between 34 and 45. What is known is that Kadijah gives Mohammed seven children before she passes. Considering menopause, I would say that Kadijah is either NOT 15 years his senior or the different calendar makes them younger than the story lets on.
Either way, this is later pointed to as an example or reason why Islam is more open than other religions to large age gaps in the marrying couples, regardless of gender.
At some point, Kadijah tells her cousin Waraq, who is a Christian, about Mohammed's miraculous encounter with the angels and Waraq confirms Mohammed's future as a prophet:
Khadija told her cousin, Waraq, who was a Christian well versed in sacred and profane literature, what Maysara had related of the conversation of the monk and what he had seen of the two angels shading the apostle of Allah, and Waraqa replied, 'If this be true, o Khadija, then Muhammad is the prophet of his people. I know that a prophet is expected at this time.'
Once again, Mohammed is confirmed as the next prophet by a Christian. As a person that studied Christianity, I find this extremely interesting considering Christ warned his followers that there would be others after him that would claim to be prophets and admonished his followers not to believe or follow them:
MAT 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
MAT 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
We will discuss Waraq and his effect on Mohammed in the next discussion. After reading the story concerning Mohammed and Waraq and then reading the actual statements in the New Testament regarding prophets, I find this interesting as well: These quotes don't actually tell us that there will be no prophets after Jesus. All of the quotes I was able to find simply identified Jesus as a prophet (and a son of God of course) and stated that people should be leary of false prophets that come later. Not that a prophet or more would not come after Jesus that were true, but there would be people who claim the title and show tricks in order to lead people away. The "no prophets after" interpretation might have been the church's or original translaters desire to insure that Christianity is THE religion of their group. Sort of a guard against too many off shoot religions.
Which leaves us with this simple question: Was Mohammed a true prophet after Jesus, or was he one of the false prophets we were warned about?
Sirat Rasoul Allah: Chapter 2, Kadijah
Online Bible Quotes
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Last evening, while flipping through some other websites, I noticed an interesting side bar on Little Green Footballs said "Never Forget" and had some links underneath it about 9/11. I've seen some of them before, some are pictures and collages, some are movies, etc, depicting Sept 11, 2001. This particular link caught my attention Tilly's Story 9/11. Tilly was commenting on little green footballs last year around the anniversary. She was a survivor from Tower 2 and this connection tells her story.
Maybe I'm a sucker for punishment, masochistic, but every once in awhile I take a look at these different links. I want to remember. I need to remember. When I look at those pictures, everything comes back to me. Everything, my sadness, my anger....no, not anger, rage...I feel a rage inside of me like I've never felt before in my life. It's been 3 years now and I thought it would go away. But it doesn't.
There is a part of me that is rational. That reminds me that not everyone that practices Islam or lives somewhere in the middle east is a terrorist bent on killing me or my family. Nor were they all responsible for the death of 3000 of my fellow citizens. All of these people are not responsible for the pain and anger that I feel when I think of that day, when I see the pictures or hear the stories.
Something horrible comes over me. I can feel it like it is eating away my humanity. I want to yell, kick or hit something. I want to shout out, "Nuke them all and let God sort them out!" It is so intense sometimes, I can feel the tears well up.
As we get closer to the anniversary, three years later, it seems the time hasn't dulled my feelings much. I wasn't near there. I was over 1200 miles away watching my TV. Maybe it's because it involved planes and I fly so much? I don't know. I'm not afraid of flying, I do it all the time, so I don't think that is it.
Tonight I'm thinking that it's because I shut it off for awhile. First, I couldn't stop watching, reading, learning. Then, it got so intense, I couldn't watch TV anymore, couldn't read about it, I just shut it off. For two years at least. Maybe this year is the healing year, but I don't think so.
This year, I am paying attention like I did right after the terrible event. I realize that we are in a dangerous time. Not just dangerous because of potential terrorist attacks, but dangerous because we might forget. Might lose the memories of those fateful days. Decide that it wasn't that big of a deal. Certainly not so terrible a loss that needs to be avenged. Yes. I said avenged and I meant avenged. "Justice" is a nice word, but I don't want these bastards arrested and in front of the court. I want them dead, simple as that. I want them dead and anyone that wants to follow them, dead as well.
Did I tell you that I feel my humanity is sometimes troubled, slipping away? I am quite certain that I could shoot them cold without blinking an eye if I had the chance.
These days are dangerous because we are fooling ourselves into thinking that it's no big deal. Whenever the government announces a terrorist alert, the opposition pronounces it "hogwash". People protesting their own government for the war in Afghanistan was shocking. People protesting the war in Iraq was just as shocking.
