"Life is But a Dream", a monologue from Buddha Bomb
Copyright 2008 – Buddha Bomb
I had no idea how devastating Alzheimer’s disease was, until I witnessed it myself; the longer a person who has Alzheimer’s lives, the worse things get. A decade ago, we discovered that my mother had Alzheimer’s. As the years since then rolled by, she went slowly and steadily downhill. Last year my mother could not remember one day to the next. Eventually she could not remember one hour, or even one moment, to the next.
After several visits with my mother last year, I determined that she had lost most, if not all, of her memories. My mother could not remember her own mother and father, or her husband of over fifty years. She could not remember me, or any of her three children; not even her seven grandchildren. During those visits, it was clear that my mother was completely gone, and there was no longer a possibility of connecting with her.
In truth, there was never a deep connection between us. My relationship with my mother was more disappointing than it was terrible. We loved each other and we shared a strong bond; but she had difficulty accepting who I was. For instance, when I was ten years old, I wondered why anything existed. I imagined what it would be like if there was never a single atom of existence anywhere, or anytime. I fell into a deep trance; that’s when I had an experience of the universe disappearing that broke my ten year old mind wide open.
I tried to explain what happened to my mother; I even asked her why anything existed. My mother’s response was business-like. She said, “Such questions are beyond human comprehension. You shouldn’t waste time thinking about nonsense.” It made me feel sad. My mother was not interested in why I asked her that question. I had become a different child that day; it would have meant everything to me if I could have talked to my mother about what I had experienced.
My mother, in fact both of my parents, had specific ideas of who I was supposed to be. For years, I had to wear white socks and brown shoes to school. I was forced to get a crew cut every month, and I was forbidden to talk back to my parents.
I was expected to excel in academic and athletic pursuits. My mother wanted me to be a successful scholar and perhaps win the Nobel Prize, or something. I was supposed to do all this, and be a Republican too.
My mother did not understand why I quit college, and became a hippie. There was no turning back; I was far happier being on my own and I never once considered living with my parents again. When I was twenty years old, I grew long hair and a beard down to my chest. For several years, I hitch hiked across the country, smoked marijuana on a regular basis, and took LSD every chance I could. I saw through many of the hypocrisies in our society; I dropped out. My mother never asked me why I did those things.
My mother did not ask me why I later became a Buddhist, a leader in several communities, and a personal assistant and Command Protector for high-ranking Tibetan Buddhist Lamas. She never even asked me why I chose to live in Colorado instead of New Jersey. My mother missed so many opportunities. I would have been happy to reveal who I was to my mother, but it seemed she didn’t want to know who I really was.
By last year, the Alzheimer’s disease had completely consumed my mother. In January, I had to drive her to get x-rays for hear healing shoulder, which she had broken in a fall several months before. My mother was in a foul mood that day. She repeated the same horrible things over and over, “I wish I was dead” and “they treat me like shit here”.
When I tried to comfort my mother, placing my hand on hers, she looked at me with disgust and called me a “Jerk”. I finally returned my mother back to the Alzheimer’s facility where she lived; it was a rough day.
The net time I visited my mother was a different story altogether. We held hands and laughed, and I had the best time I ever had with my mother. She sang songs to me that day. It was funny because I never heard my mother sing before, not even when I was a child.
But on that day, my mother sang children’s songs: Mary had a Little Lamb; Three Blind Mice; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; and Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, songs that they sang on a regular basis at the Alzheimer’s facility.
My mother and I were having so much fun that day; I didn’t want to leave her side. But eventually my time was up and I left her there happy. Later I found out that the doctor had given my mother drugs that morning so that she would be in a pleasant mood for my visit. It must have been good stuff.
Soon after that glorious day, the Alzheimer’s facility said that my mother’s condition was rapidly deteriorating. They told us that we would have to move my mother out of the facility soon, since they were no longer equipped to care for her. We were researching where to place her next, when I got the call. My mother, Helyn Louise Burrows Jobson, died suddenly during lunch that day. It was incredibly sad, but there was also a sense of freedom.
