When my mother died, she died for a long time. During the last 4 years of her life, after our father died, my sister and I took turns going to her small town in New Mexico each month from our homes on the coasts to set her up for the coming month, including paying her bills, taking her to her doctors, arranging with the neighbor to give her the pills, and putting in a stock of home-made frozen dinners.
During this time my sister and I constantly fretted about her and whether the care was appropriate. (We spoke often with our brother, who was posted to various places in the world.) When our father died in 1980, he had had a good physical 3 weeks before, showing only some pesky arthritis; it was only revealed at the end in a flash of great pain and nothingness that his heart arteries had blocked on him.
Our mother’s going was entirely different. About 6 months before what would be the end, the doctor had declared that she could no longer live on her own; so we practically dragged her out of her house. Then, at the end, we sat in a room with the doctor in one of our cities and he explained how the hospital committee would have to agree with him and with us that she would not recover, and agree to have the support measures taken away.
Our mother confounded that action for some 12 hours, breathing softly slower and slower and shallower and shallower. It was a great gift that she gave me, one that told me what it physically looked like to just run down, and slip away.
I now knew the stages, giving me knowledge of that stage of “pretty good shape for the shape we’re in” and reducing anxiety around stages; I knew what the end looked like, and mostly we weren’t there yet!
At those times, well before the ends, I was not yet trained as a Rolfer, and have often wondered through the years if I could have made things easier for my parents. It has had to suffice to assist a number of clients who have come to me in their early “gloaming”, at points where I can help them to be active and enjoy life longer. It is intensely satisfying for me to get folks going and see the light come into their eyes and watch them frisk out. (Well, gently frisk.)
My colleague Valerie Berg recently did a Rolfers’ workshop in Canada where among other things she taught ways to work on one of the first actions to go in aging: the cross-crawl walking pattern. Here’s a baby from Youtube, who has taken the pattern from the knees to the feet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1t7gn89fPw
Here’s a little trickiness that I recently learned at Claymont from Rebecca Carli to help restore this pattern and to help core stability:
Lie on your back (do not press your lower back into the floor!). Raise up one knee keeping its foot on the floor so that you are lying down with one knee up and one knee down, the knee down leg straight and relaxed.
Feel the foot that has the knee raised up, feel it on the floor, know the texture of the floor and whatever else you can perceive. Press that foot slightly down into and through the floor, at the same time as you reach across your body with that same side hand/arm.
Have a goal for the hand/arm: the hand is *really* attracted to something that it wants which is above your head and to the other side of your body. Your upper body/ribs will go with the hand/arm after you get this going.
Change sides, rinse and repeat.
Don’t be too slow about it, get some energy into it. Try this in crawling, maybe like the above baby did it, and maybe just on your hands and knees. Then see if you can take this motion into a standing exercise. You will feel the cross-crawl twist, let it go into walking or running.
If you really feel frisky after this, try some up-downs. Just get on your belly all the way down to the floor and get up to standing. If you can do this, you are a long way from having to say, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Try getting up out of a chair a few times without your hands.
If you don’t feel like any of the above here is another for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laCLBVmk1EU
See you around the Depends counter….
PS, in case you don’t know the “In The Gloaming” song, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm4HMtb9ep8