I know some folks don't believe that Iraq had anything to do with Al Qaida or 9/11. That may be true or not. But, I can tell you that invading Iraq and setting up a democracy to potentially influence the neighbors was a good alternative to what I had in mind for the middle east. Now, I believe in this cause like nothing else. Believe it's importance. All those arguments about justification or WMD or "imminent threat" don't phase me. They don't even top my agenda of reasons to go into Iraq, though they make nice ensemble pieces.
Why do I support this limited war in Iraq? Yes, limited war. We are fighting a small scale war. If we wanted to, we could have taken the whole place to war, bombed the entire region into submission, drafted 1 mil occupiers and set to creating a whole new country. Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't a good idea after all? But, I support this limited war in Iraq and pray for it to be successful because I know the alternative. The alternative I carry inside of my heart. The one that says, "Kill them. Don't ask questions, don't try to sort...Just kill them."
Fortunately, I have met some people in the past year that have helped me sort out my feelings about "Muslims" and "Iraqis", etc. But it hasn't changed the core of me that tells me if Iraq fails, we will be stuck in a very hard position. Appeasing the enemy or committing to international high density warfare; total war.
Do you understand where I'm going? If this doesn't work, if Iraq cannot turn itself from theocratic government and give us hope that free people will behave like free people and not attack. The next battle will be on the grand scale of World War III if we don't win.
Some will think I'm an alarmist, but I know the enemy is waiting to strike us now. The next one will be even more devastating. When they do, this country that everyone thinks is so divided now, wait until we are attacked again. This country will be even more polarized. More people will chant for blood and some will withdraw, completely disengage and call down wrath on our heads for responding to the terrorist. By then, it will be too late.
So, Why is Iraq important enough to fight in and win? Because it is our last hope that people from this region can be trusted, can be free, can become our allies or at least friendly nations, if this attempt fails, the next battle, the next war will be even more horrible. It is either this small battle here and a possibility of spreading freedom through out the region or a major war with casualties we've not seen in our lifetime.
Some might claim that I am a quoting some fanatical idea of Armageddon. The reality is, if we withdraw from this area, those that are waiting in the wings with their fanatical, religious political ideals will take over and begin their own indoctrination. And we have already seen what they can do with 19 men. I'm not willing to take that chance.
So...Some like to tell you that Saddam, Iraq and 9/11 have nothing to do with each other. They do. They do because we should know that this is our only chance to get this right. If it fails, we will see something even more terrible. Don't believe me? Sit back and watch. Try not to close your eyes when the scary parts happen. You'll want to remember.
Well, here is the second time I've had to retract a comment, I hope this doesn't become the norm.
Yesterday, I posted an article called The Two faces of Islam in which I quoted an editorial by Mohammed Alo from ToledoMuslims.com and then an article that appeared in The Triangle from Drexel University in which I was using the two ways in which Islam was being presented.
Please note: The Op Ed piece from The Triangle is a fake. That post will now be retracted. My apologies to anyone who read that article and believed it to be true. For details, go to the inner sanctum.
The article from The Triangle was an Op-Ed titled "Convert To Wahhabism Now Lest You Die Infidel Pigs". This article was sent to me some time ago. Frankly, I don't even remember who sent it, but I linked to it and saved it in a folder marked "Islam" for future use. Then, I started researching Islam and Islamic organizations. I started with the information that had been previously sent to me. That's when I saw this article again and decided to use it.
After publishing it, one of my readers, Mike, got a little perturbed and sent an email to the editor asking why they would print such an article. Believe it or not, Mike got an immediate response. According to the newly appointed editor, this Op Ed piece was actually an April fools joke. It was printed in the Triangle's April 2 edition (it's weekly) which is notorious, according to the editor, for printing an April fools edition every year.
Sure enough, upon some editional research at the site, the April 2 edition was obviously an April fools joke as the titles for the other stories include: Single Accident Begins Apocolypse; University Security System, The Eye Of Taki; etc.
After reviewing the information, I thanked the editor Mr. James Mack for his information. I did point out to him that he may want to do some judicial upgrading of that particular webpage as there is not such disclaimer there and the article was being circulated as true (obviously, I bought it). Which he thanked Mike and I in return for pointing out the potential problem to him (of course, there was the disturbing note on his email in which he thought we were members of the FBI...LOL).
So...retracting that story. I'm sure somewhere there is an organization or someone else pushing the Islamist issue in America I could quote, but we'll leave that for later. However, I will put the ToledoMuslims.com article back up because I find their organization very interesting and would be good reading for the rest of us.
My apologies to anyone else who was fooled by this article.
Saturday, August 21, 2004
I know, I know...I'm posting a lot tonight. I've been so busy the last week that all I got done in between flying and driving was reading and not writing anything brilliant. But I found some brilliant things, so bear with me.
