Tag Archive: Spirituality


During my first big job during my 20’s, I overheard my coworker Jamie crying two cuticles away. I could only hear one side of the conversation, his. From the nature of his tears, his father had been diagnosed ‘terminal.’ The same scene repeated over several days, to which, at one point, I thought, “Get over it. Everyone dies.”

I wasn’t as appalled at myself then as I am now. Being ‘terminal’ tends to alter one’s perspective significantly. after surviving life in a military rescue squad, I arrogantly grew to believe I could live forever, that I was invincible. Rescue that person from the edge of a cliff? Sure. No problem. Deactivate that a piece of unexploded World War II ordinance without blowing oneself to bits? Sure. No problem.

Continue reading

As many know, I normally make no New Year’s resolution. Over the years, I learned that resolutions are ineffective and often go unbroken. Most resolutions never get past a week. One year I vowed to lose weight. “Don’t eat the ice cream,” my coworker pontificated at a meeting. “Where is it?” I countered. And there you go. Vowed to reduce pizza? Ate it. Declaring an abstinence from coffee found me four hours later laid out on the break room floor wheezing out between gasps to anyone listening that I couldn’t make it unless I received a caffeine fix. This year, I will try for a bolder resolution: walk like James.

To properly understand, you’ll require some context. When I started my current position, the job required a national security clearance. Over the course of several weeks, I carefully completed an SF-86, a one-hundred plus page Questionnaire for National Security Positions that details all previous employment, travel, criminal, financial, martial, personal background, all the times I used a restroom on foreign soil, and any other tales of woe I would to voluntarily disclose before government agents ask, “Hey dumbs**t. What about this incident in 40 years ago in a bookstore in Frog Jump, Tennessee?”

Continue reading

To New Years

“God,” I sighed. “The office doesn’t return from remote work until April 2021 (if we’re lucky). Why drop off dry cleaning?” I muttered as I pounded the steering wheel. I remind myself of where I am on the road to eternity, especially when my heart gives small instantaneous pains. In seconds, they come and go. Each trigger (event) reminds me there is no end. There is no respite. And that’s the crux; five years post-osteoarthritis diagnosis, nearly two years into a tumor diagnosis, almost a year into Parkinson’s, and barely a couple of weeks into heart disease, I remain cloudy upon what precisely ‘new year’ means.

Continue reading

Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol is a wonderful classic for all ages. The book has been translated into many movies, each with the director’s own interpretation. To this day, my favorite is ‘Scrooge,’ the musical version. It’s available on YouTube for free. The singing, graphics and music is so eloquently intertwined. Many watch the film and think, ‘You know, I hope that old geezer at the office gets visited. Surely, he needs change.’ Feel free to replace ‘old geezer’ with anyone: Aunt Jane, Mr. Smith, Carl, an ex, soon to be ex, current spouse, father, son, daughter, pet chihuahua, Oscar the cat, that kid (whoever that kid is) or whomever. The lessons are there. Simple to understand, yes? However, look beyond the veneer and viewers should understand Scrooge experienced a ‘life review.’ And this is exactly as life review(s) appear.

Mine was experienced as if I was a third person, as only a third person would see it. I saw myself enacting all those ugly, mean events. Yet I was allowed to experience the pain and harm I caused others. I saw an angry, bitter, manipulative person, often absent of any redeeming sense of honesty.

In life, I somehow thought I could positively impact the world, but many parts were shrouded in deception. Now, arthritis, Parkinson’s, and cardiovascular issues make it likely that I will forever be known as just another dipstick. “How much Love did I show there?” asked one angel. “How would I measure those moments against my life’s mission?” asked another. Like a Dickens character, I saw the evolutionary effect of every deed. The final question, “What happened between Christmas Eve 1978 and now?” pierced forth from a bright white light, as if the ‘Light of Truth’ beamed from an indescribable place and was asked, “W.T.F.?”

There was no one to save me. No way to hide.  No one to blame. There was no public relations firm. No possible way to manipulate anything. No way to justify my actions. The totality of each event was present, head on, as if God ripped off the band aid from an unhealed wound. No, Ms. K. wasn’t there. I could not hide behind any ‘could have,’ should have,’ or ‘would have.’ I stood silently, attesting solely for my actions. And for the first time in 40 years I came clean.

