T Nation

Death and This Thing We Do


#1

My mother passed away on Saturday morning, at the ripe old age of 58. Through the course of the 25 years I've been on this planet, I watched her health go up, then down, then up a little, then down, then level, then down again. She smoked, drank heavily off and on (lately more on, but most of my childhood she was sober), and suffered from chronic depression since the early 80s. She was a wonderful woman in many ways--incredibly funny, intelligent and caring. She would bring life to the dullest staff meeting, get everyone at a boring party laughing, and joke around with my friends when I was a kid so they felt more comfortable staying at my house and hanging out around my family. She was a great mom, even in the face of her occasionally overly critical, codependent jerk of a son.

Over the past 6 months, I watched helplessly as her health and weight deteriorated. I lived with her for a time, thinking I could help around the house and provide a good example by being active and eating well. It became too painful to watch, and in the interest of my own health I moved out and began seeing her on a weekly basis. She had a wonderful friend next door who went to great lengths to take care of her, even when my mother resented it and talked down to her. Her cognition went down hill, and she struggled more and more with her mobility, until the end when she was little more than skin and bones and was confined to the couch in her living room. I felt pangs of guilt for not being more proactive, but I had done what I could, and could not put any more of myself into helping her without jeopardizing my own life, my own health. I still clung to hope her inner strength would save her and turn things around.

She was hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon, and I spoke with her for the last time on Thursday afternoon. She was transferred to the ICU that night, and by Friday had to be intibated (sp?) because a pulmonary embolism had caused her lungs to become ineffective. My sister flew up from the Bay Area and stayed with her that night in ICU, along with my mother's neighbor. I felt like I was in a TV show of some kind, putting one foot in front of the other and finding everything to be very surreal. When I went back in on Saturday morning, it was obvious we had to let her go. So we did. It was the hardest yet most self-evident and clear decision I ever had to make, and the impact of my grief was the most intense physical force my body has felt in a long time.

After we finished up at the hospital, the only thing I knew I had to do was train. I hadn't since Wednesday. I came into the gym, put my headphones on and did this thing we do, finding solace in the simplicity and physicality of it. Something I could control, something I knew, something that reaffirmed my strength and focus in the face of things I couldn't control, didn't know, and was helpless to change. It was home for that day, as it has been for many days. I am grateful to this, and my love for it, and for everyone that loves it and trains because it's not death. It is an expression of life and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Thanks to all at T-Nation.


#2

I don't know what to say other than that I am very sorry for your loss. You sound like you were a really good son to your mother.


#3

Sorry to hear, may she rest in peace. I hope that you talk to someone about your feelings towards your mother's death as bottling it up will tear you apart inside. Good Luck.


#4

Thanks, Norweige. I found your tribute to your mom very moving. Brought back a lot of memories of my dad, who died nearly 10 years ago from a very aggressive pancreatic cancer.

May she always live in your memories.


#5

I'm sorry to hear that, but death can be a respite when life becomes too painful to bear. I know you probably feel a great sadness, but I hope you can feel relief too, that your mother doesn't have to suffer anymore.

Take care of yourself.


#6

Norweige,

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Godspeed...


#7

Excellent and thoughtful post. I'm really sorry to hear about your Mom. I understand the guilt you feel at not being able to change things for you mother, but remember nobody can live anyone else's life for them. It sounds like you did the best you could. Keep taking care of yourself.


#8

I am sorry for your loss.

I go through phases where I think about death and life almost obsessively. I guess it comes with the territory as my job keeps me in close contact with mortality and I have been with many people as they took their last breaths in this world.

I still haven't made sense of any of it either and I probably never will. I guess you should live your life the best as you possibly can. Be healthy, help others, stand for something and cherish the people in your life. It sounds like you cherished your mom greatly and that is reason enough for you to be at peace.


#9

My heart goes out to you. What you are going through now goes through my mind from time to time regarding my own parents and the thought scares me. I hope, I can handle that transition with the same strength and dignity you are showing.


#10

So sorry to hear! Stay strong, and we're all thinking of you.


#11

Norweige, what a touching post. Sorry for your loss. Take care of yourself, pal.


#12

I am sorry to hear about your mom. I lost my dad 3 months ago very suddenly. I still walk around thinking that he is alive. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.


#13

Sorry for your loss. My mother was diagnosed with Cancer in '79 and was given 5 years to live at that point. She made it to '94. You sound like a strong person to have dealt with it as you have. Keep on keepin' on bro...


#14

My mom just died yesterday as a result of liver and kidney failure. She wasn't even 50 yet. I know how you feel bro. I just re-started the Waterbury Method yesterday, kind of got away from training the past few weeks. The pain from training is nothing compared to what she had to go through these past few weeks.


#15

I feel your post was very cathartic for you, Norweige. Thank you for sharing your pain; I'm grateful that you know we're not just here to enjoy the good times, but also the dark days the invariably come to all of us.

My thoughts go out to you, and to StevenF. Stay strong lads; in mind, spirit and body.

M.


#16

That was very moving. I'm sorry for your and your family's loss, but am very glad you had the guts and thoughtfulness to write about it, and post it here to share it with us, and share how it's made you feel and what it made you think. I wish you and your family well. It must have been very difficult.

You know, this post reminds me a lot of Henry Rollins famous essay on his love of the iron. I'll see if I can dig it up, for those who missed it.


#17

I hope it's okay to post this, but this essay by Henry Rollins, called "The Iron," is something you might find comforting. I'm sure a lot of people have read it, but maybe some haven't, and it could be interesting to see another guy saying a lot of the same thing I think you are. This is not a new essay, and it's up on multiple sites, so I don't think its use here would be troublesome. Perhaps some of you might find it comforting and life-affirming, like the original poster's post was. So here it is. with apologies for any formatting weirdness(I cut and pasted it from a notepad file I dug up):

=============
IRON, By Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.
Completely.

When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me "garbage can" and telling me I'd be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn't run home crying, wondering why. I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time. As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn't going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you'll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn't think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class.Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn't even drag them to my mom's car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.'s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn't looking. When I could take the punch we would
know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing.
In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn't want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn't know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn't say shit to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have
learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was
wrong.
When the Iron doesn't want to come off the mat, it's the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn't teach you anything. That's the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn't until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can't be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn't ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you're not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn't have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone's shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn't see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you're made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it's some kind of miracle if you're not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it's impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.


#18

Damn... Kablooey, that was one of the most touching and beautiful articles I have ever read in my entire life.

You've got me all emotional now.

This topic and all the ppl who have posted on it are true gems.

I'm bookmarking this page for when rough times call for it.

Regards,

Chirag


#19

Oh, I'm so sorry. :frowning: I hope you get through this pain.