A year ago, my close friend was in his final days of life. Only a few months prior, he helped me through the grieving stages from having lost my friend, Janet, and my precious Terrier-Poodle mix of 13 years, Elvis. Here I was again, about to be forced to say goodbye to another friend. This friend was also my spiritual teacher; his name was Jim Dixon. During our discernments, he taught me a mind hack that would involve a deep focus on a memory of Elvis and allowing that memory to soothe me. Jim would explain that “the mind doesn’t know the difference between that memory and reality.” I sometimes wonder if he subconsciously knew that he was teaching me how to recall him without pain. Jim was rapidly losing his battle with cancer as the pandemic spread like wildfire. By the time I got back from a business trip, we couldn’t see each other in person anymore. He was diligently fighting for his life, and it meant safeguarding him from the virus.
I often revisit this quote by Tao Te-Ching, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready, the teacher will disappear”. Jim appeared in my late 30s in the disguise of a landlord: tall man, with a voice that commanded cogitation and attention, like that of the late Fred Gwynne. His bursts of distinguishable belly laughter never failed to ground me into the present moment with some semblance of joy. As the property owner of my dwelling, we shared a wall. Jim lived in the front wing, which made things so convenient for us as we grew closer. Jim was an energy healer; he could sense where I held pain and helped remove it with a combination of reiki and massage. Our relationship radically transformed as we began working on creative projects together. He no longer saw me as a tenant, nor did he want to be perceived as a landlord. He disliked forms of authority, and he reinforced the questioning authority figures. I was his confidant that he trusted with his intimate stories and creative aspirations. Jim wasn’t ready to leave his body. He was nowhere near prepared; even as a spiritual mentor, he was not prepared to transition. He had too many projects to complete.
Be Prepared for Life and Death
What’s coming up for me during the anniversary of the pandemic is the lesson I learned this past year which is to… be prepared for life and death. The deadly virus took the lives of a family friend and 3 family members of another close friend. Each month I came across a post about another acquaintance losing a family member. I felt encircled by death and knowing that having chronic asthma decreases my own chances of survival only exasperated anxiety. All this loss made me reflect on how much time I have left and how I wish to spend that time.
I learned from my friends who died before the virus that they were unprepared; their family members or executors had a lot to swift through, dump out, or give away. Apparently, their estates were also not complete. I now do my best to get rid of things that are no longer serving a purpose. I want to be prepared by leaving as little for my own family to deal with. Life insurance is now a necessity. I also want to create everything my heart desires and share what I make regardless of public opinion. My favorite phrase in Spanish is “Dar or Dando a Luz” which translates to “Give or Giving Birth.” We say this when a woman goes into labor.
Twenty-two years ago, on March 23rd, I went into labor giving birth to a precious son. My son deserves a happy life, a life with me in it for as long as I can stay here. He also deserves to not have chaos in his life while he’s grieving; here lies my responsibility to be prepared for when my time comes. The irony is that as I prepare for my own death, whether it’s soon or another 30 years from now, I am learning how to live. Each minute of my day matters more than ever before; by preparing to die, I am also preparing for life. I am ready now for the spontaneity of life that requires giving up certainty for creativity. It requires a constant and intentional willingness to give birth to my ideas with the courage needed for actual physical vaginal labor to share my creations with the world.
When I saw that article from Anna Maltby with the question, “What comes to mind when you think about the Pandemic Anniversary?” I knew I had to channel the courage to share this very intimate story with my vital life lesson to be prepared for life and death.