My sin was too much to bear. Looking away, I said, “I simply wanted love.” Throughout my life, for whatever reason, I was never good enough. I became the chameleon. I blended in and became what I thought everyone wanted me to be. Turns out, that wasn’t very effective either. I constantly looked for the one ‘big thing’ that would make me great, “And they would love me (I remember saying in 1994).” ‘They’ (whoever they be) never did. Like so many before, I became just another asshole.

I never loved myself. “If I never loved myself, how could they love me?” one angel poignantly queried. “In life and with God, it is the small acts of love and generosity that make up the world. Every moment may be a life changing moment. any moment may be monumental.” They were saying small moments are just as big as being a spiritual leader. Looking back at my review, I fear that all those things really are me. Am I still that angry, bitter, and manipulative guy? If I continue to hide my illness, is it because I remain angry and bitter? 

God was teaching lessons I needed to learn. When inner and outer join, one no longer has to hide. The part that God Loves and understands is still there. He remains within me. Is a form of agape love that transcends way beyond who I made love to, who I worked for, or successes achieved. In principle, it is living without reward, giving without receiving, and loving unconditionally.

Most of the love I experienced (as I presume most others experience) is conditional. We love (or are loved) based upon what we’ve done, how much we earn, how funny we are, how we treat others. We find it hard to love others just the way we are. The greatest obstacle in path is a fear love may not be returned. We don’t realize that what we seek is in the giving, not in the receiving.

Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas future paints a bleak picture (if the events remain unaltered). My life review presented no such future. I must admit though, death is no stranger to me. He is an old acquaintance, someone who’s been chasing me for thirty or so years. Sometimes when people talk of their fears, I tell them I’ve seen death, and when it happens, God will be there. That’s the love He (God) promises.

After all these lessons, I pass my Christmas present to all who read. Know that God lives within you, just as He lives in the words of this page. I also believe He exists elsewhere, in some other way, not readily seen or touched, but in a way that can be felt. Even in loss and separation, I am clear the spirit of God was me these past several weeks, just as I believe that in my last days, both He (and Ms. K.) will be with me. 

He wants us to know that it doesn’t matter who we are, what we do, how much money we make, or whom we know. We can all love and are loved. And in spite of all the difficulty 2020 has wrought, He wishes we open our hearts to the love around us. If we do, we are unlikely to miss His greatest gift—that love is always present, in all of our wonderful experiences—even in our tragedies. Whatever we call it—love, God, soul—love is alive and tangible. Love is our connection to the divine, to the sacred, to holiness. Love is richness and it is ours for the taking.

This Christmas, accept love and change your life review.

A Life Review

My father is an NDEr’ (someone who experienced a near-death experience). During the summer of 2000, his experience included several perceptions, including bright light, moving through a tunnel, positive emotions, meeting his mother, reaching a point of no return, and an out-of-body experience (OBEs). He did not experience a life review. Afterward, we couldn’t get my father to stop discussing it, as if there was some mission to tell everyone about it. Go into a metaphysical shop, and my father would start talking of his NDE. It didn’t matter if anyone asked; my father often felt the world was a podium, and he was the messenger. He never considered the presumption that others could attribute the experience to anything more than neurology.

One neurobiological hypothesis is that NDEs are by-products of brain disorders. Altered blood gas levels that produce hallucinations, tunnel vision, and bright lights. Others equate an abnormal electrical activity to explain life memory flashbacks. It has also been presumed that medications and neurochemical reactions, in general, could affect the occurrence of NDEs. Then there’s delirium, which is the well-known primary effect of brain dysfunction. As one who has experienced the mystical, I always believed.

I’ve often said that one of the blessings of my illness was the opportunity to feel such incredible love and support from acquaintances, healthcare professionals, and even total strangers. I know intuitively that many people go through their entire lives without ever experiencing the kind of human compassion and love God and others have shown. I was moved to tears by and experienced true humility through the gentleness and kindness shown to me by the many nurses and doctors who helped me through the darkest days of my diagnosis. And I wish I could tell everyone that God sees their contribution, their act(s) of love, and their beauty, even during those days when the patient is experiencing the worst. I hope, during my life review that I can relay these acts of kindness to God. They are essential, for they are the focal point of love’s ministry.