In one of the discussion threads here, I was discussing the need to have a Martin Luther of Islam and I wondered who and where that might be. Islam needs it bad. Needs a really strong leader that will not qualify all his statements for fear of antagonizing the establishment, but is willing to do it for the sake and survival of their religion. So, I am reading this website called Toledo Muslims and reading several articles. Guess what I found? The first inklings of Luthernism in Islam.
With the recent departue of the Arabic-only speaking religious leader, a local Mosque is now presented with an opportunity, unlike any other, to switch to an English-only prayer service. Community members have been asking and harping on this for quite sometime, and the time is ripe.
Of course, you will have the financial backers and older generation that will want to leave the sermons in Arabic. They are born in Arabic speaking countries, spoke Arabic growing up, and are accustomed to Arabic sermons. However, they are already "good" Muslims. Because of their background and upbringing; they know Islam quite well and don't really "need" the sermons; they are there out of religious obligation.
The new generation of young Muslims, born and raised in America, do not have as strong a background in Arabic, and despite all of our efforts, will learn better from English sermons.
Anybody remember one of the tenets that Luther was fighting for was to get rid of the old "Latin" only sermons and allow the people to hear mass in their native tongue? Of course, this served to de-mystify the church, but it certainly helped gain a more universal understanding within the Christian communities just what religious folks were up to.
Excellent idea and gives me hope.
Update: Aug 22, 2004:
This posting is edited...the second article I originally referred to from the Triangle, is fake. I did not delete this post because I wanted to show two things: I will not hide mistakes, but will show them to you and explain how they were created; I did not want to delete the article from Mohammed Alo, which I believe gives an excellent explanation as to why many find Islam to be a scary specter in our communities and what a Muslim thinks his fellow believers should do to overcome that image.
In support of my most recent post, I wanted to give you two examples of Muslim's writing for two news organizations that reflect the two different views of Islam.
The Understanding Gap; Toledo Muslims By Mohammed Alo.
While most demographers talk about an age gap, or gender gap, or education gap, I am going to talk about the growing ‘understanding gap.’ Huh? What on earth is an understanding gap?
The Muslim community in the U.S. seems to be suffering from an understanding gap. While some Muslims are progressive and forward looking, others seem to be more prehistoric and arcane. The progressive Muslims view themselves as a part of America, vote in every election, have non-Muslim friends, and interact with the society around them. While the prehistoric faction seems to be bent on living their lives as if they are continually trying to safeguard their identity and hiding away from society at large.
Even a Muslim can recognize when people have "gone off the reservation", went to the dark side.
This following item was posted April 2, by Sheikh Usama ibn Akhmed is a professor of wahabbism at Drexel University and the president of Wahabbism Now for America.
America is corrupt! America is immoral! America is ruled by Satan, who employs the Jews to carry out his bidding! If you are still reading this, that means that there is still some hope for your soul. I, Sheikh Usama ibn Akhmed, am the president of Wahabbism Now for America. Our organization recognizes the massive moral shortcomings of this immoral culture and attempts to fix it by enforcing the purest form of Islam; this form of Islam, Wahabbism, is the law of the Holy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we will impose it on America and all its inhabitants.
When I first read this, I lauged and lauged. If you were trying to convince people your way was right and they should join you, you just told them they suck. Not a good idea.
Later, then I got a little irritated. I'm thinking, "ungrateful bastard" and "why isn't this guy on the first boat to the magical Kingdom of Saudi Arabia"? Then I got really angry becaue this damn letter is in the Drexel University school newspaper and this is what our children learn when they go to college.
You should read both sites carefully so that you can get the whole picture.
Update...never mind...don't read it. This last article was a fake.
Well...I've been busy reading about Islam and trying to get more information. One sided views are never the best and I've been quoting faithfreedom.org quite a bit. That site is essentially ex-Muslim's (apostates?) tearing Islam apart, piece by piece, and I have essentially been doing the same. Some might interpret this as me being prejudice against Islam. No such thing. If you look at the story I did on Judaism and Islamic sibling rivalry, I treat the biblical story regarding Abraham, Isaac and Ishmail to the same historical cynicism.
To me, understanding a religion's historical roots does not mean that someone should not follow the teachings of a particular religion or philosophy. However, I think that it behooves us to understand every aspect of a religion and it's creation so we can pinpoint where that religion stops being a "religion" and starts becoming a political movement or base for a power grab or a bludgeon for hate, prejudice, justification for slaughter or oppression in general.
Let me tell you, in my research I have found that ALL relgions have their extremists.
The Aryan Brotherhood takes passages from the bible (mostly Old Testament) and tries to pass it off as proof that white men were meant to lord it over anyone of color or not of their strict interpretation of Protestant Christianity. Frankly, the most interesting thing I've noticed is the Neo-Nazi youth marching with the anti-war crowd which is in turn full of pro-Palestinian, Communist, Anarchist, anti-Isreal pro-Islamist groups. How these groups subjugate their core beliefs to get together for the purpose of protesting a liberal republic is simply amazing. Having a common enemy seems to be a simple method of unifying disparate groups.
