June 13, 2013

How to Live with Integrity. ~ Jana Derges

It’s like watching a baby.

You know, when they’re so brand new all they do is sleep and they’re so precious all you want to do all day is stare at them. They yawn and you giggle because it’s so cute. They make a little squeak and you wonder if they’re thirsty.

It’s such an honor to usher new life into this world. You know these days are numbered so you don’t want to miss a thing.

It’s like that on the way out too; so precious. I feel so honored to serve him and witness.

All my life I have been in awe of this man. As a little girl, he was my hero. There’s a lot that has happened between then and now, yet in his final days, he’s still my hero.

One of the many things my dad always said to me was: “If you say you’re going to do something, do it!”

And he does.

When he was diagnosed with cancer about five years ago, he made a promise not to be one of those grumpy cancer people.

He made a promise to himself that he would always be kind. He wanted to remember to always express his appreciation and gratitude to all those that helped him.

And he does.

Almost a year ago he had his leg amputated. He looked forward to each time he got to go to the Wascana Rehabilitation Center. He couldn’t say enough good things about the wonderful people who helped him there.

He was determined to learn to walk.

And he did.

One of his motivating forces in learning how to walk was that he was determined to swing a golf club.

The first weekend he was allowed to take his prosthetic leg home, eight weeks after his amputation they said “Al, you can take your leg home, but you have to promise you won’t go golfing yet.” He smiled.

And he did it anyway!

One of the challenges he faced after his amputation was with phantom limb sensations; he would get what he called ‘shooters’ that he described as an electric shock right up his leg.

They tried a number of things to help him and the winner ended up being methadone. It was okay for a while, but as with all prescription pain medication, it started to affect his personality.

He recognized it right and decided he wanted to get off the drugs.

And he did.

Since that surgery, he would go every three months for scans to see if the cancer had spread. The first two scans came back clear. At the start of March, the results changed. It had spread to his lungs—aggressively.

There were tumors in every corner of his lungs. They told him they couldn’t operate. They told him that he could have chemotherapy, but that it wouldn’t save him. It would only prolong his life.

Knowing the side affects of this option, he didn’t even hesitate for one second to say “No, thank you.”

To him, it was more important to have quality, not quantity of days.

His favorite thing to do was sit on his back deck basking in the sun counting his blessings. So he chose to do that rather than spending his final days hidden from the sun with flu like symptoms praying to the porcelain gods.

And he does.

Today is his 66th birthday. We weren’t sure he would make it to 66 and here we are.

Up until last Saturday, his daily adventure was to get up, wash his mouth and get out on either the deck or to the screened in area he loves so much. He’s weighing in at around 90 pounds and each day my mom and I think, “Today could be the day.”

This morning, I went in to say happy birthday to him. When I walked in his room, he stirred from his sleep—he’s been cozied up in bed since Saturday getting more peaceful each day.

I wished him a happy birthday and asked him if he wanted anything for his birthday. He perked up and said, “I want to go outside.”

My mom and I looked at each other shocked and said “Okay!”

The journey is only about 50 feet, but the effort it takes him would be like me walking across a big city. Each step well planned out, often followed by a rest. Even talking these days is a big effort.

My mom grabbed his hoodie while I put on his sock and leg warmer. She got one arm in his hoodie and he stopped. He needed a moment.

That moment turned into a 15 minute nap.

I sat on his bed and watched him sleep. When he woke up, he looked at me sideways as if to say ‘What are you looking at?’ I reminded him that he asked to go outside. “Right. Yes, I’d like to do that.” He sat up and I helped him get his other arm in his hoodie.

He asked for his shorts. I got him shorts. He got them part way on and then asked for a short rest.

He wanted his toque. I got it on his head, he paused and then he held out his hand. I helped him up. He rested. He scooted himself into his wheelchair.

He paused for a rest while I gathered the essentials. I rolled him out to the screened in area. He asked to go all the way to the back deck. He took in the fresh air.

Adam’s kids were running around the deck blowing bubbles, little Fletcher hitting golf balls, while Mom and I sat with Dad. I couldn’t help but watch him.

He scanned the horizon and took long deliberate breaths. My imagination led me to believe he wanted to take in this scene one last time. When the sun came out from behind the clouds he tilted his chin up, closed his eyes andnwith a gentle smile he soaked in the sun.

The expression on his face softened. I could almost hear his thoughts-counting his blessings and loving this life.

He hasn’t liked to be touched so much, but he looked over at my mom and asked if she would hold him. She held him, and hugged him and again I couldn’t help but watch.

Although there were no words exchanged for a while, I could feel the love and gratitude being exchanged.

He smiled looked up at her finally and said, “Can you take half my ashes and spread them by the garden, as a tribute to all you have done?”

Then it was time to go back to bed. I wheeled him back and he used all his reserves to get himself back onto his bed. He asked to be covered up and asked if he could have an hour. We nodded. He smiled and thanked us.

And it goes like that.

A little nap on the way back into bed—he is so determined.

The other day, I asked him how he’s doing. He turned and looked at me and said “Jany-girl, I’m ready. I’ve done everything I’ve come here to do. I have had such a great life, I feel complete. My breath just keeps coming. Again and again. I can’t believe it. It has to stop. I’m ready for my breath to stop now.”

For his birthday, please take a moment and count your blessings.

Tell the people you love that you love them.

Show more gratitude for the people and things that brighten your day.

Do the things you say you’re going to do.

Let the sun land on your skin and love your life.

His birthday wish is to go peacefully. We are so grateful he is pain free.

If it resonates with you, ask your angels to come and lovingly carry him to the other side. Please take time to send out a prayer for my dad that his soul be free. We’re praying for his freedom too.

And he will.

As he said on the deckL “We are luck!”


Jana is a fun loving Canadian gal who comes alive through sharing the teachings of yoga. While she finds play in standing on her hands, her deeper desire is that people fall madly in love with themselves exactly as they are. She is one of the main facilitators of Gaiatri Yogas YAA 200 hour teacher trainings & offers retreats and in depth studies in retreat style or workshops. Check out her website or her blog for more.


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Assistant Ed. Rebecca Schwarz/Ed: Bryonie Wise


{Photo: Christian Coigny via Pinterest}



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