During a recent meditation, I experienced a life review, mine. It was an interesting experience. Over two hours, many acts of utter selfishness were reviewed. I can only describe this review from a third-person perspective, and included awareness of what others were feeling and thinking at the time of my interaction. This previously unknown awareness was both surprising and unexpected. I could feel the good and awful emotions I made them experience. I received a total picture of my life’s truth and that of everyone I affected. I perceived not only what I had done or thought, but even in what way it had influenced others. Of course, I could see truths that I had hidden from loved ones and friends. The ‘poor’ decisions made had more impact than the positive, for all the promises I made to God on Christmas Eve 1978 fell apart during my review.

I wanted to make a meaningful impact on the world. But I did not. While I probably didn’t envision solving poverty, hunger, or cancer, I certainly did not foresee the profound sense of pain I caused others. I don’t believe I’ve adequately “paid it forward.” In those moments, I found myself angry, bitter, and manipulative.

After several hours, I stood at a crossroads, literally and figuratively, the end of one phase and the beginning of another, a decision point where choices must be made. Days later, I remain at that crossroad, trying still to figure out what to do next: be the giver of compassion and love or be that which I was. What God taught (maybe remind) to choose unconditional love now and always, while we are alive. We can always be honest and open about everything. We can be accepting and forgiving so that others can do the same. I know the universe will speak to me and direct me towards the right road.

And that road be? Why toward the ‘Light,’ of course.

In 1988, my employer called all the call center representatives into a conference and plopped down a binder full of known product problems. Each known product problem had an associated ‘mitigation’ step to assist the customer. Some included replacement, while others included replacement and compensation. Still, others included payment. Sounded great, until. Until what? Upon reading the fine print, we could only assist the customer if the customer complained. We could not broadcast any manufacturing problem, discuss any form of compensation, or any customer inquiry outside the office. That meant any customer experiencing a known product failure, but did not complain to the manufacturer, received nothing, no compensation, no mitigation. Those who suffered in silence were swept under the corporate rug.

The visceral and brutal nature of corporate sins often gets “cleaned up” by corporate and religious communities alike. Suffering is downplayed publicly, and individual elements, including any agonizing days our customers endured, were buried by silence and a tsunami of the indescribable pain. As a business, we failed to recognize our horror, the inexplicable level of pain inflicted, and the raw violence performed against our customers’ human psyche. Instead, we went to church, held hands, recited the Lord’s prayer, and asked God to forgive our debts just as we forgive our debtors. Yeah. Sure.

Thirty-five years later, God asked me, why was I so willing to sacrifice my ideals upon the throne of business? I am fascinated by God’s question and of the impossibility of inconsistent, rationalized ethics. What did this absolute obedience and faith of humankind offer that made it entirely permissible to sacrifice customers? By questioning my request for forgiveness, God asked a provocative question, “What good is thy faith?” 

Another angle by which to frame this is that God inquired about its aftermath. What did I accomplish? Through a series of acts, I trusted in the invisible plan of now-defunct and unmemorable business leadership. Had I shelved reason and ethics to become ‘employee of the month’ or ‘employee of the year?’ I understand that worse has occurred throughout history and that humanity has endured the wrenching horrors of current and past U.S. leadership. Just as Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, just as many business colleagues across the county, I sacrificed ethics to obligation.

Truthfully, I have no understanding of why management required such sacrifices thirty-years ago. I failed to ask, and my lack of ‘positional power’ was limited. On the other hand, God gazed into my soul — where I could not see — and knew my secret, even when I couldn’t see it myself. God affirmed I made myself a co-conspirator, either symbolically or with consent: I saw the facts, and I participated in the commitment to secrecy. If I was unwilling to pass judgment on management at the time, then the essential question is, how is my ethical code different today? Should ethics be relative to religious status and hierarchy, or to the extremity of one’s commitment to God? 

When does the end justify means? Where is ‘humanity’ in the reward? Should my profound humility somehow replace the patriarchy of God’s original call? More importantly, What does it mean to be God’s chosen? How do I live accordingly?

