Tag Archive: Living Christ


“God,” I whispered, waking in pain. “My intestines are killing me.” I attempted to dig into my stash of Tylenol #3 leftover from a dental procedure years ago. (Yeah, I know some will say they’ve expired. But I don’t believe that one day past expiration, this form of pill says to itself, “I’m expired.”) I was hoping the pain would subside. Instead, it stayed with for hours. The pain originates either in the stomach or where the transverse colon and descending colon connect. This unbearable pain in the upper left abdomen occurs almost nightly, with some nights worse than others. Intuitively, I know my colon has some serious problem (maybe Splenic Flexure Syndrome), but a cure for all my ailments is not feasible at this point in life. As such, the spasmodic cramping, gas, and bloating have become a part of my everyday living. I’ve acclimated to it. I’ve also adjusted to the notion that my body is rejecting life. It’s ironic, as thirty-plus years ago, this acclimation wasn’t always the case.

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There’s a ton of historical NDE experiences, some dating back centuries. Their stories are similar to those told in hundreds of books or websites (including mine). Though details vary across, there are many commonalities, including floating upward, viewing the scene of their death; spending time in a different realm, meeting relatives, feeling God, or something like ‘complete love.’ Once all that occurs, the person is told to return to live another day. For many, the person reports the experience was not a dream but “authentic,” changes profoundly post-NDE, and has a hard time returning into everyday life. 

My recent experience is similar, but not totally. Here’s a recap.

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Tools

One day, Tom Turcich decided to walk the world. He left in April 2015, and except for returning to the U.S. for recovery, obtaining visa requirements, and sitting out the pandemic, he’s continued to hike, covering 39 countries and approximately 19,000 miles. He’s posted many Instagram messages. A December 2016 Instagram message caught my eye, and then my heart.

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Eighty percent (80%) of those impacted by osteoarthritis experience pain. The most common symptom is acute pain – often deep-searing pain. For the longest time, it was hard to relate. Sure, my muscles exploded in pain, frequently from the simplest of movement. The most extreme form of osteoarthritis pain I experience comes from walking when the pain becomes so significant that the body stops whatever it is doing and says, “F*** it. We’re done. I am done until everything calms down.” I have always been grateful my body has down in the middle of a New York City crosswalk during rush hour, running from an avalanche, or just as a tsunami approaches. (Although sitting on a toilet during a Los Angeles earthquake was my biggest fear). I always presumed I experienced ‘maxed out.’ I was wrong.

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I’ve never fawned over celebrities, not even when living in Los Angeles. Traveling nearly every week, I often found myself departing either Sunday or Monday and returning Friday, and repeating the process the following week. I met many celebrities during my travels: Roma Downey, Della Reese, Hulk Hogan, Kelly Hu (whom I had one dinner date), Erik Estrada, Wolf Blitzer, Stephen Covey, John Tesh, and Connie Sellecca, to name a few. Even if I sat adjacent to a celebrity, I never bothered them. A few days ago, I made an exception. 

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Dying is hard. The body refuses to give up. For others, the physical part of death is not the barrier. Instead, information processing is the hardest culprit. There are too many issues to address before the end. In other words, we run out of time. ‘Death’ grabs us when least expected and refuses to release us. Describing my process is like being in the grip of a boa constrictor.

Boa constrictors are not venomous. Instead, they squeeze the victim to death. The squeezing overwhelms the circulatory system, and the prey dies from ischemia. And therein I lay. I came to the acknowledgment this week that my body is slowly giving way. Life a slow-motion film, the amount of dizziness, the pain just below my rib cage, and the persistent fatigue slowly crept in each subsequent week. I sense it. No. Correction. It squeezes. I feel it. There are some days when I wish to fall asleep and call it a life.

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When I was 16, my parents loaded our Southwind Motorhome and headed west for vacation. My brother and I were allowed to ride along, but I considered of myself only as an ‘accessory.’ “Hey, get me a beer.” “We need wood for the fire.” “Empty the ‘holding tank.” (‘Holding tank’ was a euphemism for ‘s*** tank.’ Since someone has to empty it, might as well get the cheap labor to do it.) Along the route to Glacier National Park (Montana), my father shrewdly traded two cartons of Kool Menthol cigarettes with an Native American for a personal guided tour of the original ‘Camp Disappointment.’ Camp Disappointment was the northernmost point reached by the Lewis and Clark Expedition (July 23, 1806). Lewis referred to the campsite as ‘Camp Disappointment,’ for it meant the expedition was unable to reach 50 degrees north latitude, which would extend the Louisiana Territory. I viewed Camp Disappointment more pragmatically.

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Dark Nights

I could not sleep last night, so I sat in a recliner from 2:30 to 4:00 AM staring into the darkness at nothing. There was no single thought percolating through my mind. There was no despair, no crying, or regrets—just acceptance. It was acceptance of what’s to come that my body provided warning signs of its declaration of impending death. Through all my life’s shame and successes, it comes to a moment of acceptance of all the mistakes, failures, and everything that regularly haunts me despite denying any such thoughts. And every night, I accept them. And every night, they return. The cycle repeats during only those hours of the morning. It is a time of love. It is a time of hate.

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I watched Nomadland Sunday. Robert Ebert’s website summarizes the film accordingly: “Fern (Frances McDormand) is grieving a life that’s been ripped away.” Almost every viewer will claim the movie is littered with pain (not in a bad way) of those who face the challenge of living life alone. Some suffered from loss of a town, job loss, homelessness, loss of a spouse, a child, or even loss of oneself. In one scene, Fern so much wishes upon being alone that when she finds an abandoned dog, she ties the dog to a table outside a shop and walks off, thereby averting any potentially sentimental moment of connection. When in trouble, they become masters of finding a way out, rarely calling anyone. And that’s where I can relate.

I spent much of Sunday in a chair, barely able to move. Regardless of position, my neck, shoulders, and chest. Anyone suffering cervical osteoarthritis gets accustomed to the sound or feeling of popping in the neck when moving. At ties, mine tends to sound like a garbage disposal in perpetual grind. Never forget to add that the ol’ ticker (my heart) dribbles in some momentary flickers of pain and reminds me that I am a mere mortal. One day, time will be up. But not today. In theory, I should have been able to reach out to someone, but hell, when you live a solitary life, the question I always seem to ask myself is, “Just who the hell do I call?”

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How do we register details that most miss and fail to interpret? Seriously? How? I’ve formulated many observations in my 61 years of life. Two are more recent. First, be alive is, in and of itself, a miracle, a statistical miracle. Second, how is it I whizzed past millions of people with hardly a notice for details? I know my successes and losses, but why didn’t I ‘tarry an hour’ with another in dire pain?. And of success? When does any form of ‘tarry’ turn to envy?

“Could you not tarry one hour?” Jesus asked several disciples. “Hey, Unknown Buddhist? Could you not have tarried an hour with this man?” Like many, I would tell Christ that I’m pressed for time and line up excuses often spoken by others. “I have to complete this report.” There’s the, “I have to contact this customer.” And of course, “Jesus Christ (Oops. Sorry.), I have to meet my wife. And as you know, tarrying with her for an hour is equivalent to twelve. Even you (pointing a finger to Heaven) can attest to that.”

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