Mohammad-Arefnia-150x150 2Mohammad: January 9, 2012
Hello Every one and Happy New Year to you all!

It has been a long while since I have posted.
Much has changed here and in my life as well and I would assume in your lives too.
Change is what all of us have to learn to negotiate with as we make our passage through this life.
It is difficult for me to gather my thoughts this morning as I just learned of the death of a cousin very dear to me who after several years of watching herself lose abilities bit by bit to ALS died this weekend. Watching loss such as that and not having any control over how things will change is extremely difficult to live with.
I am happy in a way that her suffering has ended but at the same time I am now without her in a different sense than I have been without her for all the years that I have lived away from the world she lived in.
The life of those of us who transition from one part of the world to another and live away from those who once peopled our lives is imbued with a sense of loss and longing. Once we begin to people our lives with those around us in the “new world” a different set of complexities emerge. For those who transition back to the “old world” then the hearts in the “new world” that one is now attached to are longed for.
This “Island” here has helped me form a different community, a global community that I “Belong” to, a family, a place that embraces all locations, for once the whole of this Earth is Home!

Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: January 12, 2012

Mohammad, I’m very happy that you are able to join us again. Your news about your close cousin’s death is very sad. A good friend of mine died 2 1/2 years ago of ALS. Nancy chose to “die with dignity” surrounded by her loved ones in Oregon where there the law supports this very difficult choice. I too was happy that Nancy’s suffering ended yet at the same time very sad to see this brutal disease rob her – and all of her loved ones – of her vitality and life. I think it must be extra hard for you, Mohammad to be living so far away from the close circle of family in Iran, people who also know and love your cousin. What is your cousin’s name? What are you discovering about how you can keep her spirit with you?

You wrote: “This “Island” here has helped me form a different community, a global community that I “Belong” to, a family, a place that embraces all locations, for once the whole of this Earth is Home!”

Your words convey so beautifully what I would like to say. I too experience this study group as an island of belonging. For me, it is much more than a learning community – more like extended family, really. Thanks for helping welcome Nadia from Siberia and Jacob from Jerusalem who are now widening our circle.


Mohammad-Arefnia-150x150 2Mohammad: January 12, 2012
Dear Peggy,
Thank you!!!
Your sharing about your friend Nancy choosing to “die with dignity” surrounded by her loved ones just helped me let go of the tears that were bunched up inside me. What a blessing for her and her family to have such a courage and a supportive reasonable community!
My cousin’s family just did not want to let go of hope, “that if they could just get her to Europe to America, there they will surely cure her.” And I think in many ways she may have hung on for their sake to not disappoint them and undermine their hope. What is “Reasonable to Hope for” takes courage!
I am glad that at last, once her daughter who has been in California and trying to become a resident of the states took the chance and went back to be with her in her last days she let go.
I am not sure if Iran and other “developing countries” are ready yet to give up worship of medicine and science and allow for palliative care instead of trying to “treat” and cure the disease until the last moment. They sure are not ready to give up power and allow “death with dignity” to be chosen. I keep hope for the day that we all become more sensible!
My cousin’s name was Mehri. In Persian the word Mehr refers to the Sun and also its warmth and kindness. And she was true to her name, glowing with kindness! I had not seen her for thirty three years until this past spring. One reason I did not postpone my trip after an injury was because I wanted to see her and the day I went to say goodbye to her we both cried knowing that we will not see each other again. I silently wished for her to die soon. That was my way of reciprocating her kindness, to wish for her suffering to end. The memory of her loving kindness will stay alive in my heart!
I want to believe that in our purest form we are all bits and pieces of the Sun, and the warmth, the kindness, the gentle regard we hold in our hearts for ourselves and others its manifestations! May we remain aware and in close touch with the shining sun inside our hearts!

And I do hope that it is reasonable to think that now with the help of this wonderful tool, this connection across time, space and cultures, we, as in humanity,
will exercise our courage and acknowledge that despite all the apparent gross differences we are all one and the same, little pieces of the sun.
Here the warmth of the sun in Haifa comes together with the fresh waters of Siberia and the sensibility of people in Oregon resonating with the steadfast call for equality and justice from the people in Vermont builds on the words of people from Australia and New Zealand and Canada which were greatly inspired by the works of people from France….

Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: January 27, 2012

Hi Mohammad,

I’m home on a snowy-rainy Friday morning- FINALLY with some time to give this response the time it deserves. This exchange gave me the opportunity to look up some archived emails about and from Nancy.

Here in Vermont there has been debate about a Death With Dignity legislation. This is the transcript of a piece my friend Nancy’s sister Marnie submitted to our local public radio station:
I have experience with a family member using the right to end her life under the Oregon law. My sister Nancy’s choice allowed our family and her friends to experience what was a beautiful, loving and comfortable end to her years of suffering.

Nancy ’s progressively debilitating illness had remained a mystery for a number of years until the clarification came from a neurologist here in Burlington in the winter of 2008. He said that it was ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Terminal, no known cure.” These are not words one ever wishes to hear, either personally or while accompanying a loved one.

I had brought Nancy to live in my home in Middlebury the previous summer of 2007. By the fall of 2008, her condition had deteriorated greatly and we knew she needed to be in Oregon with her children. Nancy knew she had a choice regarding how she encountered her body’s change and challenge. She had resided in Oregon before she came to Vermont . She was very aware of the state’s Death with Dignity law being a potential option. With Vermont not having such a law, she knew she would return to Oregon .

The support of family and friends allowed her to live at home in Portland . In January 2009 the neurologist determined she should be placed under Hospice care.

When the doctor in Portland inquired, Nancy knew her answer and spoke to her desire to use the Death with Dignity law. Her decision-making abilities were completely functional. Thorough MRI results had shown her brain as healthy and normal throughout the years she had been ill.

Nancy died on a beautiful spring day with tulips in bloom and bright sunshine everywhere. She was able to be released from the body that no longer functioned appropriately. Our family respected Nancy ’s decision and embraced it. Our 89 year old mother was deeply sorrowful that her daughter had been so ill. She had no reservations about Nancy ’s choice to end her life. The staff members from the Oregon Compassion and Choice Society were knowledgeable and compassionate. They provided the capable, supportive assistance necessary for the death to be gentle and safe.

Our family continues to focus on Nancy ’s presence in our lives and to remember always that she had the right to choose how her life ended – with dignity and joy.

This is the letter that Nancy sent to loved ones just a few days before she died.

My dearest, dearest friends,

Thank you so very much for all of your beautiful prayers, cards, emails, gifts and flowers. They have brightened each and every day. I am writing to let you know I have decided to use Oregon’s Death with Dignity. I will be leaving my body behind on the morning of Sunday, the 19th. I have been blessed with an overflow of love and divine spirit supporting this decision. My family has been beautiful in helping me and loving me. My journey has unfolded with so many amazing gifts of love and angelic friends. I hope you understand that because of my physical condition I have been unable to reply and correspond as I would wish to. I am looking upon my new journey as a new birthday. Along with your prayers, I am asking that you blow bubbles and celebrate that I will be dancing once again. Please rejoice with my family. I plan to be moving into transition between 10:30 and 1:00 PM Pacific Time. I am so deeply honored and blessed to have you in my life.
The following is one of my favorite poems.

Love and light,

THE SHIP OF LIFE by John T. Baker

Along the shore I spy a ship
As she sets out to sea;
She spreads her sails and sniffs the breeze
And slips away from me.

I watch her fading image shrink,
As she moves on and on,
Until at last she’s but a speck,
Then someone says, “She’s gone.”

Gone where? Gone only from our sight
And from our farewell cries;
That ship will somewhere reappear
To other eager eyes.

Beyond the dim horizon’s rim
Resound the welcome drums,
And while we’re crying, “There she goes!”
They’re shouting, “Here she comes!”

We’re built to cruise for but a while
Upon this trackless sea
Until one day we sail away
Into infinity.