Like most of my life’s poor decisions, I will never rid of the most sacred ethical failures. I am blessed that forgiveness is offered via faith. Yet, this fact demands that I now follow spirituality and continually evaluate both faith and obligation. Indeed, my footsteps should not be traced, as my example should provide ample pause. 

If your first response would be to entertain the notion that I was a madman or criminal, or, more likely, that I was tragically deluded in some false image of God’s call, then what of those harmed? What if I misunderstood the will of God? What might have I lost in translation between divine intent and human implementation? 

Final Thought

During the COVID pandemic, we’ve heard politicians weigh the value of human life against economic and stock market viability. We openly discuss hitting the poor the hardest for the sake of chasing profits. Entertaining business without ethics means losing our humanity. We must serve a higher purpose: look after employees, support the community, and strive to make a product that inspires. 

God’s questioning taught that each human life is more significant than gross profit. Of course, a business balance sheet is essential, but human beings are created in the image of God. As such, we must reject suggestions to sacrifice ethical discernment. To do otherwise means human lives become nothing more than check marks on a to-do list rather than sacred. 

A Walk Alone

Some claim solitude leaves me to wander both through and beyond a dark foreign land (death). There’s no one single road, nor is there a map showing the way. Yet, if I can pass through, will I not find peace? Maybe my answer is not physical, but the very nature of why God called me to trust. Of course, there are steps, His and mine. And therein I find spirit of life walks with me. We walk together. And until I am ‘called,’  the world moves.

Given the fact a major stroke awaits at any moment, life propels onward ‒ there is work my employer requires, conference calls, deadlines, and debts to be paid. Life goes on regardless of how much of Thanksgiving week was spent lying in bed, hobbled by hip pain beginning Monday, November 23rd. Since I had no fall, no bruising, no trauma, and based upon symptoms, osteoarthritis is the likely culprit. The right hip, yeah the one which had only inconveniently plagued me until now, decided to perform a full-on assault. Every movement was either a dull ache or produced noticeable suffering. Walking required further leverage of a cane, and sitting was ‒ as I would simply put ‒ a bitch.

A friend might say to a doctor, “He won’t tell you this, but he is suffering.” Truth be told, the past few days had been an assortment of pain. However, no such friend knows the burden. I ate even as Advil and Tylenol percolated throughout my bloodstream.  Like almost all parts of this journey, I was alone when I read recent medical results. I sat alone in my favorite recliner while medication turned upside down every 6-8 hours. As terrifying as it is, it is a solitary journey. At a very gut level ‒ the soul ‒ it’s what I’ve come to embrace. 

There’s some portion of every soul for which the journey must be alone.  Sure, there are parents, lovers, friends, lovers, coworkers and others who can, and often will, assist, but there’s an integral part that is solely our own. No matter how much I would like to have a friend who could support me, there’s no possible way to transfer the pain. It is my ‘cross,’ mine and mine alone.

Supposedly the Buddha said, “If for company you cannot find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered kingdom, or like a lone elephant in the elephant forest, you should go your way alone. Better it is to live alone; there is no fellowship with a fool. Live alone and do no evil; be carefree like an elephant in the elephant forest.” I think I understand the reason for the advice.  

People who are on a path of spiritual growth learn not everyone is on the same path. Even though we are all, essentially on the same journey (see Falling Through the Cracks, where 90% will pass from one of six diseases), it’s important to choose what we allow into our minds.  The Buddha basically says to try and associate with “wise and prudent” people, but don’t get lost following a crowd, just because you want some affiliation. Real spirituality is not a social practice; most of the time, it is a private endeavor between God and you. It’s an individual matter. I was tagged as being monolithic, an impersonal, sometimes non-political, structure that is invisible, yet indivisible. True, but not quite.

I am privy to all the thoughts and feelings I tend to hide from the world. My journey is personal, deeply personal. I am continually looking for transcendence, but I am also hoping we can look past indifference to one another. To some extent, God choosing to dwell where least likely to be looked (within the depths of my soul) is genius. And maybe, just maybe, by the time I meet God and Ms. K., I will be fully awake and the soul will fully comprehend.

Master: You see only what the eye sees. What the soul sees cannot be denied.

Student: Will not the soul, too, be denied in death?

