My friend, Rubin, is a university chemistry professor, and also a practitioner of Ericksonian psychotherapy. His focus is treating patients facing end-of-life issues. Rubin wrote to me recently about his friend, Mary, living with ovarian cancer for the last four years. After the initial surgery and chemotherapy, she went into remission. A year ago doctors found brain metastases which subsequent treatment did not eradicate.
Trained as a scientist, Mary is also a peace activist and a ceramicist. A student of Native American culture, she has participated in Native ceremonies and wears a Native healing amulet around her neck. Rubin had given her one of my books awhile back, with which she resonated. Then he wrote several weeks ago, to ask if I’d send Mary my guided imagery CD, Facing Serious Illness. I was happy to and sent it along with a short note saying, I hoped my voice would speak to her between my written lines.
A week later, Rubin got in touch again and said Mary was declining and that it would mean a lot to her if I called. I did, and we spoke for a while. She said hearing my voice on the CD was great and that she loved my books, but hearing me live, right now, she could also feel my spirit. It was a wonderful connection and before goodbyes, I asked her to send me a photograph of herself so that I could picture her when I sent blessings.
A week later, I got some photographs of Mary, her husband, children, and grandchildren, along with this note:
I very much appreciated your call yesterday, it was definitely a big moment in my life. Without Rubin in my life we would not have made this connection. I think that’s the most important thing I’ve learned in life. It is my connections to the world that are healing. That’s different from how I was raised. I’m from Knoxville, have a Master’s in bacteriology which made it hard for me to break away from rational, scientific, tunnel-vision, about how people get sick and well.
But life shakes you up, so you have to approach things differently. Opening my self up to a healing community has been a transforming experience. All my relations keep my spirits up (and I hope my immune system is well). I am optimistic, look forward to every day. Thank you for being connected to me, I feel your blessings.
–With love, Mary.
That evening, I went to a concert featuring my favorite contemporary bluegrass band, Alison Krauss and Union Station. I love bluegrass music; the infectious, toe-tapping banjo riffs make me happy, and those plaintive wails of endless suffering touch my soul. Alison is a magnificent fiddler, and she has surrounded herself with a band of world-class musicians. It is her voice, however, that penetrates my heart — a clear, high-pitched voice of an angel. Alison came back for an encore following thunderous applause. She walked out alone and sang a’ capella. It was a bluegrass spiritual, “ . . .let my life, be a living prayer my God, to thee . . .” and I saw Mary’s smiling face, surrounded by her granddaughter wearing a red clown nose, and again sent my blessing.
Connecting with someone this way is a gift to them and to you.