Wishful Angels

In Sickness and in Health…A blog for grieving spouses

Clouds above.

Stellar loyalty copy

Tonight I am drawn into a melancholy reverie about JP. It is the end of a long day, a new web project looms on the horizon, difficult negotiations have been the order of the day and I have spent 2 hours doing my best to hold space for a dozen grieving souls who have somehow found the courage in their darkest moment to seek help.

There was something about tonight’s meeting that really got to me, that penetrated the force field I erect around my emotions during group meetings because I can’t facilitate if I’m a sobbing mess. Perhaps it was the rawness of members who are still in the triage phase of grief, when you can barely breathe, when your nerves are on fire and the need to escape this reality is so real it scares you. Or perhaps it was the heart breaking moment when a fairly new member, racked with regret, asked why she had failed to donate her lung to her dying husband because that would have proven to him that she really loved him. Pretty soon after this, I started to secretly fall apart, in a way that I haven’t done for many years.

There was a time when all I wanted was to be free of my pain. I fixated on forward motion because every step forward meant another step away from my past, away from my pain, away from the memories of death and disease. Look ahead I told myself, because somewhere in the future, just beyond your reach, is freedom from pain. I adopted mantras and practiced meditations to find joy, to transform tragedy into a sign of Divine mercy. I worked hard, really hard to not give in to the downward spiral of guilt that leads to regret that leads to self recrimination that leads to the dark abyss of despair. I faced some awful truths about myself, looked squarely at my character flaws and finally did something about them. The road back has been long and lonely. But for the past year and a half, I’ve been proclaiming to everyone I meet that I’m in a great place, better than I ever expected, enthusiastic and grateful. I’ve held the torch high for my tribe that not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, there is a wondrous and bright future and a better You awaits if you can understand that this is a journey of self discovery. These are not just the words of a motivational speaker, they are not empty promises but realizations born from my own experience and journey.

And that all came from a pivotal moment, about fifteen months ago, when I noticed with a kind of bemused surprise, that I’d finally arrived at my long awaited future. It was shortly after moving to New York that I noticed a kind of absence of something inside. Something had shifted, something was new about my internal world. Searching through my inner being, I realized with amazement, that the missing thing was sadness. Sadness had tainted my inner world for five years and had been there so long it had become my default state. Incredibly, I realized with profound relief, this weight, this sadness was finally gone. And perhaps because I thought it might be momentary, that it wasn’t actually real, I grabbed every opportunity to tell everyone I knew that I was finally healed, I was finally happy. I had moved into the next phase of my life.

Since that moment, I have been living on a cloud, floating above the heaving mass of humanity that is New York’s rat race, rejoicing in my emotional freedom, beaming smiles of detachment upon my fellow Gothamites. I’ve reveled in this feeling without taking it for granted. I’ve made it a daily practice to acknowledge every day, that it is a gift from the Gods. But still, inside of me, a voice whined accusingly, “it’s been months since you wrote anything. How long are you going to float around up there, enjoying your joy?” I replied snippishly, “I like being happy, Hell, I deserve to be happy”. And for added reinforcement, I claimed artistic license. “I’m waiting for inspiration, for something worth writing about to emerge from my subconscious or from life itself”.

But it is clear to me now, that I’ve unconsciously created a new kind of wall to protect my hard earned joy. A wall that had begun to separate me from the other side, the dark side.

So here I sit tonight, having fallen from my golden cloud, diving into the past, the memories and reflecting on my recovery. I remember again that woman who had no idea idea what she was doing, who refused to accept that her husband was dying, who realized too late, that after 10 years together, she had never shown her husband how much she loved him. As I drown in my memories and the words flow again, something emerges that I hope to never forget.

Grief woke me up years ago, shook me to the core and forced me to make long overdue changes to my way of doing and of being. Grief masqueraded as my enemy but really, it was my benedictory friend. Grief has made me kind, and softened my heart. Grief gave me the fearlessness to sit and share another’s pain so they know at least, that they are not alone. Grief ultimately became my teacher and above all, the doorway to transcendent joy and a surrendered acceptance that in the fullness of human experience, there will never be one without the other.