Master: No. The soul always sees.

Student: Yet the body dies.

Master: Does the sun die?

Student: It does not shine at night.

Master: It shines somewhere. You just cannot see it.

If God were here, He’d tell you I failed to alter the course of human history. Pretty miserably in fact. Like many, I tended to be swept along by Tsunami-like waves of current events, often set in motion by something entirely beyond my control. I survived the years drifting alone and repeatedly tortured myself for the years wasted bobbing at sea waiting for either a rescuer or to be eaten. For fellow bobbies, the year 2020 required an incredible amount of internal fortitude. We made it past COVID, unemployment, hunger, Trump, the election, peril and or death. Now we’re here, November 26th. Congratulations! And since Thanksgiving is upon me, I ask myself, “Do I celebrate, memorialize, or a little of both?”

Ms. K. died seven years ago, just prior to Thanksgiving. I never knew she passed until early 2014. And why should I have known? She was a fellow colleague that I’d meet for lunch, catch-up, shake hands, and say, “Same time next year.” Now, seven years have passed. And since she was from Japan, I wonder if her family would participate in the Obon festival, an annual event for commemorating one’s ancestors. 

According to Buddhist legend, Obon originated from a disciple who used supernatural powers to see his deceased mother had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and suffered greatly. The disciple went to Buddha and asked how he could release his mother. Buddha instructed to make offerings to the many monks completing their summer retreat (occurring on the fifteenth day of the seventh month). The disciple did as instructed and his mother was released. I am not sure whether the Japanese version has similar intentions or not. I liken Japan’s version of a festival to honor the dead. 

Obon can be held during the 1st year anniversary, sometimes in the 3rd and or the 5th, 7th and 13th years, and a number of times afterwards up to either the 39th or the 50th year, and that each time, ancestral spirits return to visit relatives.  Remembering from my days in Japan, it is not a solemn event. Dances are performed, ‘ozen’ (offerings) are placed in front of altars, temples, and sometimes grave sites. Many families visit grave sites and clean gravestones. Paper lanterns are hung round to help guide the spirits return. Some families carry lanterns from the graves back to their homes. Toro nagashi (Floating lanterns) have sometimes been set afloat downriver, running to the sea. Symbolically this sends their ancestors’ spirits into the sky. 

The thread between all these stories is to understand how past selflessness and the sacrifices were made. In life, I never knew Ms. K., but she has since visited and I believe she remains a guide during my travels here. As much as I’ve tried to research, I know nothing Ms. K. ‒ not where she went to college or how many siblings her family has, what she did for a living prior to settling in the United States or other minutiae of snippets that surround typical friendships. Yet, by the very nature of my illness, I deeply understand the personal impact of pain, despair, constipation, the trudge of earning a living while dying, pondering the future ahead, and finding hope. If anything, I would say each of us must embrace any friendship founded in hope. 

For many families, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be filled with music, small parties (if any), a Netflix movie, family and friends via Facebook, Facetime, or Skype. Others will look upon the empty chair and dabble at tears. My heart aches for Mothers like the Duchess of Sussex, who ‘clutched her firstborn while losing the second.’ I cannot imagine the pain. 2020 saw so many heroes lost, including clinicians, fireman, police officers, teachers and activists. Jess Wells lost her husband (an Egyptian activist) to a dictator. Activist Travis Nagdy was shot and killed by a carjacker. Still, I feel a sense of optimism. I remain grateful for the kindness and sacrifices of all those who sleep. We should remember and appreciate each person not not as though they were perfect, but rather the positivity brought to life. 

As trite as it may sound, I will embrace hope this Thanksgiving, for it is a powerful force that propels us through fear, depression and paralysis. Hope is unlike any other medicine. It kept me going throughout the years. I will retain my faith in both God and Ms. K. In 1978, God told me He would always watch over me, and personally know He intervened when He neither really had too nor probably wanted. I presume He did so for two reasons. First, He promised. Second, He cared. As for me, I don’t get up and work in spite of the pain because God was committed to me. I did it simply by the fact that since I awoke in the morning, that I should get up, be productive, and in some small way, help another. It’s what God would have wanted. I think that’s the way Ms. K. would want me to honor. 