Embrace Change…Live in the Present Moment
Laugh alot, Love alot and Forgive Always
May the Angels be Forever on your shoulders

Nancy was/is such a sparkling soul – I like to think of her, and your cousin Mehrl as becoming bits and pieces of the Sun “and the warmth, the kindness, the gentle regard we hold in our hearts for ourselves and others its manifestations! May we remain aware and in close touch with the shining sun inside our hearts!”


sarahhughes2_profile 2Sarah: January 27, 2012
I missed these postings before but I am glad to have found them now. These stories, these women, have touched me. Thanks for sharing in such beautiful and honoring ways.
I just heard on the radio that we are in for a sunny day here after lots of stormy days. I will be sure to take some of that warmth and light into my heart.

Mohammad-Arefnia-150x150 2Mohammad: January 27, 2012
Hi Peggy,
Hi All,

I agree!
Death of a loved one and death in general, as difficult as it is to discuss, deserves its own heading!
Twelve years ago when I still lived in Maine, I joined our community Hospice -an almost entirely volunteer organization. For several years I visited people who were dying at their homes and spent time with them and their families and provided support-be it just simply doing the dishes- and respite for family members with the hope that they would better sustain the ardous task of caring for someone in the last stage of life. One thing I learned was that the family’s approach to the death of their loved one very much influenced and shaped the way the dying experienced and formed an approach to their death and vis versa.
“The audience”, the family, the community, can facilitate this “life transition”, this natural process, to happen with “ease” at home or in another serene setting while loved ones are present and in their hearts, aching as it may be for the loss, celebrating a life that has been valiantly lived. Or it could happen in a generic hospital room where some medical professionals still regard death as a challenge to their skills to fend off disease and sustain life at all cost, until the last minute trying to slow down and prevent the process.
Death with dignity is the right we all have. I am reminded of an interview with Helen Nearing who described how her husband, Scott, in old age but still very much actively managing the care of their natural “back to the landers’ ” home came in one day and explained that his abilites were diminishing and that he knew he was dying and wanted to begin the transition process.
She chose to support his decision and he simply stopped eating. At first he drank juice and water and after a while he stopped that too and she stayed beside him, kept him clean and comfortable. He died peacefully in a short period of time and in essence he began the transiton process while he was standing.
For those of us who like Nancy and Mehri end up with a disease that takes away bit by bit our ability to act, our personal agency, the most powerful expression of personal agency is what Nancy did. And the fact that there was a family and a community to honor and promote and support her personal angency toward accomplishing her last “dance on earth” is a powerful testimony to our humanity and ommpassion. The last line of her poem,
“We’re built to cruise for but a while
Upon this trackless sea
Until one day we sail away
Into infinity.” is a soothing image for me today as I picture her and Mehri, worlds apart, both risen from bits and pieces of the sun are now reclaimed by it and are once again light!

Mary: January 29, 2012
Dear Mohammad, Peggy, Sarah, and others, I just had the opportunity this a.m. to begin to read your thoughts and feelings about death and the loss of people special to us. Mohammad, as always, I was moved by your words and how you expressed your sentiments about your cousin, Mehri. Peggy, I appreciated your including the written pieces by both Marnie and Nancy. This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot of late. I know two people in our community who have lost their sons recently. One was age 19 and one age 30. There are so many complicated thoughts, feelings, and issues that come up at these times. One of the young men had a terrible struggle with drugs and alcohol so although it is very different from Marnie’s decision there is some relief woven into the intensity of the loss. I have kept up with the debate with the Death with Dignity bill as a friend of my mother’s has been very active in trying to get it passed in Vermont. The fear and exaggerated claims of what this bill would do is amazing.— I just had dinner with my mother last night to celebrate her 94fth birthday. It is interesting to reread about Scott Nearings decision and how he carried it out, for I have had many discussions with my mother about death. Although she tends to be a positive person, I know she is tired of waking up every morning feeling terrible physically and mustering the energy to climb through her day. She is lucky that her mind is sharp and spends hours reading and listening to the opera. She is not one to stop eating yet she would welcome a gentle exit. I do feel lucky that she lives close by so I can be of ongoing support to her. However, that also brings up other issues as it is sometimes hard to know how to walk that line of supporting what she wants and encouraging her to do things that might help her. Then there is also guilt that can worm its way in with the little voice that says, go over there more or call more. Anyway, Mohammad, I thought about you and how hard it must be to be so far away from family at this time and I was so glad that you had that opportunity to visit with her when you did. I am also so glad that you feel a sense of community holding you here. Does anyone remember the line from the Holly Near (or was it Chris Williamson) song where she talks about creating a family of friends. I hope we can all be your family of friends as you go through this time of loss.

