So far I have talked about some of my personal stages of acceptance--yes, I'm not going to call them stages of grief because they are all key players ending with the result of acceptance.
Here's the steps I've covered in the previous blog entry:
Forced Calm (denial-ish)
Anger, Sadness, Bargaining
Opening up to the "safe person"
Confessing and revealing
After months of grieving, saying goodbye to my life and goodbye to those I loved, I moved into the next phase that I call the Daily Grind. This is where I established a routine. I built strategies around how to maximize the convenience of my living space. I had my painting projects to keep my creative juices flowing. I had internal projects on how to become a better person. TV was a source of entertainment and stimulation and, with the help of TIVO, I had a plan of what to watch and when. Life with my illness never became easy but it did become more normal. I had entered the Daily Grind.
As I spent more and more time alone, more and more time unable to do much physically, I began to live a life of "quiet contemplation." (Isn't that a phrase from Thoreau's "Walden"?) As my outer body weakened, my inner body strengthened and I was beginning to feel a deep connection with myself as well as The Divine. I began to feel connected to the Universe in a way I had never experienced before.
This feeling of connection grew deeper and deeper over time. At some point, I had a series of revelations.
1- It was my body that was sick, not my spirit.
2- I had a choice if I wanted to suffer emotionally as well as physically.
3- We all die, why did I think I was so special that I should somehow be exempt?
4- When I left this earth, I would be going home, not leaving it.
5- I had faced what many would consider is the worst case scenario: there was nothing I couldn't process and come to terms with.
These revelations were accompanied by feelings of happiness and often laughter--like my seriousness had been so serious I deserved to be teased a little. These thoughts and feelings gave way to my next step: understanding.
It was like I was seeing the world through a grid. When I saw a problem or heard a friend tell a story of frustration, I could almost see the way that the events in question fit with together and made perfect sense. It was like I could say "Well, if A and B are true than it's only to be expected that Y would happen just as it did!" The universe appeared to me to be a perfect place of balance. I felt so much like an integral part. This where I began to concentrate on That Which Is Important. I attribute this kind of understanding to being so close to the other side--it was as though I had one foot on earth and one foot standing in whatever was awaiting (heaven, the spirit realm, whatever you choose to call it.)
Okay, this is getting way too drawn out so I am going to lump my last three steps together: Peace, Gratitude and Joy. I don't mean to say I never had bad days; please remember what I wrote about all of these phases cycling around. For the most part, however, once I had come to terms with my fate and connected with the universe, I was at peace. Once you've faced the worst, what is there to be in distress about? (I am speaking emotionally, not physically.)
I felt gratitude for the love around me and for the time I spent every day getting to know my true self as well as The Divine. This is what I called being a monastery monk: I was grateful for the privilege to live a life of connection and contemplation, something few people get to do.
I felt joy. Plain and simple.
As I have written about before, that period in my life was a vibrant time and one I think on fondly.
I am so happy I am here, but I know some of the journey that is ahead for the next time I must face my end. It's an intensely difficult road with the potential for amazing and unexpected rewards.
Not everyone who passes away reaches the same place of acceptance I have described. I have two hopes:
1- I hope that many more people will discover the possibility of joy at the end of life, either through me or some one else, and our society's approach to death will change over time.
2- I hope that, no matter how some one felt at the moment of death, that it doesn't matter one stinky bit. I hope that we all feel great peace and joy once we leave the confines of this body.