Ms. K. didn’t require a chochin lantern to call her spirit nor did she require one to return. (Heck, I don’t even know where she’s buried.) However, I know she is in my heart, and that’s a toro nagashi (floating lantern) that will never burn out. Therein lay my Thanksgiving message, never let hope (love) burn out. It is all we have.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Happy Thanksgiving Ms. K. Feel free to stop by. 

I told my case worker I had several dreams of telling people I was dying. I am not sure if the prognosis of dying actually initiates such ‘death’ type of dreams or not. However, having worked in a hospital I have encountered terminal patients who shared that their dreams and visions felt realistic. Many related visions of past meaningful experiences and reunions with loved ones, and those who reassured and guided them. Others reported feeling as if they were preparing to go somewhere.  My dreams fell into the second category.

One dream seemed appeared like walking through a black fog. There was no light (maybe enough light to understand I was walking through fog), no pain, no hatred, no hell, no fire. Just a dark fog. I did not envision life was going to be destroyed. Nor did I fear death. I was sort of assessing the fog, the steps required to exit it, that I should follow this ‘intuitively’ known path. If I did, I would exit and move on to whatever was next. This intuitively known path offers much insight. All dreams offered a similar message: time is short.

I noted one particular dream of interest. I followed a child, who held a letter proclaiming life would end six weeks later. The child did not walk in fear but busied himself by looking for the room to report. When experiencing such dreams, many claim it is the internal soul processing all the events occurring. Others turn to Internet dream analysis and equate some deeper meaning. And many might roll over and slumber out some words, “That was weird,” drink some water, and go back to sleep for another round. I took all of it as a message.

Up front, there’s no indication that I am going to die within six weeks. There is also no indication I won’t die in six weeks either. If I did there was only six weeks, I have five left, for the dream of the child occurred last weekend. Since I am a walking timebomb (my non-medical techie word), that could check out (blow-up) at any moment, I must be prepared. I have to understand that my family needs to know my finances, where to get access, where can one store documentation, etc. Therefore, this week has been a non-stop action of lists. Even in death, life is a list.

There are lists for everything: pre-flight checklists, project checklists, camping lists, grocery lists, bucket lists, start of school lists, moving lists, packing lists, medication lists, household todo lists, babysitting lists, and so on. Preparing to die has a list. Once I started, my list grew exponentially as the  week evolved. I started with a simple Internet list of 7 things needed when you learn you’re terminally ill. Some things included a second opinion, treatment options, disease course, symptom management, bucket lists, hospice and how I would like to die. Here’s the additions:

  • Health Insurance coverage and details;
  • Printed Health Summary (list of your medical infirmities) ;
  • Last will and testament (Don’t have one? Get one.);
  • Work transition list;
  • List of contact numbers, including work, Human Resources, and supervisors;
  • Storage location for scanned files that can be accessed by my executor;
  • List of passwords for key accounts;
  • Last Letter (The Stanford Letter Project) to loved ones;
  • Last blog post;
  • Medical consent list, including a sub-list of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), living will, no code treatment, spiritual counseling (last rites), plan of care, etc.;
  • Bill Payment list, including credit cards, utilities, bank account passwords, account key questions, special PINs, and copies of statements;
  • List of turn off auto-refills or auto subscriptions;
  • Car maintenance schedule list;
  • Veterans Benefit changes;
  • Change property title transfer to beneficiary (If you rent, lease information);
  • List of drafted letters to all credit bureaus;
  • Letters to credit card companies terminating accounts (to let them know you’re dead and that Platinum Amex card is not accepted in heaven);
  • List on securing Passports, ID Cards, Driver’s License and other ID materials;
  • Turbo Tax passwords and past five years of taxes;
  • Car Title transfer;
  • List of email accounts/services to cancel, Facebook, and other online services to cancel;
  • Social Security Administration Information;
  • List of E-Trade accounts and other relevant information, listing statements, ensure beneficiaries are properly stated and net worth (which either shows you’re beneficiaries will adore you or confirm you’re worth the paper the statement was printed on);
  • List of any 401K plans and beneficiary information;
  • Deferred compensation and beneficiary information;
  • List of local Hospice information and basic interviewing of hospice; and
  • List of cremation services;
  • List of items for storage, selling, or donation; and
  • Lists of people to inform I am terminal (nah)

I admit, as of today, I have 90% of the above list(s) complete. I feel terrific. The lists of life are not easy, but they must be checked off. Get prepared. Live your life like you’ll die tomorrow, but build a document repository that will help your benefactors. Then plan your life as though you’ll be here for another 50 years.

