Wednesday, June 30, 2021


 Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. The clock on the kitchen wall is almost exploding. It gets louder as I try to ignore it.  I never heard it while Standing Deer sat on his throne in the living room watching videos on TV. Now the passage of seconds, minutes, hours, and days is propelled like an arrow from the clock to my mind.

I just had my 79th birthday, (I almost wrote 89th, a slip I’ve been making for months).  Normally people my age don’t accidentally add ten years to their age, but I’ve been very aware of the speed of time in the days since I turned 75. However, it isn’t with regret, sadness or fear that I became aware of the the speed with which years advance. I feel a freedom and detachment that I would never have anticipated even three years ago. It’s as if I were looking at the earth’s spinning surface from a remote island in the sky. Everything seems present or soon will be. Whatever time is it greets us at the beginning of our ride on this spinning ball.  Although I’ve had a lot of time, I find it mysterious and multidimensional. We use our Earth, Moon, Sun and stars as a measuring system, yet the essence is a mystery.

Most of the earth's people have already moved beyond reach of this physical, measured world and become members of its history. I’m wondering if we just attend this three-dimensional seminar of a few short earth cycles from time to time primarily to brush up on the principles of consciousness and responsibility or possibly learn about them for the very first time. Eventually, I hope to move through the lower grades and enroll in graduate school. Could it be that our earthly school systems are based on an underlying cosmic model?

Standing Deer (Pba-quin-nee-e, or PQ) was a hard user. His physical body was small. He and I wore almost the same shoe size, he had strong but beautiful hands, and the muscles of a cat, and he carried himself big. However, he was careless with hardware, including his body. It took him longer than most people to discover that he wasn’t immortal.

Now that PQ has moved beyond the vibrational atmosphere of this visible world, my self-identity has done a fast replay of all the previous roles and stages of my life. As each one passed, I said no, been there done that. Let’s try one I haven’t used before. There were so many years lived secretly or as the frame for someone else’s picture. However, it’s an intuitive guess about what comes next. Honestly though, I’m ready to take some dusty tools out of the closet. Some of them have never been used before and others were almost forgotten.

 I've been cast out the door of a life I was quite comfortable with and yet I always knew the comfort had a time limit. A pleasant routine becomes delicious when you know it may end without notice. You take a memory snapshot each day. The simple things are the most addictive. I miss seeing the back of his head above the couch as he watches the afternoon news while I fix supper. His laugh when a joke strikes his funny bone, the breakfast smoothy we had with the morning news at the beginning of each day, and especially the happy hug when he met me in the kitchen ready for morning coffee. On nice summer mornings we took our coffee to the patio where he liked to talk to the birds, and they answered. In the afternoon, there were trips to the grocery store and post office. He invariably saw someone he knew from the Pueblo, went to high school with or was a pal he made in the art world. Of course, Taos was his hometown not only in his lifetime but for generations back.

And yet we were happiest in Cottonwood Arizona. I’ve tried to understand why that is. Perhaps it was because we were free to be new. It was like being born again without karma. Yet we never gave up our Taos connection. That wasn’t the point. The ripples in the lake of time ran free there, without conflicting patterns. It was a new life based on discovery rather than habit. We had, and now I have, a storage shed full of remnants of our dream to return to Cottonwood someday.

We got together too late to fulfill many dreams, but we had a delicious taste of what we want when we get another round. PQ always had an off center sense of judgement. It took me a long time to recognize this.  However, his bad choices had a trickster element attached. He once picked out an aspen tree for me, and it turned out to be a cottonwood sapling, or he decided to walk around the grocery store with me, accept visitors and sing a day after leaving the hospital which launched the beginning of the end. I no longer blame him for this strange trait. In the final cut, it turned out right. He was following a different script and the results served an alternative purpose. For instance, I had decided to plant aspens because of my small garden space, but unknown to him, I always had a soul connection with cottonwoods.

I see and must accept that he left when he needed to go. We both had plans for the future, but his body wore out and his soul knew he couldn’t do justice to the life he came to live.

To be continued, but I don’t know when or where.







