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There is a feeling we have sometimes of betraying some mission we were mandated to fulfill, and being unable to fulfill it. And then coming to understand that the real mandate was not to fulfill it. And that the deeper courage was to stand guiltless in the predicament in which you find yourself. – Leonard Cohen

People are usually surprised to hear how I really feel about living my life under such extreme circumstances: being unable to move from the neck down after being a competitive athlete my entire life, living in a body that can barely keep me alive, having difficulty speaking audibly when tired and barely being able to whisper. It just boggles people’s minds that I could live my life with so much gratitude for being, so much gratitude for having as much independence as I have, defying what our medical establishment is able to tolerate due to the excellent, compassionate, spiritually-driven circle of women and men who surround me and care for me. The paradigm we have co-created has allowed me to focus on what I truly value – connecting deeply with the people I love and helping them to allow more Love in their lives.

I live an interesting paradox. My body is in hospice, but my mind and my Spirit are experiencing the most joy I could ever imagine in life. How can that possibly be? I could never understand it without living it. It is true that I cannot move, eat, eliminate, without complete dependence on others, however, there is so much I can do that I would never have been able to with a fully, functioning body.

My life has always been about service–service through my psychotherapy practice, service through my interracial gospel choir in New Orleans, service through my nonviolent communication groups and my caregiving and women’s circles, not to mention service to anyone who enters my house, including the UPS man. There’s nothing that gives me more joy than helping someone recognize and allow more beauty and love into their lives, especially self-love which is from where all love emanates. It is only through love that world peace can be achieved.

With my body slowly dying from a neurological illness, the progression happens gradually; I lose one function, one ability after another. Everybody goes through this process during aging, mine is merely accelerated. To me, death will be an adventure when the time is right. After allowing myself many years of grieving, I began to see the brilliance of this curriculum. Suffering is minimal. I believe that grief only becomes suffering when it is not fully felt. My suffering has been mostly emotional. If I’d had too much physical pain to bear, I might be having a different conversation. Earlier in the illness, I broke many bones during accidents: sternum, toes, patella, femur, but they have all healed. Unlike most people with end-stage illness, I am fortunate to have little neurogenic pain. Everything is firing from the neck up, so I am able to strategize my circumstances to avoid pressure sores from becoming septic, aches from becoming chronic, my mind from becoming stagnant, and to free my heart to continually emanate and feel love.

When one is moving toward the end of their life, often dreams can become more vivid. Upon awakening, recounting the dreams of my sleeping state often reveal inner work that is yet to be addressed. Sometimes my dreams merely clear emotional material that is clouding my clarity; dreams are always regenerative teachers. Lately, I have been experiencing my dreams as a bridge to the Spirit world, perhaps to aid my transition.

In one such dream, I was painting columns of an antebellum home a particular color well known to Southerners – shutter green. Shutter green is the color many shutters are painted in Louisiana where I lived and raised my children for 30 years. I frequently dream of the turn-of-the-century home where I raised my family. The house in the dream was clearly a variation of that home and magnificent property. We lived off a highway called Military Road where confederate soldiers were rumored to have marched, thus giving it that name.

In the dream, I was painting these columns with the woman who owned the house. I knew her name clearly. It was Monique (or Monica) Marie Crane. I remember feeling that it was essential to me that the woman feel good about the work I was doing. Her husband would be home soon and I wanted the column he would see first to be meticulously painted. Doing a meticulous job felt almost like a spiritual calling. There was no duress, no external pressure.

I remember looking into a full-length mirror and seeing a very pleasant black man! I can remember moving my arms to see if the reflection would move with me. It did. I was clearly the man in the mirror. The love I felt looking for the man was profound. I can still feel it today as I recall the dream. There was no sense of time, no feeling of enslavement, no sense of victimization. Pleasing others with my craft was deeply satisfying.

After I woke up, I felt such love for this man that I told my friend who is a hospice chaplain about the dream. She affirmed its significance and offered her own perspective. She saw how this man’s life appeared to parallel my life, that I’ve lived life’s circumstances with much gratitude and no feelings of enslavement, despite the lack of freedom of movement. As she described this, I felt the kinship with this man. I felt deep love that I cannot understand cognitively.

We live many lives in one life and perhaps we live many lives in many lives. The I who is, is constant. The I is forever.

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The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly. – Frederick Nietzsche

There are times I feel on the periphery of life, that life is an illusion, and not feeling a part of it is, perhaps, less illusory. I’ve heard the theory that our dream life is more real than our waking life. Much of the time, I feel I am living in a liminal state on the threshold of a great adventure.

On the other hand, sitting in my chair twenty-two hours a day, does not preclude me from experiencing a vital and extraordinary life. I thoroughly enjoy the care and relationship with my caregivers, family, and friends. They know how important they are to me and how much I love them. They also know that I love my alone time. I tell them, I love when you come and I love when you go. This statement often relieves any concern they might have about leaving me alone, as I add, I am good company.

Some of my time is spent connecting with people online, supporting people experiencing grief, change, or even perilous challenges in their lives. I enjoy listening to podcasts, my friends’ blogs, archival news programs, or advocating for the latest issue I feel passionate about contacting senators, congressmen, or other officials. I call my chair command central.

The fly can survive the harshest living conditions and still manage to feed, grow, and breed. It is one tough survivor and plays a vital role in the cycle of life. Sometimes I feel like a fly on the wall of life. Often there is sadness when I cannot connect with my family when desired or when I feel out of sync with their lives. If I could fly and visit them on the East  Coast and share their lives, that might be a different story. Recently, I read a book by Robert Monroe titled, Journey Out of the Body, published in 1971, about the author experimenting with separating from his physical body. He was a scientist and took meticulous, contemporaneous notes. When he finally achieved his goal, his hand went through the wall feeling multiple layers of texture until he was on the other side of the wall and could journey freely without the encumbrance of his physical body.

Lately, when I think of myself as a fly on the wall, instead of feeling like there is a wall between myself and others, this wall is beginning to thin, to become permeable. It feels more like a portal, a sacred threshold leading to a sense of freedom I have never felt before in this lifetime. Intuitively, I just know on the other side of the wall is an expanded space of connection and love.

When I was a child, I used to have flying dreams. I could leap from building to building. Flying dreams are common, but often diminish through our lives. I wonder if, as one nears the end of one’s life, these dreams reawaken. Perhaps there is a Knowing that’s getting evoked, like recovering a memory.

People ask me how I could possibly feel so calm, so accepting of my physical circumstance. I sometimes sense a recollection of plans made prior to this lifetime. They are not vivid memories, but more allegorical. The feeling that I am in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing, is quite literal.

It is, perhaps, this knowing that gives me the peace and calm that is perceived by others and it is, perhaps, this Knowing that forms a bridge from this reality of matter to the numinous.

Soon enough I will get my wings and fly away from this beautiful life, this identity, this extraordinary curriculum I have so dearly cherish. And in that Knowing, I have no doubt I will assist my loved ones from the other side and be like a fly on the wall, ever persistent and ever present.