Mohammad-Arefnia-150x150 2Mohammad: January 29, 2012
Hi Mary,
Hi Peggy,
Hi Sarah,
Hi All,
It is so good to be “talking” with you again!
Friday morning I began the day with reading Peggy’s post and decision to start a new heading about the death of a loved one and upon reading my own post let out my tears again. I had to compose myself and go through the day. My last “patient” for the day, a young woman from France, began with her tears about the death of one of her loved ones last week. As we talked about her loved one, saying Hello to him and honoring his life, I finally asked her about her experience across the vast ocean that lies between her and her family and how she manages being an immigrant here far from those she began her life with. She explained that she has “created her own rituals of prayer and honoring the loving memories she has of the person she will never see again.” I was very much in touch with my own rituals as I was hearing about hers. In my life I light a candle as I speak out loud the name of the person I have lost and wish that they are now free and back to being the particles of light that they were once made out of. When she was leaving our eyes both were glistening with our tears. Being away from loved ones is painful. I have learned to feel it all the way through! And once through I have learned to pick myself up and dance once again, knowing that I too have my “last dance on Earth” awaiting me and that every step I take now is a preparation, a rehearsal for that finality!

Happy Birthday to you mother! She is lucky to have you around joining in the celebration of life with her. Your description of your mother reminds me of my friend Ruby. She was, I think, 98 when she died. I met her the first day I moved Down East Maine to take up residence in a small cabin in the village that I have since called home. She had been the Post Mistress of the small village many years back and was the personification of the Yankee austere, independent and can do mentality. For the last ten years or so of her life she spoke of being “sick of living, that all her friends and peers were gone along with her abilities to live life the way she was used to and wanted to.” I spoke to her about Scott’s orchestration of his “last dance” but it was then that I noticed also the hold of biology on our lives. Despite the spoken lack of desire to live her actions were of preservation of life. We are all survivors here. Our bodies on their own take on the task of keeping us alive as it is our task to be here and fulfill our promise of becoming more aware, learning more and loving more!
The survivor in us is more and more apparent to me as I work with those who have experienced or rather survived through trauma. The body takes over to make sure life goes on for whatever price. It is really amazing to notice how wonderful life is!
Holly’s line does not come to me but I remember the old song that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sang:
“if you are not with the one you love, love the one you are with!”
Love and Light to you all!

Nadia Movshovich: January 30, 2012
Hello, Mohammad, Peggy and everybody!

I have just read your stories for the first time, thank you for sharing them with us, I wish I read something like this the time when I myself lost a cousin who was only 25 at that time, it was really a difficult time for all our family and for me because we were very close friends..
I have never heard of the Death with Dignity – and I keep thinking about this, what is it – to choose the date and time of your death and meet it in your family, with your loved ones…
this stories made me feel sad but also were very important – I thought of my rituals of honoring the loved ones who are no longer here..whenever I think of him, I bake a cake he liked most of all and could bake himself and while making it I remember our moments together….then I give a piece to my family members and we talk of old times…
it is very difficult time now here as my close friend has a daughter who is 14 who has cancer and has very little hope of surviving…we try to support her every single moment…

I wish health to everybody

Mohammad-Arefnia-150x150 2Mohammad: January 31, 2012
Hello Nadia,
Hello All,

Death with Dignity is one of the humane options for those with debilitating illnesses- that we still do not have a cure for-that is slowly taking hold in some of the more progressive states here. I believe it speaks of assisting or hastening the dying process while providing utmost comfort through the use of narcotics and medications that promote a sense of ease to end the suffering once at least two or more physicians are in agreement with the family and the person in the clutches of the disease that there is no hope of reversing the course that the disease has taken.