Today, almost six years after JP passed, I can admit to myself quietly that during the years of JP’s illness, there was a kind of aliveness to that period, a quickening, a fast track I guess to self realization. I was more awake to the urgency of time slipping through my clutching hands, but back then it was all new. I was scared and thrust into an unknown world where nothing made sense. I reacted by doing as I always do, because activity to me, meant forward motion, away from the naked truth of life in it’s finite and fleeting moments.

But I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve learned to replace doing with being. I make time to stop and experience life. I live in the moments. I watch them pass. I stop just to notice myself noticing and I obsessively drag myself back to the present. The difference to my sense of aliveness now, is that before, the catalyst was fear and grief. Today, the catalyst is knowledge and experience. Now when I look to the future, it is with the desire to always feel invigoratingly alive, be it through pain and grief or through beauty and love and everything in between. And if I find myself back on that cloud, I hope that it will be with an emotionally open and forgiving heart, even more surrendered to Divine will and praying always for opportunities to serve and elevate all who come my way.


A Good day to die

A good day to die


When my time comes, I want to embrace death with open arms. I want to step into my dying as I step now into every day of my life, with wonder and anticipation of how the mysterious hand of God will be revealed. I want to accept dying as another opportunity to be more present and to feel. I want to see death as the ultimate doorway to freedom, that breaks any remaining shackles of fear and attachment I have to this temporary realm. May my meditation on death and dying not contract my soul with fear but expand with the joy of a new adventure, where tingling excitement finds it’s source in the mystery and fullness of the journey itself.

Imagine living with such richness of emotion and fearlessness of purpose because we understand that we are but here for a short time and that this life is a mere moment on the eternal continuum of our soul’s journey. Let us every day of our lives, help one another to leave with less baggage than when we entered. Let us find the connectedness we seek as soul brothers and sisters, lovers and friends, by standing with arms raised in salute with respectful admiration, to farewell one who’s time it is to leave this body and enter another.

Fellow travelers, we fly around the cosmos by the thread of our unfulfilled desires. Haunted by fears, chasing dreams, forgetful but ever hopeful. Hapless and barely conscious, we live and die by the laws of nature, cause and effect, intoxicated sometimes with love and shattered at other times by loss. Hardly stopping for a moment to ask ourselves, for what do I hope? For what do I desire? Unable to choose beyond the sensory dictates of mind and body, death is the evil of our nightmares. And when it comes, we are defenseless.

So let us not be innocent children, alone and afraid in the dark. Let us contemplate our dying, so that we can live without fear of the dark places. Let us choose to live such that death becomes a stepping stone, consciously chosen and eagerly anticipated. Let death be a friend bearing gifts and not the thief that steals away our most treasured possessions.

With each breath of life that brings me closer to my last, let me say, today is a good day to die.


Courage and practice

wisdom copy



Yesterday I saw a blind man with his seeing eye dog trying to cross Park Avenue. It was rush hour, pedestrians were spilling over the sidewalk onto the road, cars were jammed and an ambulance was trying to get through. Perhaps it was the squealing sirens and the people walking against the lights that confused the dog, but he started to lead his master across the road right when the jam cleared momentarily and the cars started to go. I was next to him and reached out to pull him back to the safety of the sidewalk, apologizing loudly and trying to explain that the lights were not green and that he needed to wait. Fearing for his life, I asked him if he needed any help getting to where he needed to go. He said ‘No, I’m ok thank you’, so I replied ‘Ok’, though I was full of doubt. As we crossed the street, I walked behind him and watched anxiously as he somehow avoided the construction barriers that were placed haphazardly on the corner of the side walk when we arrived on the other side. Thankfully this side of the street had less pedestrians so he turned right and continued unimpeded, uptown.

I stood on the street corner watching him and his dog walk away until he disappeared amongst the crowd, suppressing the urge to run after him and beg that he let me take him safely to his destination. I had to respect his independence, so I continued on my way to the park, trying to stop the tears welling up in my eyes from falling so I wouldn’t look like a sad, crazy person.

Seeing people with disabilities has always made my heart ache but these days, my reactions are much stronger. As I think and write about this now, on the surface I’m sure it’s because of all the times I was helpless to prevent JP from falling and hurting himself many times as paralysis set in on his left side. When he walked he bumped into people and things because his vision was impaired and sometimes towards the end, he fell out of bed before the hospice nurses let us have a hospital bed at home. Of course, all these sad memories are triggered when I see people with disabilities now, but something made me question if this was the whole truth.