Thursday, June 17, 2021


How can he be gone? He filled every moment of my every day. Now the air is loaded with his absence, as if he might walk through the door. Time can’t find its way through the disorganized maze of events. I don’t remember just when his exit began. He fought with his powerful will to stay in his body. He never felt his earth journey was complete and did everything he could to make those damaged, lungs keep working, and his heart was still pumping strong until just before the final breath.

A Moment Without Oxygen !
 We talked of making a will recently but ran out of time. We didn’t know the final struggle was already creeping up behind us. Our lifestyle from year to year gradually adapted to his lung disease, and although we kept the car supplied with oxygen tanks and took the big concentrator with us whenever we left town, we were comfortable, and our love for each other and our friends made life sweet. PQ was not patient by nature, but he adapted to all the inconveniences of his disease. His paintings became better as he explored new styles and media, and he continued to sing for visitors and sometimes at events, although for shorter periods of time. He was always a party boy, and a gathering, whether of two or two hundred gave him a spike of energy and sparkle. I stood behind him with the oxygen tanks.

We had a routine appointment with his pulmonologist in Espanola. He didn’t want to go because our recent visit to lung specialists in Denver yielded no new information and left us worn out. He said, “what’s the use of going to the doctor, he won’t tell me anything new.” I thought of Dr. Narayanon, and how he and PQ bantered with each other and talked of their shared political views and jokes about the differences between the two kinds of Indians they represented. I talked him into keeping that appointment.

In the elevator to the doctor’s office, he began to struggle. When we got out, he almost fainted and had to find the nearest chair. A nurse ran for a wheelchair, and when he began the check in routine of heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen, the oxygen level was bouncing up and down off the charts. The nurse quickly fetched Dr. Narayanon, who took one look and sent him to the ER. His left lung had collapsed. Then began a month and a half of hospitals and procedures. My notes on the calendar are as mysterious as the progression of time, and as out of ordinary focus as a dream.

Thus began my life of waiting in hospitals. For a small Hispanic town, the Espanola Presbyterian Hospital is clean, modern, and spacious, with a caring staff that look in on the patient every few minutes. I spent five or six hours in PQ’s room every day and drove home to Taos in the evening. I didn’t mind the hour-and-a-half drive up the canyon. It was a beautiful spring landscape that soothed and restored my energy after the long hospital visits.

However, PQ’s body was not eliminating the morphine he’d been given when a tube was implanted in his lung cavity to drain air and fluid so that the lung had room to reinflate. It was decided to send him to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. Of course, that didn’t work. It took the Ambulance too long and the room was lost, so he went to Rio Rancho Presbyterian Rust instead. Our dear friend Carol with whom we stayed in Cottonwood, now relocated to Albuquerque became my center. I spent five hours at the hospital every day, until they decided to send him back to Taos. When he arrived back in Taos, he put on his jeans, cowboy boots and shirt. He followed me into the grocery store, and we went to the post office. One day, he received some out-of-town visitors and enjoyed playing his drum and singing lightly. But that was the last hurrah. The lung collapsed again.

By this time, I’m beginning to feel like a mouse in a maze, and Taos sounds like a comforting relief. After a few days in Taos Holy Cross, the pulmonologist there decided there was a procedure that might keep his lung from collapsing again, so he was sent by helicopter to Presbyterian in Albuquerque. (Are you getting confused yet?) I was. With each change there was a hope that this time there would be a better outcome. But the promised procedure was never used nor even mentioned again and it was soon decided that he was declining rapidly and should go back to Taos into hospice care.

PQ’s son Jarrick, and I agreed to this. I gathered my things and started back to Taos and as I was leaving Albuquerque, the ambulance driver called to make sure he had the Taos address right. Hospice bed, high flow oxygen concentrators and whatever else might be needed were to be installed in our house before arrival. PQ’s oldest son Corey had stayed at our home and taken care of the cat while we were gone. He worked rapidly to clear a space for entrance through the garage and in the living room for the bed and new equipment. I arrived just before the ambulance. However, the equipment and bed had not arrived, and PQ and ambulance drivers had to wait almost half-an-hour before it arrived. Nothing was working out as planned. The hospice nurse was trying to maintain some order, but PQ was approaching an oxygen crisis. Finally, the equipment came, and the bed and concentrators were set up. When PQ got off the gurney, he had a seizure. His pulse and heart rate plummeted, and the nurse was ready to declare him deceased, but then his vitals began to rise again.