Shortly after she died, I went to the mortuary to be with my mother. She was laid out on a simple bed, wearing the brightly colored clothes she loved; the look on her face was calm and peaceful. I sat with her, mediating in silence for some time. Then I had one final conversation with my mother; that’s when I explained everything to her that she never understood about me. Before I said goodbye to her for the last time, I sang my mother a song.
Row, row, row, your boat, gently down the stream;
Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
"My Friend Larry" a monologue from Buddha Bomb
“My Friend Larry”
Copyright 2005 - Buddha Bomb
[Sitting at an outdoor iron-wrought table with a lush setting of flowers, juices, fruits, vodkas, 2 Martini glasses and shaker with occasional Martini sips.]
My friend Larry died this morning.
So, why I am celebrating like this in my backyard? [Martini sips]
You’d understand…if you knew Larry. [Martini sips]
You’d understand…if you knew what I went through with Larry.
I spent the end of Larry’s life with him…almost by accident.
I was delivering a message from a mutual friend when I got to know Larry. It was then I learned of his illness.
Larry told me that melanoma skin cancer was killing him, and he would be dead within a month or two.
But Larry wasn’t one to dwell on his own misery and he insisted we change the topic.
We quickly found common interests…Larry and I are Buddhist men who like…Sports…Poetry…Partying…Music…and Cooking…
We grew up in tough neighborhoods, Larry from south Boston and I from New Jersey. We played rough sports; Larry was a college hockey player and I played college football.
Muhammad Ali is one of our heroes…we both hate George W. Bush.
Larry is highly intelligent, and very direct. No bullshit. I like that about him.
Once he gave me a teaching. Larry simply pointed his finger and said, “don’t believe in anything from this world; it’s nothing but a con job.” [Point finger like Larry did]‘
I became one of Larry’s regular caregivers; soon I became his closest friend.
I learned about Larry during life review sessions with him.
We discovered a mutual appreciation for Vodka Martinis. [Martini sips]
We often lamented that by the time we met, drinking Martinis was completely out of the question, considering Larry’s condition.
And that’s how it was; Larry and I never had a single Martini together.
But that didn’t stop us from having fun; that didn’t stop us from having a party.
Larry and I toasted each other with whatever we had to share, glasses of water or juice, watermelon squares skewered on forks, and spoonfuls of delicious berries. [Show these things to the audience]
We would clink together fruit Popsicles and other delights with boisterous toasts in many languages, shouting “Cheers, Salud, Skoal, Laheim, Na zdorovia, Chin-Chin, Compai, Cho Yoho Heo.” [Clink together Popsicles, juices, fruit…shout out the toasts]
Larry and I had many such celebrations.
But dying is a brutal process; it isn’t always fun.
Larry’s cancer was spreading rapidly…his condition worsened daily.
I had never seen his wounds until…the night he asked me to fix his bandage.
Suddenly, there was it was, a massive tumor exposed in all its GLORY.
It was HORRIBLE.
The tumor was devouring Larry, eating him way…piece-by-piece…inch-by-inch.
Larry said it felt like “an alien” was eating him alive.
Larry explained that one of his substitute nurses was “gravity challenged” and it was up to me to fix her mistake.
Larry held the bandage in place, covering his wounds, as I applied the tape in strips from the top of Larry’s left shoulder. I quickly got the hang of it…and within minutes Larry’s bandage was secure.
Although Larry suffered terribly, I consider him to have been an extremely lucky person.
Just two days ago he was visited by five Tibetan Lamas several of them high-ranking Rinpoches.
We got a call they were coming…and…like magic…they appeared. [Tibetan Mudra]
The Lamas chanted and said prayers in Tibetan.