Sadness always leads me to think of JP. I used to think that sadness would eventually give way to happiness, as if one would follow the other in linear fashion. It’s been almost five years since JP passed away and when I think of him, it is always tinged with varying levels of pain. But underlying this pain is joy, an entirely new emotion that surprises me with it’s freshness and unfamiliarity. This joy is amazing, I have never felt it in such fullness before. I don’t know where it comes from, perhaps it’s a product or reward for learning to live with sorrow, for facing the dark in all it’s gruesome magnitude until it shaped me into someone less resistant to pain.

I am indescribably grateful that my baseline is more joy now, than sorrow. But it is a strange thing to have sorrow and joy co-existing. I have JP to thank for this. For opening my heart to a fuller experience of life so that I can feel deep sorrow not just for myself, but for someone else. So that I can stand on a street corner in the middle of the Manhattan rush hour and cry for the struggles of life that a blind man has to face.

I would not wish grief on anyone, but what kind of world would this be if we chose to feel our pain? To open ourselves up to feel sorrow and anguish. I suspect that deep and soulful connection for not just humans but all living beings requires no effort if we are able to embrace the full range of our own, individually unique mix of emotions, good and bad – the love and light as well as the despair, anger and pain. I am certain that because sorrow and fear are tangible emotions that I taste daily, I have no problem empathizing with a stranger.

Several years ago I wrote:

“How satisfying to dedicate a few moments each day to stand in someone else’s shoes, understand their perspective and make an honest attempt to be kind. Compassion takes practice.”

Today, I would say that “yes, compassion takes practice but it also takes courage”. Courage to follow the rabbit into the deepest, darkest corners of your heart and mind where pain and fear are carefully hidden. Shine light there, do battle with the dragons of the dark. Don’t be afraid to taste all the countless hurts you bear, make time to heal them and allow them to transform you. You are not alone in the dark. Someone else feels bad too.

Grieving for JP is still brutal, raw and difficult. My path of sadness and pain is well worn, immediately accessible, but because of this, so now is joy and hopefully, compassion.




Grieving – Healing – Transformation

When I first started facilitating a grief support group shortly after moving to NY, my aim was simply to create a supportive environment for members to heal from their grief and to form long lasting bonds of friendship. In the course of five months however, I’ve begun to wonder whether emotional and psychological healing can be contained into an end goal with a finish line.

For the most part, authors on grief and bereavement herald one’s arrival at a peaceful acceptance of loss as the final stage of grief which completes the cycle of grieving. Looking at my own journey these past five years, I reached acceptance fairly quickly, but I was far from healed. In fact, healing has become a daily meditation more akin to a mutable, increasingly habitual yet challenging activity that takes a great deal of effort and commitment but, in turn, affords greater and deeper insights into myself and others.

Healing, whether physical, emotional or psychosocial can sometimes happen almost inspite of ourselves. The body and mind are designed to adapt and heal when given the right support and circumstance. We get hurt and then we heal. There may be scars but only in a minority of cases are we permanently disabled. So how do we heal? Everyone’s healing process is unique and while there may be universally recommended tools and techniques to try, we each have to discover our own individual formula. I’ve also observed that while many heal well, only some flourish and thrive and fewer still, are so indelibly transformed that they rise to become beacons of inspiration to others.

In the first year after JP’s death, the effort to adjust to a space empty of Jp’s absence was a monumental, herculean task. I clung to the hope that I would get back to my old self, that normalcy would one day return and expand into a happy, familiar and predictable life to replace the one I lost. I longed for relief from the ever present sorrow and I had faith that it would happen in time. Even from the earliest moments after JP passed, I had glimpses of the future ‘healed’ me. While sitting with a friend the day after JP passed, I recounted a funny incident between JP and myself that made us both laugh. The laughter was spontaneous and real, an expression of delight at discovering a long forgotten, cherished memory. Moments later however, the laughter was replaced by shame and guilt for being so jovial so soon after JP’s death. This happened many times, quite naturally, even in the first week after JP passed. In this aspect alone, I am grateful for the fickleness of the mind for it simply cannot maintain an interrupted continuum of unceasing sorrow at every moment.

Early on, I discovered that I had acquired two new personas; one who could actually forget that JP was gone and carry on as if nothing had happened, and the other a surly, spiteful character who chastised us when least expected whispering, ‘he’s gone, how could you forget?’ As for the real me, she was lost in oblivion, neither living nor dead, hijacked by these two warring personas.

With help from wonderful friends and mentors, I slowly packaged my healing toolkit which consisted of months of therapy, simple activities, meditation, spiritual association, talking and writing, until eventually, I adjusted to a world without JP. I learned to ignore the seductive inducements of rose colored memories and an idealized past a thousand times more appealing than the lonely present. I chose to forgive myself for mistakes and failures that can never be undone and to use guilt as a motivating force for positive change rather than a quagmire of self recrimination. I surveyed the remnants of my broken self and set about bringing her back to life.

About two years into my healing journey, it finally dawned on me that the old me I had been trying to resurrect, had burned to ashes. I recalled the many times JP expressed wistfully throughout the year following chemotherapy that he couldn’t wait to get his energy back. We both assumed that forward progression and healing, meant a return to the past, but he never regained his strength and energy. JP’s old self was gone and so was mine. Re-construction was impossible, I required a complete redesign.

Although I had adjusted to JP’s absence, had made it through the five cycles of grief and was busy establishing an entirely new life, career and relationship, I was only at the starting point. It was bewildering to me because I was no longer grieving and yet new wounds appeared, long forgotten hurts materialized out of the fog and old ways of getting things done were ineffective. What appeared before me now, was an unforeseen road that beckoned me into the shadowlands of my childhood and past, to duel with unnamed fears, repressed pain and unexpressed anger. Had I chosen not to follow this road, I may still have claimed a rightful place as one of the healed, but complete and utter transformation would have eluded me.

JP’s death once represented a doorway into a maelstrom of pain that I longed to close gently forever. To my surprise and increasing delight however, I keep it open because it has become the portal into a world of adventure and possibility to transform, evolve and transcend. The old me died with JP, but in her place is a more courageous, sensitive, perceptive, compassionate and kinder me who smiles more readily and laughs unreservedly.

Spirit support

The joy of being…

Silence – it’s deafening. I look around at this empty apartment and take in the sinking feeling that I’m alone.

New Yorkers seem to crave ‘alone time’. I see individuals sitting on park benches all over the city, stealing moments, staring into space, encased in an invisible aura of solitude. It’s quite a feat actually to do this amidst the noise and tidal wave of humanity that ebbs and flows through every inch of space here.

I too used to love having time to myself. But since Jp died, being alone is extremely challenging. Solitude triggers at best, feelings of absence and loss and at worst, panic. It’s now associated with an unwanted outcome rather than a state of being. Last week, one of the members of my grief support group described death as the ultimate abandonment. I think she’s right. Jp’s death left me feeling bereft not just from him, but from the life I knew and had imagined. I lost myself in death’s aftermath and these past five years have been a long, slow process of putting myself back together again.

As I listen to my group members share their feelings, it strikes me as a recurring theme that death evokes so much more than the pain of losing a loved one. Death screws with our imaginings of the way life will or is supposed to be. Death is the unexpected, unwanted disturbance to our plans and expectations that causes us to teeter on the edge of disbelief, confusion, insanity, scrambling to find solid ground. Death points inexorably to the truth that life as we know it is in constant flux and the future is as nebulous as a puff of smoke.

Death has changed me. I have strange anxieties and worries that hide in shadows and spring out like mad Jack-in-the-boxes, especially when I think I’m doing just fine. But death has also made me more resilient. I have a higher tolerance for pain. I accept sorrow as a dark but necessary companion and I’ve learned to be still in the presence of fear. These days, coping techniques and historical precedence help tremendously when I feel shaky and overwhelmed. I think back to the days when pain had to be overcome moment by moment and time moved so slowly it might as well have been standing still. I remember that those days are not how I experience life anymore.

Sit, be still, go into this fear as you’ve done so many times in the recent past, “you know what to do”. The minutes pass as I focus on breath and tune into my body. Slowly, as with my dreams about the future, the anxiety and fear that came from being alone slowly subsides, like a puff of smoke. And in it’s place comes a recent, surprising and increasingly familiar sensation that I don’t know what to call other than the joy of being.

Joy is a very new sensation for me. I grew up in a strict and joyless Chinese family environment where duty and responsibility were emphasized above all else. So I’m curious about this bubbling joy. It’s mystical and bemusing and all the more strange because it doesn’t seem to be caused or tied to anything at all. I’m not sure what the source of this joy is and so I just accept it gratefully for now, as a state of being that I hope will become my natural, default state in time.

Along with this joy I have found deep gratitude. Not because life is good or at least better, or even because I’m not so sad any more. I’m grateful that I can embrace all of life’s offerings, good and bad. I’m grateful to have pushed past the search for security in material things and even in relationships. As a friend, a consultant, a partner, I can hold space for you whether you are joyous and celebrating or whether you are torn apart by sorrow and grief.

There is much more for me to learn to navigate this amazing life. But today, I’ll take the joy and gratitude and be at peace with simply being.

The tale of my life

Of songs I have sung and books I have written
secrets I’ve kept and sins half forgiven
There’s one book left
I’m afraid to write
One book to tell
the tale of my life

It starts with a child who would sing at play
before sadness came and stole her away
Into a woman she grew
with deep lost eyes
That search for joy
in the tale of her life

Many nights I have spent in the arms of men
burning in the hell of a heart bereft
But for one did I fall
and become a wife
Now that chapter is closed in
the tale of my life

With duty you bound me tighter than blood
chained to your ring till I bled for love
I tried to save you
I would have given my life
Though gone, I’ll not forget
the tale of your life

There are nights when I’ve cried myself to sleep
tortured by memories that force me to weep
What haunts me a ghost
who will not die
Who fills each page with
regrets of my life

As I walk by the sea the ocean whispers to me
of it’s power to heal and set me free
From the pain of your death
that I’ve learned to survive
With the strength of sorrow
I will live my life

When the frosted earth gives way to summer’s blaze
and dreamers awake from somnambulant daze
I lie with you
in the morning light
And pledge my debt
for saving my life

There are years I’ve spent mourning for those I have lost
and healed with time while weighing the cost
I look to the east
for the sun to rise
And count what remains of
the days of my life

Where’s the mercy of God in all I have seen
will you kindly reveal this mystery to me
Of where I will go and
when I will die
By His hand is written
the tale of my life

The passage of grief…


Sealed in a room
I think I see light,
and if I dare to look
hope may arise,
But there is no place for hope
when I live sealed in a room.

I came in here one day
sometime after you left,
When laughter drained from the world
and I fell deaf,
And dumb and blind and withered
from grief.

This room is safe
for it is I alone
in these 4 walls,
A home made of sorrow that is known
and preferred to the unknown.

How long can I stay you ask?
for as long as it takes
I’m in no rush,
I keep company with pain
and while he’s no jolly friend
no more will I gain.

Seasons have passed
while I’ve stayed in this room,
the walls once strong have become paper thin,
With no place to hide
from the beckoning sun,
In the distance, I hear children sing.

Where once was a wall
has appeared a door,
To my friend I ask, what lies beyond?
More pain perhaps, more love I hope,
Alas, certainty flirts from a distant shore.
In life is death, with love comes sorrow,
accept one and the other must follow.

Take courage now, this time you choose
knowing all there is to lose,
There are others who are sealed in little rooms
lost to themselves but not to you,
Be brave for them, live again,
show them that the darkness ends.


There is a plan…



As a child, I was irrationally afraid that my mom, dad and brother were going to die. I didn’t know at the time what caused this fear but now, I believe it was a foreshadowing of things to come.

I remember, at the age of five, lying awake at night, listening anxiously to my father’s loud snoring as he lay on the couch, having fallen asleep in front of the TV. Whenever his snoring would stop, I would be gripped with fear that he had died. Sometimes, it was only seconds, sometimes minutes before he would start to snore again and I would be relieved, until he stopped again. Night after night, I listened with increasing terror for hours until finally, the anxiety would force me to creep out of bed, sneak into the lounge room, position myself behind a wooden partition and watch him sleeping until I was reassured that he was not in mortal danger. Somehow, the act of watching, calmed me enough to be able to go back to bed and fall asleep, exhausted. There were other occasions, when my mom was late home from work and once when my brother was returning home after being overseas for a year and arrived hours after he was due, that I waited fearfully, convinced that they had died en route.

I stopped being fearful for my mom and brother, those fear ridden nights eventually stopped happening and I forgot about it all, until Jp’s illness. One night, not long after he had been diagnosed, I woke suddenly, in a state of panic. Confused and fearful, I immediately sat up and peered anxiously in the dark at Jp, thinking that something must be wrong with him. Frantically listening for the sound of his breathing and watching for chest movement, I realized after a few seconds that he was actually sleeping peacefully. Laying back down with relief, I breathed deeply and waited for the panic to subside when a sudden image of my five-year-old self resurrected in my mind’s eye. As if it was scene from a movie, I watched myself, staring with fear at my dad while he slept, haunted by a reality that I didn’t know would manifest, thirty years later. I started to understand then, that I had been preparing for death my whole life.

As part of my College degree, I was daily, in the company of people who were elderly, sick and dying. Course placements meant that I spent my afternoons with frail, ailing and dying men and women, either in palliative care facilities or nursing homes. At the end of each day, I wondered as I solemnly drove home, how I came to be surrounded in my late teens, by the sick and dying and how strangely privileged I was to be witnessing the last stages of life in all it’s painful and unpleasant reality and hear the realizations of those who were dying. After years of working as a music therapist, death, old age and illness became very familiar to me and with it, an increased appreciation for the time I still had to live. I consider myself blessed to have had the chance to ponder life and death almost daily and to become comfortable with the dying process. It is a priceless gift for the living, to sojourn even for a moment with the dying, for mortality awakens one to live with greater purpose and clarity.

Reflecting back on all the different phases of my life which grew out of seemingly disconnected opportunities that led to a disparate range of careers – violinist, therapist, chef/restaurateur, yogi – I’m starting to make sense of it with hindsight. I see now, that every opportunity and subsequent phase, led me to acquire new skills and exposed me to new experiences to broaden my understanding of life and humanity. Being a concert violinist taught me mental and physical discipline, being a therapist taught me how to care and heal, being a chef and restaurateur taught me to be resourceful, organized and a leader and being a yogi, has taught me how to be courageous and to serve.

All of these skills were necessary for me to play the most important role of my life so far, as Jp’s carer. More lonely and frightened than I had ever felt in my life, resources became available as I searched and prayed for guidance and strength. I found the confidence to stay calm in the worst moments as I struggled to care for my beloved Jp and the mental stamina to carry us both through fear and the unknown. But, there were many challenges for which I did not have the skills and it will be in this next phase of life that I will have to develop them.

What tests lie ahead I do not know. But if I were to admit to any faith at all, it would be that I increasingly sense a Divine orchestration of my life and though I do not know what the future holds, history has proven that I will have what it takes to meet it. More than any material security, I am greatly comforted by the knowledge that purpose and meaning will be revealed in time if I can be patient and surrender to everything this present moment has to teach me.



Self Honesty


A few nights ago, I was reading wiki entries and online case studies by hospice nurses, doctors and caregivers about ‘the signs of dying’ for a new blog I wanted to write. Strangely, it hadn’t occurred to me to look these up when Jp was diagnosed, not even during his final days, so as each bullet point list on the ‘symptoms of dying’ appeared and repeated itself, I was surprised, dismayed and increasingly horrified to recognize almost all of the identified symptoms. As I continued to read with increasing discomfort, a question started reverberating in my head – Why hadn’t I looked them up when Jp was dying?

Within minutes, my mind was roiling in turmoil as dozens of questions erupted – Why hadn’t I accepted that Jp was entering his final days with us? How had I misinterpreted the observations of the hospice nurses? Why hadn’t anyone seen that I was in denial and helped me face to the truth? Were they afraid I couldn’t handle it? Were they afraid to upset me? Was I really in denial when I carefully explained to visitors that even though I was still administering healing herbs, it was likely that they weren’t going to save him? What the hell was I thinking? Questions I should have asked 3 years ago multiplied like rabid dogs feeding on resurrected guilt and self-recrimination.

At first I couldn’t get past the dismay for inflicting Jp with unnecessary measures to save his life. I felt ashamed thinking that his family, our physicians and friends must have felt helpless to make suggestions. Travelling back in time in my mind’s eye I recall seeing the hesitation in their eyes as I requested life saving measures for someone clearly hours from death. I know they acquiesced to my demands out of love and compassion but I wish they hadn’t.

After the negative emotional fervour subsided, a new question emerged. What precipitates clarity when you’re drowning in self-deception? How do you get help when you can’t see what’s wrong? Is there a courageous friend, respected mentor, loved one who will show us the way? I thank God that inspite of the massive denial and my rejection of reality, there was one person who tried to reason with me. One dear friend to whom Jp somehow knew to ask to especially support me when he was gone. He entrusted her with my sanity and she would be the one to shake me out of illusion the morning Jp passed and tell me it was time to say good-bye – to tell me that he was waiting for my permission to leave and that IT WAS TIME. In her insistant command, I found the courage to face the truth and say good-bye to my best friend and lover, transforming our last moments together into a transcendent exchange of  love and surrender.

These questions and many more that I’m wrestling with now make me squirm with discomfort, pain and self loathing and although I’m fairly sure there isn’t an answer to any of my questions, I want to develop the habit of incessant questioning because it seems the best way for me to avoid self-deception. By continuously enquiring, I can uncover biases, fears, misconceptions and erroneous thought patterns. I’m learning to attend to the vague messages and warnings submitted by my oft-ignored intuition and investigate the many elusive suspicions that skirt the periphery of my attention.

I am enrolling my consciousness in self-honesty boot camp where intellect and determination perform as a drill sergeant under whose fearsome gaze, the dark corners of the mind will be swept clean and I will be able to see things as they are and be guided by Divine influence to make superior decisions in the future.



I’m not sure when I stopped missing my husband. I suppose familiarity crept in after 7 years together and I rarely felt the pining, agitated pain of separation that I relished in the early days of our passionate love.

Running our restaurant from waking to sleep, 6 days a week meant that we were rarely apart. So JP had become as familiar to me as my 4 limbs, an essential part of my body that I neither missed nor noticed as long as it was executing its functions.

At first I congratulated myself for reaching this mature phase of our relationship, free from the giddying peaks and troughs of new love. I appreciated the emotional equilibrium and the predictable dialogue we exchanged distractedly during our busy days. But a quiet, niggling part of my mind started to suggest that something bad would germinate from the economy of attention I gave to JP and our marriage. While there was truth in this, I didn’t enact change because I thought the worst thing would be separation, unlikely to happen because we were happy and I still loved him deeply albeit passively. Looking back I believe this voice was warning of the days to come and so it was that we were deafened 3 years later by the ferocious howl of a brain tumour.

Glioblastoma Multiforme is an impressive tumour. Its microscopic cells infiltrate the tiny pathways between the brain matter and despite 20 hour surgeries to remove visible cells, they hide, escape and grow back to kill their victims eventually. The oncologist didn’t say terminal during our first consultation but I wish he had, it would have placed boundaries on my fervant optimism.

Ironically, that tumour propelled my stagnating love to heights I’m certain I couldn’t have reached without it, instantly curing my emotional lethargy. The fear of losing JP produced raw vulnerability, as fearsome a monster as the tumour, exposing every moment to interrogation by stark emotional reality. I ached with pity for JP’s suffering and clung to every moment that time wrenched out of our grasp. I fixated on finding positive outcomes, I wanted cures, treatments and reassurances. JP’s disappearing future elevated every desire beyond the realms of normal longing into tortured helplessness and if I had coalesced the complex maze of outcomes and answers I was chasing into one unifying desire, it was that I wanted more time.

Before the tumour I didn’t know what to do with nor did I contemplate the time I assumed we had. There was just endless time with no urgency to respect or cherish it. The tumour changed this, eliciting panic and anxiety but also heightened commitment and attentiveness. It dropped a steady anchor that pulled me back to the present to breathe in JP’s existence and save it up to sustain me for the rest of my life.

Shrinking time transformed my marriage and even though JP passed away, I can’t be angry or saddened that the results weren’t different. Because he left, I couldn’t fall back into a state of indifference. I will always miss and long for him. The memory of our intense love during those last few years is never tainted nor satiated so it is preserved and alive in me.

I keep vigilant however to escape the trap of longing for outcomes and guarantees because I want to embrace longing without the outcome. I’ve made friends with unpredictability and I’m at peace with missing JP. I don’t want that longing to go away even though it hurts. I’ve learned that in loving this longing a thousand futures revealing a million opportunities beckon and all can be embraced reverently because the aim is not to fulfill any of them but to experience the journey on which you travel to discover their end.

Missing JP is exquisitely painful, but as I continue to endure it’s solemn power it reveals gleaming sparks of ecstatic spiritual longing that lead to transcendence and in such moments, I taste in longing, the essence of God.



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