My heart goes out to your friend and you! Witnessing the injustice that the cancer dolls out to someone as young as your friend’s daughter I can imagine is heavy to bear. What is your friend’s daughter’s name? You spoke of “very little hope”, what are you hoping for her? What is reasonable to hope for? In what stage is the hold of the cancer on her life? Have all possible reasonable remedies been looked into?
Do you get to see her? Do you spend time with your friend? How do you all see yourselves taking a stance against the injustice of cancer? In which way do you imagine honoring and supporting your friend’s daughter’s efforts to live life as fully as she can to the extent that she can while she can?
Have you ever heard of a “life ceremony”, “a celebration of the living ceremony” which includes the dying as the guest of honor while they still are able to “actively” participate, rather than the traditional funeral ceremony in which they take part passively displayed in an ornate box?

Nadia, What was your cousin’s name? The image of you baking a cake, one that he liked most and could himself bake, and sharing it with your family members is a “sweet” image! Celebrating and honoring the life of your cousin with sweets to chip away at the bitterness of loss resonates with me. The image that comes to my mind is the old tradition of raising a glass of wine to toast our loved ones who are no longer living, setting a glass for them as if they were still there to take it, and once the toast is done, pouring theirs onto the Earth!

I have heard of Russians being exquisite toast masters. What actions of your cousin, the stances that he took in life and stood for, that are in some way endearing to your heart, would you honor and raise a toast to?
A toast to you Nadia!
And a toast to you all!

Nadia: January 31, 2012
Hello again Mohammad,
and thank you for your reply and explaining me the meaning of Death with Dignity

My cousin’s name was Andrey and we really make toasts for him every time we gather together for family occasions and then we pour the glasses to Earth – we remember the nice moments from his childhood and when he was older…

as for my friend’s daughter. whose name is Dasha, Daria, we can’t visit her in hospital but we can send her our wishes, love and we try to cling to every chance of possible cure – find doctors or information…

Thank you for the idea of “life ceremony” – but you know, Mohammad, here in Russia, we have a little bit different psychology, we never make wills ( hardly ever) , the talks about possible dying are not approved…it is changing step by step but not at present time I think people are ready for such ceremonies….

Have a nice day, Mohammad!

Mary: February 1, 2012
Hi, I only have a minute, but wanted to quickly jump into the conversation and to say hello to you, Nadia. I think I never got to welcome you when you joined. I was quite touched by your words about both your cousin and your friend’s daughter. I love the idea of baking a cake in his honor. I burn a candle each year on the anniversary of my father’s death,but never thought of cooking something. I wanted to share with you a bit of a connection. My father’s mother came here from Riga when she was a young adult. I unfortunately never knew her as she died the day after I was born. My name was at first Joan, but was changed to Mary after she died. It is so interesting to me that in your culture that you don’t do wills. Mohammad, I also wanted to say that I really appreciated your reply. —-I thought I would have more time, but I just heard my client. I would love to hear more about your work. Although I think about Michael’s article on saying hello again I am finding it hard in some ways to engage with the ideas with a new client who just lost her son a week ago. —must go–more later. Mary

Nadia: January 2, 2012
Hello, Mary!
Thank you for your post and for your hello and for your memories about your grandmother….Riga – once it was a part of our big is a beautiful city as I know
I remembered that we have also a tradition here in Russia, I did not mention about – of we saw a person who is no longer with us in our dreams, we have to bake pancakes on the next day – it is to remember him
we also take pancakes to cemeteries when we go to funerals…
it is not easy to come to terms with the fact that we have to lose a close person – so many questions, why he or she, why…
about my friend’s daughter we are still waiting for the results – one week more and then we will know if it curable, what we all hope it will be of course!

Amy-VaughanAmy Vaughan: February 6, 2012
Thank you Peggy, for posting that beautiful poem. It made me quite sad as someone I know recently died, and took with them so many possibilities for relationship. It is a different kind of sadness, not of what was but of what could have been.

Nadia, thank you for your posts. I love the pancake thing! I often have dreams about my mother who died 7 years ago, but it is frustrating because in the dreams I don’t seem to realize that I have those precious few moments to ‘reconnect’ with her. So, I may use the Russian pancake ritual to honour her in the morning. Also, she was a professional baker, and every year on the anniversary of her death I bake something for someone who needs it in memory of her. And, I also bake something for myself!
I wish your friend’s daughter more years of health and happiness.