Larry was quite thin by then, in fact he was wasting away. His skin was pale and his hair white. Larry held his hands at his heart in devotional prayer. He looked like a skeleton, a corpse. [Hold hands at heart in devotional prayer]
I looked at each person in the room. Everyone, including me, appeared as skeletons. [Martini sips]
We are all walking corpses.
The Tibetans talked to Larry through an interpreter, and gave him pith instructions for the moment of death. Larry listened carefully.
Larry was blessed by each of the Lamas, and then they left…as suddenly as they had appeared. [Tibetan Mudra]
Did I mention that Larry was a lucky person?
Five Tibetan Lamas came to visit him on his death bead. They blessed Larry, and gave him clear instructions…HOW LUCKY IS THAT?
Just yesterday…I fed Larry his last meal.
Larry loved fruit, and strawberries were his favorite. I mashed up the berries and prepared them for Larry. [Mash up the strawberries for the audience to see]
Larry couldn’t feed himself since he was too weak to hold his spoon. I fed him as though he were an infant…tenderly placing the strawberries in his mouth. [Feed myself several spoonfuls of strawberries, just as I had fed Larry]
After several spoonfuls, Larry looked at me, his voice was shaking, and said, “You’re such a good buddy.”
I looked back at Larry and said, “You’re such a good buddy.”
And there we were…two grown men…a hockey player and a football player…and we loved each other.
It made me feel sad…I had found such a good friend…and soon…he would be gone…forever...
I said, ”Larry…I don’t want you to die.”
Larry told me that appreciated what I had done for him. But, now that he had received instructions from the Tibetan Lamas…he was ready.
Larry asked me…to let him go.
Larry asked me…to let him die.
Then Larry told me to go home and get some rest.
He said to have a relaxing morning and reminded me to water my lawn and garden.
At that, Larry pressed the button…to lower his bed.
It would be the last time…Larry pressed that button…it would be the last time…Larry would press any button.
I did what Larry told me to…slept in a little…watered my lawn and all my plants…both inside and outside my house.
I arrived at the hospice center soon after…my heart sank…when the nurse told me…that Larry had passed away…just moments before.
She said I could be with Larry, but that didn’t ease my pain. I had wanted to be with Larry for that final moment…but it didn’t happen that way. A sense of sadness and regret engulfed me…“Why wasn’t I with Larry when he died?”
Then I walked into the room and saw Larry.
The nurse had raised his bed…Larry was sitting up…his eyes were open…his face calm.
Larry didn’t appear dead at all, and what struck me most was the look on Larry’s face. It was the look of intelligence and inquisitiveness.
The exclamation “AHA!” was written all over his face, and I knew that Larry had indeed “gotten it.”
His nurses told me how courageous Larry had been. All night long Larry battled between life and death like Muhammad Ali in the 15th round.
His nurses were surprised because Larry refused pain medications. One nurse told me that no one in his condition ever refuses the meds.
Preparation for the moment of death is essential to the Buddhist meditator.
Larry wanted to be completely present and awake for that moment…with all his mental faculties intact…that’s why Larry chose to die naturally.
I’m going to miss Larry…I already do.
But, you know what? I feel good right now.
I feel good because Larry died on his own terms…he called the shots to the end.
Larry told me something…that I’ll never forget. [Martini sips]
He said to have fun…and to continue our party on the day he died. [Martini sips]
Yes…I feel good…although he is dead, I don’t have to party without Larry.
I can feel him…he is with me…he is all around.
Larry is here in my backyard, present in the lawn I had watered earlier this morning.
He is over there, in my flowerbeds, and the stream flowing alongside my house.
I hear Larry speaking through distant barking dogs…whispering in the cool breeze...
Larry is all over the place, he is in the midst of our celebration, steeping in the sweet berries, shimmering in our delicious drinks.
“…Hey…Larry…Thanks for dropping by…”
“…You know, we waited long enough…”
“…Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?…”
“…We are FINALLY having MARTINIS…TOGETHER!
[Move around with Martini glasses, offering toasts, each one louder…]
“…Cho Yoho Heo…” [Drink the Martini]