Last night I had dinner with one of my soulmates. Though we live in opposite corners of the country, we make dinner together a priority whenever work brings him here. It was work that introduced us a little over a year ago, and without a doubt, we both know that the Universe allowed our paths to converge for the purpose of our soul connection and mutual growth.
It was at our dinner in February that he shared with me his diagnosis and prognosis. At that time, he was on an experimental drug that would not cure him, but might prolong his life. In actuality, it nearly killed him. His body responded to the drug by shutting down his organs. Gratefully, he was rescued in time, and recovered from the threat of modern medicine. The oncologist had given him until Summer, and last night we clinked our toast to one another just days before the Autumn Equinox.
Since that February night, when he shared such a vulnerable truth with me, I have been asking him the important questions: What is your joy? His answer: No one has ever asked me that before, Melissa. And after careful thought, he further replied: My husband of 22 years. Okay, I say… if you feel you must continue to work, and can work from anywhere… can you go with him to follow his passion and work from there? His answer: I hadn’t thought of that! And so, this summer – he did just that. I had also asked the questions about his need to work. I thought that if I had a fairly certain deadline, I would cash in my 401K, regardless of penalty, and utilize my hard earned savings to live my life more fully for the limited number of days remaining. If I had a partner, I would ensure that our assets were protected in whatever way would prevent the bank from taking them to pay my medical bills. I would then spend the rest of my days self-employed, with every assignment and task before me to be dedicated to love, joy, laughter, and procurement of peace. He took some steps to feel more prepared, but has continued to work… feeling that he would need health insurance with his ‘pre-existing condition’. I hate that anyone should feel this way! I loathe the fact that we live in such a rich country, grotesque in comparison to many, which does nothing to care for the citizens who work daily to nurture its greatness. The fact that a dying person should feel they must spend their final days in a soul-sucking role, forfeiting time with their loved ones to meet the needs of shareholders who care nothing for their well-being or how devastated the survivors will be, not only for the loss of their beloved, but for the greater loss of their time and attention when they were still living.
Last night, my friend shared with me that he is working twelve hour days for a company that does not value and appreciate him. It is thankless work that brings him no joy, save for our dinners when he comes to town. I argue that a corporation that would require an employee who is immunocompromised to get on a plane once a month would be complicit in his future decline, and yet I am grateful for each and every time that he lands in my city.
My darling friend longs for laughter which once was a daily ritual… and I feel he should have it! Having recently learned from my financial planner that I can collect a monthly income from my IRA without penalty, until I turn 59, I asked my friend his age. He declared that he had never shared his true age with anyone, but then confessed that he is already at an age where he can collect those funds, as well as social security. Further, he noted that his mortgage is paid in full. In other words, the only reason for him to sacrifice his valuable time to a corporation is for the fear of requiring health care. One of the important notes within my end of life doula studies is about the blessing of hospice care. I’m pretty sure that this is the one good thing to come from my friend’s prognosis… when one is given six months to live, they automatically qualify for hospice care. I think people fear engaging such care because it might feel like a statement to the universe that they are giving up on life. I wholly disagree. Consider that one might engage hospice for the care that is their right to receive, while living in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, and then set out to defy the prognosis of one’s disease. Hospice will see you reach the six month mark, and adjust their sails to get you all the way home when the time is right.
So, I have challenged my soulmate to go home and do his research… and then to make himself his own priority. His husband is already doing so. My friend worries that he dotes too much. He is blessed to have a partner who wants to be sure that he is comfortable, that he is well-fed, that he feels loved and cherished at every moment of every day. With tears in my eyes, I assured my friend that I would give anything to have that kind of love in my life… and begged him to let go and receive it… to be saturated and enveloped by it. I told him that when he retires, he won’t be coming to my city for work anymore… so I would simply have to come to him. I am looking forward to that celebration, in his home town, one day very soon. He has important work ahead of him, and that current job doesn’t deserve him. His number one careholder, however, totally deserves every ounce of his energy, every moment of his valuable time, every rise of his laughter, and the blessing of being of service to the one person on this planet that he holds most dear, for all of his remaining days upon the earth – be they long or few.
My soulmate tells me that each time he sees me, he is filled with renewal and hope, as I provide sustenance to ponder. The funny thing is, were it not for his presence in my life, none of this wisdom would have been available to me. Had my empathic heart not been introduced to his courageous soul, the past year of my life might not have been spent in deep contemplation of my own joy and happiness. It was that conversation in February that led to awareness of end of life doula study, and though I still am unsure of where this path will lead, I know for certain that learning more about death has taught me way more about life. It is meant to be filled with love, light, laughter, and joy… and when there is suffering… it is meant to be honored, comforted, and held in reverence.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… I am off to research flights to the other corner of the country. Celebration awaits… and I have to develop a word that means more than grateful.