Mohammad-Arefnia-150x150 2Mohammad: February 8, 2012
Hi Mary,
Hi Amy,
Hi Nadia,
Hi Sarah,
Hi Peggy,
And Hi All,

I would assume the practice of offering food to honor the life of a loved one is in a way an affirmation of life itself. Food is life sustaining and affirms that others go on living. This past spring while I was in Tehran there were two deaths in my family so I got to go to the big cemetery south of Tehran. As we walked to different corners in search of graves of our loved ones, at every turn someone was passing some kind of food. Sumptuous dates stuffed with nuts seemed the most favorite- perhaps easiest to handle.

MY mother every year made a huge vat of a special dish, sort of like a very thick soup, out of mung beans and herbs with the entire meat off a sheep, cooked over fire for an whole day and night, laced with spices and prayer. Our task, once it was dished out into the numerous china and copper bowls she had for this purpose, was to deliver carefully matched portions to the size of the household of the friends and relatives to their door. I used to watch her, stirring this huge pot, and her lips moving as she recited prayers and mentioned the names of those who had gone before her for whom a corner of her heart was still reserved!

Wine in Persian poetry metaphorically stands for love and that which facilitates becoming one with love, a spiritual quest to become a wanderer in the city of love.
Omar Khayyam has a four liner that urges friends to visit one another often and lovingly and reawaken together the loving memories of friends who have gone already and then suggests in the last line that, “once our turn comes, turn the chalice upside down!” He died in the 1100’s. I would assume that practice of pouring a glass to quench thirst of Earth goes way back beyond him. He believed only in this life, this moment, now and that enjoying this moment with ease was paradise and needless suffering was hell. He postulated that the bits and pieces of the Earth, the material it is made of, have come together to form the person we are and once dead, those bits and pieces are reclaimed by the Earth and recycled over and over. So, that he cautioned not to step on the grass harshly for that too was once a lover longing for the beloved as you are now!

Lately, I have had a number of deaths in my family and a number of patients who also have experienced the death of a loved one. What do you say to a mother whose son has just died? There is not a whole lot words can do. My niece, a woman in her forties, lost her 25 year old son this past fall when the ship that was bringing him home from an oil rig in the Persian Gulf, capsized and sank. He had stayed on to help others jump off. He was intent on making sure everyone was off the ship and then he was claimed by the ocean along with the ship and those others still on board out of concern for whom he gave his life.

What could I say to my niece that would somehow ease her pain except to acknowledge her pain and be willing to sit at the other end of the phone miles away listening to her bemoan the death of her loved one, acknowledging with her that he did not die in vain, he died as he had wanted to live, willing to give his life in order to ensure others passage to safety. Much to honor and much to mourn the loss of!
Re-member is perhaps all we can do. The search will have to go on for another to love! Honoring that which our loved ones stood for and pursuing their dreams or their cause, out of respect for the life they lived collectively taking up a stance against that which caused their parish, like “mothers of the plaza de mayo”, or “mothers against drunk driving”, is the only way to actively claim some of our agency in the face of death that turns us to prey, helpless once its claws reaches us!

Nadia: February 8, 2012
Hi Mohammad, Mary, Peggy, Sarah, Amy- all!

I am glad that some of you liked the idea of making pancakes to remember the loved ones

Mohammad, your words
Quote from: Mohammad Arefnia on February 08, 2012, 09:32:24 PM
What could I say to my niece that would somehow ease her pain except to acknowledge her pain and be willing to sit at the other end of the phone miles away listening to her bemoan the death of her loved one
really corresponds with my feelings – yesterday, when my friend learned that her daughter’s disease is not curable, what could I do – I went to her and spent time with her, listening to her, giving support – what else can I do…it is so hard..I barely slept this night, I am reading now article about “saying Hello again”, and read all your posts and understand that if ( when) her daughter die – it will take some time for her to realize this new reality and I will try to be there whenever she want to speak about her daughter…but still there is one chance and hope for miracle…sometimes it happens.