I don’t know exactly how long ago that was. Time had stopped progressing sequentially after that first hospital experience. Soon after the hospice setup, perhaps a day, his daughter Jody arrived from Florida. He wanted her visit more than anything. She was a symbol of what he did wrong in his life and wanted to make right. Just before she walked through the front door, he insisted that he had to be wearing his jeans and boots. We couldn’t tell him that his jeans were put aside in the Pueblo house for a funeral service that seemed the inevitable outcome. He insisted, so I took his dress pants, boots and belt from the closet. He’d lost so much weight that the belt didn’t have enough holes and the pants landed around his ankles. He was now eating only a few bites of his favorite foods. Just enough to arouse the fond memory of watermelon, Strawberry Cream Slush, or scrambled eggs. We all tried to fulfill his yearnings.

Our house was now a hospital room, and a hospice nurse visited every day. PQ’s sister from South Dakota and her daughter spent some time with us. Relatives, from Denver, back east, and the Pueblo filled the house every day. His musician and artist friends came to pay their respects and say goodbye. One of his life gifts was in bringing people together, and he fulfilled that calling now as death approached even more than when his body was strong. People came together who hadn’t seen each other in years. And his life as an ambassador between cultures may have been a surprise to many of his family.

Now and then, PQ was sure he was near death and asked to go to the Pueblo for the final goodbye, but then he would change his mind and ask to make his transition to the spirit world from our house, which meant that his body would be taken in a hearse to the ancestral pueblo home and given the traditional burial after death. I was very relieved by this decision. There is no electrical outlet at the Pueblo, and he was now on 30 Ltrs of oxygen. He would have been sedated with morphine and after the oxygen tanks ran out, allowed to suffocate while his relatives waited for the final breath. I thought perhaps the yearning to please his father and follow his way was behind this drastic thought. I remember the jolt of being present when his father ran out of oxygen and expired in minutes.

All of us were under stress and sometimes there were misunderstandings and flareups. I sardonically imagined this would be a good topic for a family drama. One night his oldest son and I thought he was almost gone, called the younger son to come immediately and then decided to help his transition by playing appropriate music by his favorite musicians. “Journey to the Spirit World” by Buddy Red Bow was our first choice, followed by other artists such as Van Morrison, Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen. I no longer remember the whole lineup, but I do remember that it had a surprising effect. He became lively and started tapping out the rhythm of each song. The musical reboot lasted for two days.

I hoped he would make it to our tenth anniversary, an important date even though we had been together much longer. The marriage was an occasion for bringing our friends together in celebration of our partnership and that made it special. 

On his last day in the body we  knew, he had no energy for anything but breathing. He never entirely came to consciousness. In the late afternoon, his son Jarrick and his fiance left the house to get some food. It was now safe to leave him alone with one person. I sat beside him as he struggled with each breath. it was unbearable. Both he and I were hopelessly fighting against the inevitable. I put my hand on his forehead, stroked his wounded chest and told him, "dear love of my life, you cannot overcome this. Your lungs will never get better. I will love you forever no matter where you are. Your lungs  are keeping you trapped in a struggle it is too late to win. I love you always and everywhere, body, soul and spirit forever. Then I went outside for several minutes and prayed under the beautiful summer sky, surrounded by the trees and flowers we injoyed over morning coffee in better days. I was outside perhaps five minutes, and when I returned he had stopped breathing.

I don’t know how to end this missive. I don’t feel the process is yet complete, perhaps it never will be and it is just a long wait until we can resume our life together with new bodies. I’ve restored our house to clean, orderly and comfortable, a mutual friend sent me a beautiful white orchid for my birthday and dear friends we shared took me out to dinner. He is always present, although now he lets me talk too. That’s the big difference. I say this not to be unkind, but our relationship made plenty of space for him as a performer and extroverted party boy. I didn’t resent this because, I had a lot of sway behind the scenes and also had my personal life trajectory.

My new freedom feels like an extended gap between breaths. There is nothing new to fill it, but the beauty of early summer allows me to keep the windows and doors open to life on the outside. I hope PQ is feeling free and at ease after his long struggle with that cruel thief of oxygen, pulmonary fibrosis.