What We Can Learn From Other People’s Strokes

After reading “My Stroke of Insight,” by Jane Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., and watching Oprah interview Jane on the Oprah Soul Series, I began to think of my mother’s stroke on June 19, 1987.

I just completed an intense dyadic four month period completing phase one of my Nurse Practitioner training.

Now phase two would begin in a week, and I was relaxing with my parents after not having a chance to visit with them for several months.

Something was wrong with my mother. All she would say was, ” I am not feeling very well,” and she looked quite serious, unsmiling and preoccupied.

My dad almost died from pneumonia about a month before, so he was in a great mood, still gaining back his strength and grateful about Life and a renewed sense of gratitude regarding the fact that he was still alive.

The near death of my dad was stressful for my mom. My parents were married almost fifty years, and they loved one another. They were involved in the same activities over the years such as the Civil Rights Movement, Anti-Vietnam War activities, environmental issues, First Amendment preservation, as well as a deep interest in metaphysical pursuits.

My mom loved the study of Astrology as well as all things psychic and enjoyed an intellectual curiosity about life. She was a free thinker, dissected ideas, and had a library of the Classics, lining the entire wall of her living room, more than 1,000 in number.

Over the next few days, my mom took to her bed and seemed to lose her ability to articulate words.

What she did instead was laugh at everything like she was having a great joke with herself. No matter what my dad or I said, she laughed hysterically.

Dad and I got into the spirit of her mood. When she laughed, we laughed with her, and I marveled at her strange transformation, although over the years, when ever my mom thought something was funny, or crazy such as, say, the election of Ronald Reagon, she laughed in this exact way.

When she said to me, “Oh, Kate, do you think I am trying to die??” and laughed for 10 minutes more, I called the doctor.

She was having a stroke. During the CT scan of the brain, the professionals gave her too much anesthesia, and she went into a coma, never to return.

Although when the doctors at the teaching hospital kept asking her questions during the neurological exam, I noticed she refused to cooperate because when the people she loved showed up, she responded silently, wordlessly and lovingly.

Mom always called Ronald Reagon “that fertilizer head!!”

Once the doctors brought in a picture of Ronald Reagon and showed it to her.

“Who is this?” they asked.

“Shit head,” she responded.

I surmised my dear mom did not want to be patronized, by anyone.

And that she wanted to die in peace.

Jane Bolte Taylor describes her stroke as feeling at one with the universe, as her body having no boundaries, and feeling as if she had reached the state of nirvana, heaven on earth, great peace and happiness.

When mom laughed and laughed, as her stroke was taking hold of her brain, I could tell she, too, was at peace and had obtained a childlike state to her consciousness.

I am happy to say that I was able to meet her there, to be with her, to allow her to be who she wanted to be, and who she was becoming.This served me well as I learned to meet my patients exactly where they are, without judgment.

As I read and listened to Jane Bolte Taylor tell of her spiritual experience during her stroke experience, I realized without doubt, that my mom was having a spiritual experience. She gave my dad and I a contact high.

She was ecstatic and so were we.

She connected us to our right brainScience Articles, expansive and transcendent selves.

I remember coming back to my left brain with great effort when I realized it was my responsibility to get her help even though we were having the time of our lives.

Yet putting her in the hands of the doctors didn’t save her life. But it did give all of us who loved her a chance to say our goodbyes.

For now.

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