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Mushrooms are coming up! Isn’t this one adorable? There is a huge web of mycelium in our part of the world, which spreads destructive fungi, like the oak wilt that is taking down our live oaks, and helpful fungi, like the cute mushroom you see here. I suppose all fungi are both helpful and destructive in their own ways, since they all recycle dead things back into the soil, and we need that.

A fun fact about mushrooms is that now that scientists have mapped the genomes of so many species of plants and animals they have confirmed that mushrooms are their own special kingdom, neither plant nor animal, but something else. That something else is genetically closer to animals than plants.

The question can now be definitively answered: Are you more like a tree or a mushroom? You are more like a mushroom. Come to think of it, I can see the similarity. Sometimes when it looks like there is not much there the night before, you spring up and voila! You are there the next morning, complete with the people equivalent of a cap and stem and gills, as if you had been standing there all along.

Caring for a terminally ill person is a mushroom-y sort of life. At some level you are keeping the person alive, but at another level you are gently helping them return to the earth. They may not like it. You may not like it. It’s just what is happening.

You did not ask for this; you just sprung up and suddenly there was work to be done. You love a person who is closing out his life, something he too did not choose. You are the person standing beside him as he slowly returns to the earth.

There is no best way to usher a person from this life to the next. You can take him on a lovely hike in the morning, prepare his favorite sandwich for a picnic lunch, and arrange beautiful flowers in a vase on the dinner table, but even with your best efforts, he is going to have a rough go of it. That is the conundrum for his soul to work through, and you cannot help with that.

How you will care for yourself while caring for him is the challenge for you. You will only be able to do this work if your body and soul are nourished and tenderly cared for. Caring for yourself is as big a priority as caring for him.

Maybe it is annoying that I keep harping on this. I am willing to be annoying if only you will take care of yourself the way you would want me to if I were in your shoes.

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