Then, you have the fundamentalist Orthodox Jews who insist on building settlements all over the West Bank and protect it at gun point, insisting that it is their "right" to claim the land because Abraham's 5000 year old "covenant" with God. Extremism anybody? Don't get me wrong, because I think that Isreal has a right to exist and protect itself (including building a wall), but I think when a government allows, or uses, extremist movements to hi-jack the peace process because they don't like some part of it, that government is either complicit or just too damn weak to exist. And here, I apply that liberally to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Frankly, I give more credence to the Israelis because they don't have crazy Jewish guys strapping bombs to themselves and blowing up buses full of children.
Yeah, I know the IDF regularly lobs missiles into homes, bulldozes them to the ground and allegedly rounds up Palestinian babies so they can use their pure blood in an ancient Talmud ritual (sarcasm here: I actually read that on an Islamic site), but I have never, ever, heard nor seen any population but Palestinians teaching their 10 year olds to be suicide bombers. You want sick? That's just sick.
And, no discussion would be complete without mentioning the Islamic extremists who insist that they will rule the world in the second coming of the New Caliphate and want to force Shari'a law on the entire world. And they do, too. I watched an interview the other night on CNN with two young Muslim men in Britain who were claiming that Islamic law for business, finance, etc would replace capitalism in the 21st century. Uh Huh...I think I've heard that one before. Anybody know of any "true" Communist country that exists without the benefit of the greater capitalist world today? No? Me neither. These boys were living in a dream world. Worst yet, they were living in Britain and making it good off the ugly capitalist pigs. They were dressed in Jeans and T-shirts. Very western.
These men were both going on about how freedom made people corrupt and only through the correct application of Islamic law that "protects" people from such corruption would the world be saved.
Everytime I read or hear this, I think back to the Communist propaganda about the people's proletariat and dream of utopia. These folks tend to forget that it is man's nature to have both good and bad behavior that makes these dreams impossible, not laws, political movements or strict religious morals. There will always be some ambitious folks that "corrupt" the pure movement. You want "purity"? You had best move off this planet. Even then, I bet the "pure" movement would be corrupted immediately by one ambitious man or another. Reality check, boys.
Well, the point was not to go off on a tangent about "evil Islam". Islam is no more evil than Christianity, Judaism, Budhism or athiests (just to name a few). But there are always those who would take advantage of a movement and try to turn it to their cause, which is usually a bid for power. Just look at Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. That's a religious movement that uses it's base to retain power. Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Shi'a. Bin Laden and company with their Nasserite/Qutb philosophy (I'll explain this sometime in the near future).
You name it, Islam's got it. So do the rest of them. The only difference is that the Aryan Brotherhood is not about to march out of their little compounds and try to seize the US government and inflict their sick ideology on the rest of us. They try it and they would get their asses handed to them. These Islamist movements are finding out the same thing.
My point here...there are a lot of folks that are throwing around a lot of hateful, prejudice words. Maybe some Muslim would visit this site and say the same thing about my words. Who knows? But, all religions have their nice normal people that believe in God (barring athiests), have faith, live peacefully and never think of shooting somebody for not believing and all religions have nutsos that want to rule the world (or, at least their own little piece of it). So...all those folks in glass houses, throwing your little stones at the glass house of Islam, should back up before you say something or do something to some poor folks that haven't hurt anyone and would never think about it.
President Bush said that this is not a war against religion. Let me repeat that here. It's not. It's a war of ideologies. Freedom vs. 21st centruy slavery. I know. We have heard the words "Islamist Terrorists" for so long, it's easy to start looking for Muslim's and insisting they are terrorists. That's a crying shame. We tried using the word "al-Qaida" to represent this movement, but that was so mixed up with bin Laden directly, people started believing that he was the ONLY one we needed to worry about.
So, what we are missing in our 24hour jingoistic society is a nice round title that denotes our enemy clearly while separating them from the religious base that they draw on for recruits by stopping the words "Islamist terrorist" and give it recognizable name for the general populace to associate their evil plans and ideology. Then, you go about it like an election campaign. This is what the moderate Muslim's believe and this is what the enemy believes. Show the difference and then name the enemy something other than "Islamist Terrorist". I don't like the word "terrorist" either. Terror is a tactic not a political movement. We need to name this political movement and separate it from Islam.
Maybe we should call it "Qutbism" after it's Egyptian philosopher instead of Islamists or something similar we can sink our teeth into? What do you think? Anybody got any ideas on what we could call this thing?