On the night of November 5, way back last year, Fryderyk came to visit, and we had an intense encounter. There have been very few times that he has been so nearly materialized, so focused in this plane. It was so powerful, nearly blowing all my circuits, and I wondered if he could be experiencing something similar. “What are you feeling?” I asked, during a brief moment when I could manage an organized thought.
The answer was not remotely what I might have expected. He showed me the pain, regret, and frustration of “our” life in the 19th century, how he and Delfina had never gotten their relationship into balance and never finished what they needed to do or be with each other. Why is he telling me this now? I thought. In the midst of so much love and pleasure, why would he even be thinking of this? We had been over it all so many times during my present life, worked out everything that needed to be worked out, it seemed to me.
The message seemed to be, “Get right with people while you can.” I took it to heart, and in the next few days I took steps to do just that. There was one person in particular with whom I had been avoiding some much-needed communication, and I thought that Fryc might have been trying to give me a push to deal with that. Otherwise, I felt that I was OK with most people and they were OK with me; the very few with whom that was not true had resisted all my attempts to get back in touch with them, and there was nothing more I could do about it. I told Bob about Fryderyk’s message, and said that even if he or I were to die in the next five minutes, there would be nothing that needed to be fixed between us. He agreed.
Then, on November 8, my colleague Michael Spottiswoode died suddenly of an aneurysm. When I found out, I had the sense that Fryderyk, unstuck from linear time as he is, was trying to tell me something about this future event as well.
None of us DOMs knew about Michael till two days later, the day on which he was supposed to teach a class on his life’s work, a unique way of combining acupuncture and osteopathy. Just a few days earlier he had posted on Facebook about how excited he was about the class, saying that he felt it was finally time to bring this work to the world. He had put off teaching it before, as far as I know. Why it all came to be the way it was, why he had to die no more than 48 hours before the class, is a great mystery to me. It seems so massively unfair. Why could he not have lived a mere 10 days longer and gotten through both sessions of the class? Perhaps it made unconscious sense from his inner point of view, or from someone’s.
There was something I’d been meaning to tell Michael for a long time, and I had intended to say it on the day of the class. It wasn’t anything of earthshaking importance, but I’d put it off and then I never did get to say it. Michael, wherever you are, I really appreciate all that work you did on the NMSAAM website, and I wish I had made that clearer to you when I had the chance.
Our DOM community was in shock, but there was a blessing inside this terrible event. As funerals tend to do, Michael’s memorial brought a large group of us together and generated a lot of positive, loving energy.
On November 22, our 12-year-old cat, Angel, reached the end stage of her kidney disease. After a week in which she seemed to have much more energy and was more active and playful than usual, she abruptly became unable to use her back legs. She got a bit better for a while, able to walk a little, then deteriorated again. We couldn’t get hold of her vet, who works alone, without office staff. Eventually he left a message saying that it sounded like “decompensated renal failure.” Pretty much what I was thinking.
During the evening, I did energy work for her, and she stayed next to me, propping herself up against the back of the sofa, because her poor legs wouldn’t even hold her for sitting. She seemed calm, interested in everything and not in any pain. Strangely enough, she ate normally.
I had some hope that Angel would die peacefully during the night. That was the night that we had the severe cold and snow with 50 mph winds, and I didn’t think it would be helpful to stress her by taking her out to the emergency vet hospital. I didn’t want to take her to be put to sleep without my mother going along, either, because Angel was very much her cat, and I didn’t want to put my mother through a trip like that. So I just waited till the morning. I told my mother, “If we take her to the vet, she probably isn’t coming home.”
Angel was still with us in the morning, and I found that Petsmart’s clinic had an opening for her. Bob and my mother and I bundled her into her carrier right away and got her there. The very kind vet said, “I think we need to have the end-of-life conversation.” “We had it last night,” I told her.
It was my mother’s 89th birthday, and she spent most of it in tears.
When we had to face this with Rico, our cat who had cancer, some years ago, it was a terrible day. We’d waited as long as we felt like we could, until we thought it would be cruel to let him go on, but he still didn’t seem ready, and he fought the sedative with everything he had. I never really got over it– I hope he did. So I tried to give Angel a choice, or at least get a sense of what she would want. I’d never had a great connection with this cat, but I tried to make contact as best I could. I visualized needles and tubes and trying to keep her alive for a few more days. That didn’t feel good at all, very agitated and uncomfortable. I visualized, as best I could, causing her to die right away. She relaxed under my hands; my mother said it looked like she was going to sleep. “Let’s do it,” I said. To Angel, I said, “I won’t leave you. I’ll stay with you as long as you need me. Hang on to me if you want to.” I didn’t know whether I was getting through to her in any way.
When Rico died, I felt nothing, saw nothing, even though I was holding him and I paid attention. This time, as the drug took effect, I felt something rush toward me. Afterward I could still feel her if I tried to find her. Over the next couple of days, whenever I looked for her, this small, warm presence was still nearby. At some moment, I had a brief vision of her. She was moving quickly and her coat was silky and smooth and healthy-looking as I had never seen it in life. Since then, nothing. And that’s OK.
Angel’s death was hard on my mother, but the suddenness of it was a relief for us, and our quality of life went up immediately. It bothers me a little that I was so glad to be rid of the litter tracked everywhere and the gobs of fur all around and her astonishingly loud screechy voice. Not to mention the smell from her inappropriate use of the carpeting. She was an inconvenient cat, frankly, and she didn’t give a lot back, in part because her illness left her little energy for fun. When we were deciding what to do at the end, I did my best to get clear about what she needed as opposed to what was easiest for me. I hope we got that right. I think we did. She had an excellent quality of life during the three years she was with us, and other than the days when she was obviously ill, I think she must have been content.
And I think this preparation was important for me in dealing with what was soon to come.
The week before Christmas, the life of one of my patients reached a somewhat similar denouement. One door after another closed for her, and she concluded that it was time for the end. As she had often said, we would never allow a dog to go on in the painful and hopeless condition she was in. She should have had the option of the kind of quick and painless solution Angel was given. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a state that allows assisted suicide, and she had to make her own plan.
No one close to her argued with her decision; we all knew it would be for the best. Once she did decide, in a way, she became well. She was still in tremendous pain, but somehow she didn’t seem to be suffering in the same way. She became calm and completely lucid, and the brain damage from her illness seemed to recede.
I had the opportunity to spend a few more hours with her during the last week of her life. The whole atmosphere of her house had changed to a new peacefulness. “Is there anything I need to do to make amends with you?” she asked. I thought and felt around, and replied truthfully that we were fine with each other as far as I knew. I hope I didn’t miss anything that I myself needed to make amends for.
Before I left, my patient asked me to scan her and see if I found anything energetically amiss that needed to be cleared. My own emotions were getting in the way, but I did my best. There didn’t seem to be anything to worry about. What I did find was an entity hovering around her left shoulder. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it felt like someone helpful. This was reassuring to both of us, and I said “Thank you” to the being. It was odd to simply go out the door that evening, not to stay as long as possible, but she was getting so tired, and I would have done harm by staying longer.
During the next few days, I was on strange pins and needles, not sure what would happen or when. I wrote the following:
Glad that most of my body works most of the time. I am annoyed at the instability in my leg that keeps letting bone hit nerve and cause damage over and over and over, but the muscles are strong and the leg carries me. Right now I seem to be getting a cold. Viruses have come to live and grow in the mucosa of my nasopharynx, and they are doing their little virus things, while my own cells are doing their best to give them the boot.
Life is bursting all over, even now in the darkest days. It’s like what Jesus said in one of the apocryphal gospels: “Hallelujah, I eat. Hallelujah, I am eaten.” Hello, viruses. Please move on now.
This lady died very early on December 23. About that time I felt a wave of extreme distress and anxiety, then total calm. I figured it must have happened, but of course I couldn’t be sure. The next day I found myself kneading cookie dough with one hand while holding the phone with the other, talking with a deputy from the sheriff’s department. The authorities handled everything with great kindness and with excellent efficiency too. The job of informing her family fell to me. I’d never had to do that before, even though it is a basic part of the work of doctors. It was all stressful and painful and terrifying and a great gift and privilege and blessing.
I have many jobs left to perform for this patient, because her family is far away. There is so much to do with her home and her property. There again, it’s a lot of stress, but I’m receiving a great deal too, spiritually as well as materially. I have been feeling a circle of loving support around me, my friends and family and hers, and I need to remember that I can rely on it. 2014 will be the year of learning to delegate, I think.
A few days after my patient passed, I went to visit with Mendy Lou. Immediately I could feel Fryderyk at my right side, but something seemed different and I couldn’t put my finger on what. “Who’s here?” I asked Mendy. She was confused by the mixed signal for a moment, too. We soon realized that someone else was there, behind Fryderyk. “It’s small. It’s a human person,” I said, meaning that it wasn’t an angel or deity or other type of wondrous being that is likely to show up at Mendy’s office.
“Wait a minute, who did you say just passed away?” Mendy asked. Yup, it was my patient. At first it felt like she was scared and apprehensive, but that was because she was afraid I’d be mad at her for “leaving such a mess” to be taken care of. I assured her that she’d done a great job of organizing everything and made it much easier for those of us who are still here. As far as Mendy and I could tell, she was as well as anyone could be under the circumstances. She said that she was getting clearer all the time and getting out from under the confusion and negativity her illness had caused. I could feel that this was true; there wasn’t any sense of disturbance or suffering about her.
It surprised me that she had come along with Fryderyk, because I didn’t think of him as having any connection with her. But of course he did– he couldn’t have missed the many times I had asked for help when I was treating her, or the angst I had gone through over and over when there was nothing I could do to make anything better for her, or the exhaustion I had felt because her situation was so draining for me. Of course he would try to assist us both, just as he always has. We are in good hands.
In some ways it is much easier now to grieve and to deal with even overwhelming practical matters than it was to try to help keep my patient going against impossible odds. And I notice that the “inconvenient” aspects of her life, as with Angel, seem completely irrelevant now. They are transcended, wiped away by a kind of transforming grace.