Question. If you were told you are going to die in three months, what would you do? That’s a similar message I received twenty months ago. The March 2019 prognosis went something like this, “Subsequent diagnosis indicated cerebrovascular disease .. with proper medicine and dietary changes, maybe minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or a couple of years.” I’ve been living in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years since. In clinical terms, I met expectations, with some physicians claiming I even exceeded expectations. Tuesday, that “progress” was updated. ‘Years’ was removed. The subsequent redefinition becomes more impactful when life gets reduced to “minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months.”

Those in the medical profession (like me) talk about that one moment when a dying person first comprehends, on a gut level, that death is close. Nessa Coyle summarized that the habit of allowing thoughts of death to remain in the background suddenly becomes impossible when it can no longer be denied. Instantaneously, death is in your face.

Intellectually, I’ve had a long time to accept being terminal. And throughout the past twenty-months, I tirelessly treated (for lack of a better word at the moment) the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual domains of my soul. Even now, I feel neither feel depression nor anger. I am more horrified by death’s methodology than the literal act of dying. Monday morning’s episode revealed that the process of dying (for me) would either be long or swift. I fear the lengthy.

Clearly, I inherited my father’s computer wiring (brain schematic). For years he seemingly suffered endlessly with Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA, a fancy name for short-term strokes) that arrive at night and leave by daybreak. Until it didn’t. Five years later, my father entered Hospice (a month ago). His demise has been slow, painful, and completely compromising, not only for me but also for my mother, who lived day and night by my father’s principal caretaker. 

My TIA arrived like a freight train after midnight and departed before dawn. Similar to early 2019, this was another warning shot, only bigger. It was a massive detonation. Sure I survived, but I was assured Mr. TIA would reappear and probably won’t leave. Doctors experts ran the statistics. About 1 in 3 (some studies claim 1 in 5) who experience a TIA are likely to experience a stroke within six months. The odds of experiencing this within 90 days are 2%-17%. My thought after being told I was going to die in months? In the immortal words of Burn Notice character Michael Weston, my physicians were saying, “Don’t make retirement plans.

One fortunate outcome (thus far) is that I’ve never lost control of who I was. This is an essential point for all facing death (or will face death). I may have lost control of the body, but I never lost control of me. Even during Monday’s TIA, I understood who I was, from where I came, the day, date, time, the problems facing me, the problematic discussion about whether one would find me with an unclean butt. Therefore, I hope that no matter how far I progress through this process, I believe there will be some part of me that will exist. It is a part I can knowingly take with me into the future to whatever lay beyond. 

As stated in many spiritual teachings, helping another die with a peaceful, positive state of mind is one of the most extraordinary acts of kindness we can offer. I think that should be everyone’s focus. Indeed, this will not be easy. Just the physical aspect of dying will be challenging. My goal is to be treated with respect, kindness, and love; to talk and be listened to; or, at certain times, to be left alone and in silence. People like me have spiritual needs – to make sense of life, their suffering, their death, have hope for what lies beyond, feel that they will be cared for and guided by someone or something wiser and more powerful than themselves. I am fortunate, for I believe someone awaits me and will provide guidance. 

After the doctors guided me through their updated prognosis, I momentarily reflected upon a recent Zoom business seminar. A seminar leader asked the roundtable of healthcare leaders what they had learned thus far through the pandemic. Most provided rather mundane versions of being a better spouse, parent, friend, or mentor. One person silenced the room. “I learned to humanize people and how not to be afraid of others, for everyone has value. It is a privilege to be a part of — even a small part of their life. And it’s a privilege to help them move on to wherever is beyond [death]. All of you inspired me to do that.”

And that’s been my goal. Hopefully, that’s what this blog has been about. May each of you be the part that helps people to move beyond. When things seem dark, find the power of love in those who surround you.

%d bloggers like this: