Slightly over one month ago, on December 16th, 2018, I posted the 12th chapter of a new e-book that will document an extraordinary three-day journey from 2008: BACK WHEN I WAS DYING.
AK Reader, E-Book (posted as a series), BWIWD: Chapter Twelve, A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF OUR CULTURE, Part 1
I now present the three penultimate chapters. One more, in the form of a yet-to-be-written Appendix, remains. Once all these are up as a series, I will make an e-book out of the whole. Thanks for your patience!
So interesting, after so many delays, this latest one. Of course, Christmas did intervene, and my travels to Massachusetts. And once I got home I had a cultural emergency to attend to that is still ongoing, but a way through has appeared. More about that perhaps later, much later!
In any case, here are the final three chapters. The APPENDIX, which I have only begun to work on, will throw a new and illuminating light on the entire corpus.
Thanks to Reader and Commenter Ann Dimitrelias, for her nudge to get back to work on this long intimate tale.
First, remember the full title of the entire series:
BACK WHEN I WAS DYING
Meditation on a Three Day Ordeal/Epiphany/Assignment
© Ann Kreilkamp 2008
Also, you might want to check back to see the Table of Contents.
P.S. Note the photo below. This particular Central Park bridge is, believe it or not, germane to the tale.
Everything I have written up to this point took place within the first few weeks of that arduous inner journey of April 13-15, 2008 during which my life picked itself up and set itself on a new foundation. As you can see, and as shown in the Table of Contents, I began with narrative (THE SETUP, scenes 1-3, and THE DISCOVERY) and then, after several JOURNAL interludes, abruptly segued into deep psychological, sociological, philosophical, and cultural inquiry that went on and on — and on!
Intuitively, I felt I needed to widen the perspective in order to situate that three day ordeal, epiphany and, it would turn out, assignment, within the specific micro and extended macro context that might, hopefully, illuminate for the reader the personal (and social, cultural) significance of the experience.
But then, deep contextual burrowing completed, for some unknown reason I set the manuscript aside, unfinished. Not that I decided to set it aside. Simply, that’s what I did. Something else caught my eye.
But why? That’s not like me. I always finish whatever I start — and quickly!
I have often asked myself this question.
Indeed, ever since 2008 I have picked up this manuscript every two years or so, only to find myself disoriented, bogged down, in reading it. Each time I would shake my head in puzzlement. I couldn’t finish the story! Couldn’t switch back from contextualizing to narrative, unspooling the second and third days of the experience. Why not?
Aha, now, in late 2018, with perhaps the fifth reading of this pesky manuscript, I do realize why. The answer comes in the final paragraph, where I hinted that I knew of a language that would help make sense of my experience.
What was (and is) that language? Well, if you know me, you might guess: astrology. If you don’t know me, let me say here that I have worked as a professional consulting and teaching astrologer since the mid-1970s! But now, from the vantage point of late 2018, I realize that I do not want to include astrology in this manuscript. This too, is unlike me, as I often find myself weaving threads of this ancient symbolic language into my writing process.
But this time, I would rather just finish the story of days two and three and leave it at that. Leave astrology out of it. Let the reader make what he or she will of the story in its entirety, and be satisfied myself that, at last, I have been able to finish my recounting of that three-day transformation.
[Several days later]: Oh, but wait! Yes I do want to include astrology, just not inside the story itself, but rather, as an Appendix. Why? Because I now realize that the ten-year span between unfinished manuscript in 2008 and the task of completing it in late 2018 is stunningly astrological in its implications. But: those implications couldn’t have been recognized then, ten years ago; and frankly, I sense that I — and we — can only barely begin to comprehend them now.
What am I talking about? Wait and see. Finish the story first, then, if curious, check out the astrology. You might be glad you did, for it gifts another, almost haunting dimension to this personal tale.
Okay, but . . .
Astrology aside, why couldn’t I just have finished it up in late 2008, by continuing the story of day one through days two and three? As I said, I usually do tell personal stories from beginning to end. They flow out, like rivers. But this one did not. Instead, it began to flow, and then got flooded with contextual considerations necessary to advance the plot.
Too bad, because at that point, the memories were still fresh, very fresh, On the other hand, though no longer fresh and detailed, they are in still very strong in skeletal form, ten years later.
Back then, I could have gone into heartfelt detail in relating various conversations, mostly on the phone with family and old friends, while approaching death from pancreatic cancer.
Instead, I can only rely on memory of fleeting moments from long-distance conversations with two family members that return to me now, ten years later. Interestingly enough, these two, my father and one of my sisters, have both since died — and yet I live on!
I remember especially one telling moment from my discussion with Dad, a medical doctor. “What about pain,” he had asked, plaintively. “Would you like something for pain?” I had already told him I didn’t want medical care. That I wanted to die on my own terms, and consciously. His question came from a deep, compassionate, almost wrenching place within himself. I very much appreciated the question, and especially his tone, and of course it made me think. Did I want medicine to alleviate or numb pain?
Like everyone else, he too was very much on board once I related my experience of being in the hospital ER, and how I had opened to the special atmosphere and process of dying. His concern for pain demonstrated both his caring and his expert understanding of typical physical symptoms attending pancreatic cancer.
The other conversation I especially remember was with my sister Mary who had suffered on and off from various forms of cancer herself for nearly 40 years before she finally died a few years after I did not. When I called her, she instantly warmed to the conversation, turned effortlessly effusive, and launched into gratitude, singing my praises. “You were my real mother when I was growing up!”
“Huh?” This surprised me.
“Yes, you paid more attention to me than Mom ever did.” (Keep in mind that Mom had eight children, and so was inherently distracted from any single one of them.) “One time we were playing scrabble, and I came up with an unusual word. You told me I was smart!” she exclaimed, still clearly relishing that moment when I had affirmed an aspect of her that she very much needed.
Oh wow, just as I am thinking back to the 2008 experience here in late 2018, sitting in the same chair as ten years ago, these two memories flood to the surface.
I ended up calling both parents, my six sisters, and both my brothers on that first afternoon. Something made me do it. I felt utterly compelled. During each extended conversation my sibling and I would dive into an intimate world specific to the relationship the two of us had held since childhood. We were communing, our hearts and psyches synchronized with the intensely powerful experience that I was recounting — and undergoing!
With each sibling, initial shock gave way to spaciousness, almost relaxation. Gratitude for our extraordinary, heartfelt connection. A sense of mystery, depth, the sacred. With each discussion, I could feel the atmosphere of love palpably expanding, deepening. None of us were holding back. All of us were right here, right now, present in this precious moment, attuned to one another and to my dying process.
On the second day I continued the phone conversations, first with the most difficult calls, those to each of my two sons, Sean and Colin. I’m surprised that I don’t remember the contents of our discussions, or even our tone. I have a feeling that I am actively blocking my memory of the pain that I sensed in them, their terrible, wrenching struggle to accept what I was asking of them. The three of us had been separated for a long time during their childhood, and though we had gotten back together again, the breach had not fully healed. So how could I go and die on them?
After that, I continued the easier interplays — with one of my former husbands (the other three were already dead!), plus former lovers and dear old friends from childhood and various phases of adulthood.
During these soulful meetings, at some point during this second day I found myself visualizing a certain bridge in New York’s Central Park, one that husband Jeff and I had walked under during an autumn vacation in 2002, a year or so before his death of a heart attack. I imagined this bridge buttressed horizontally with a narrowing energetic channel directed towards it, just as ranchers funnel animals into what gradually turns into a chute. In my imagination, the chute ended where the tunnel under the bridge began. And I knew: Upon entering that tunnel, there would be no return.
During the second day of that three day period, I saw myself, having entered that narrowing energetic channel, being gradually nudged towards the tunnel.
Meanwhile, intuitively, and very very strongly, I knew that my task was to continue to connect with loved ones, helping them process and transform initial shock into what I still vividly remember as the inviting spacious sweetness beyond. Until I entered the active dying process, I was to spend my time this way, conversing with loved ones, so that we could all open together into the same loving atmosphere.
Towards the end of the second day, after I had finally gotten off the phone, I was in the middle of my regular, daily, hour-long, late afternoon yoga/chikung/tai chi practice when I gradually became aware of being surrounded by spirits — guides, angels, whatever you want to call them. I could sense them crowding around, excited, as if raising their hands to clink glasses with each other, congratulating themselves. Why?
Instantly, clearly and with not a scintilla of doubt, I knew: they had wondered what would happen if one person, knowing she was dying, and accepting it, was also willing to not just talk about it with friends and family, but in her conversations with them to actually inoculate her entire social sphere into a unified expanding field of universal LOVE.
Would that work? Furthermore, could that transformation be accomplished quickly?
In other words, this was an experiment. These beings in the spirit world needed someone in the 3D world who was not afraid of dying to offer herself as a subject. I fit the bill.
Now imagine this three-day pilot project scaling up. Imagine an entire society beginning to enter the dying process, due to some incoming or ongoing, or near, and inevitable catastrophe that everyone either consciously knows about or unconsciously senses. A possible extinction level event or quickly developing process. Could a massive transformational field of love be quickly generated inside that larger context?
So then I ask myself, is this why I was given the wherewithal to finish this manuscript now, ten years later, when all of us are feeling totally on edge, knowing that something major is approaching, and we don’t know what it is; all we know is that when we look around, most of us are furious, irritable, and increasingly violent, in both words and deeds, seeking to blame the other for what feels like a fiery conflagration in our own hearts.
And further: might it be that those of us who are consciously aware of what we are facing, could generate a massive field of love so very powerful that it would alter an otherwise inexorable timeline? In other words, because of our conscious communion, and because of our commitment to help those not yet conscious, what had promised to be an extinction level event might be either miraculously averted or transformed? — Or not! And might it be that either way it wouldn’t matter? For we were, and we are, LOVE. The usual barrier, between me and you, between life and death, dissolves.
Again, might the conscious among us, we who discover that we do not fear death, in waking up together, and helping others to wake up too, simultaneously recognize how much we need and value each other’s company — and indeed, each other’s full personal expression and fully mutual cooperation — so that from now on, from this singularity point on, we easily continue to accept and nourish this sweet liquid field of universal love?
On the morning of the third day, I had an appointment with a doctor. He prescribed an MRI exam, which, wouldn’t you know, revealed that the growth in question was not in the pancreas, but in the liver! — where, he said, “it’s probably no big deal.”
And so there I was, after this apparent, and very intense and transformational dying process, the experience itself fully felt and fully accepted, suddenly released again to live. Resurrection!
Which meant, of course, that I would have to call everybody back, and let them know that I was not dying, after all. That took the rest of the third day. You can imagine the relief, and the laughter.
In order to ease the worry of the medical profession, I agreed to submit to a sonogram every three months, both to check on the ovarian cysts, and to monitor the size of that “fibroid tumor” in the uterus that had “a larger blood supply than we would like.”
Myself? I wasn’t worried. As I told them, I’ve probably had all these growths in me for 30 or 40 years, and will most likely die with them, not of them.
Nearly three years later, the doctor who had been administering the sonogram finally admitted that I was right. I would probably die with them and not of them. “Come back for one final check, a year from now,” she told me. But when I called a year later to make my final appointment, I was told that the doctor herself had died! Some kind of fast-growing cancer, the receptionist said. She had been in fine health, was a runner, and only in her 40s.
During that same period of time, I had also been seeing a naturopath on a regular basis. But then, when I called to make another appointment with him, was told he had also died! He had been chainsawing wood, and a large branch fell on him from above. This happened near his home in the forest. His friends had found his body.
So here I am now, ten years later and going on 76 years old, the spent lives of two family and two medical helpers strewn behind me — and I’m still alive, still kicking! What’s next?
What new and transformative process will I engage in that might further assist me, and my beloveds, to absorb, integrate, and move through this climactic era in human history?