I have the flu
As I sit down to write this afternoon (3/11), I have been sick with the flu since Sunday evening, March 1. Late the previous evening (2/29), I learned of my aunt’s death … my dad’s youngest sister and the last in that generation. Her passing was a blessing as she was released from her ravaged body. Her daughter and granddaughter gave her a beautiful death, singing to her and loving on her.
I’m allergic to flu shots and haven’t had one since the late 90s. And this is the first time in years I have had the flu. It finally caught up with me while reports of COVID 19 swirl in the news. It seems that drinking lots of fluids and taking OTC meds is the best the doctor has to offer. Fortunately, my daughter with her flu shot prevention, has not been affected.
On a couple of “good” days, I ventured out to stock up on groceries, only to feel worse the next day. Yesterday I thought perhaps I had turned a corner, but today some symptoms (fortunately mild) returned.
The process of dying has not been far from my mind. Even though I’m not expecting to greet death imminently, this lengthy flu process makes the prospect even more real. While I vegged in front of the TV, I kept thinking of something I’d read awhile back in Stephen Levine’s book, Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying. My Sage Sister Group is using this book to guide our discussions.
What are you doing in life that prepares you for death? Whatever prepares you for death enhances life … makes life a richer, more joyous experience.” ~Stephen Levine
Stephen, who’s career focused on working with the dying, emphasizes the importance of preparing ourselves with practices that open us to anything that might happen.
I figured now might be a good time to practice. And since writing is a spiritual practice for me, after my quiet time this morning, I sat down before the computer to see what wisdom might emerge.
While in the midst of writing this, my daughter emerged from her bedroom to tell me there is breaking news. I turned on the TV in the living room to hear the governor announce that COVID 19 is now being “community spread” in Ohio.
How many people are so connected to some essential part of themselves that even death could not distract them? That’s something you don’t wait until death to find out. That’s something you cultivate right now. There’s no other moment to begin preparing for death. ~Stephen Levine
Stephen recounts practices from several traditions … practices to keep our hearts open and our minds clear especially in great adversity.
I couldn’t help but notice the similarity with practices Cynthia Bourgeault writes about in her book, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—a New Perspective on Christ and his Message. She emphasizes nurturing our hearts in order to be attuned to a deeper knowing ... knowing with more and more of our being engaged. It seems no accident that I am reading Cynthia’s book at this time.
Welcoming and Letting Go
In the mid-90’s I had an opportunity to take an Amazon cruise and visit Machu Picchu in Peru. On the way home, we arrived in the Lima airport only to be told that no planes would be flying out for the foreseeable future because they didn’t have enough passengers. This was during the time a terrorist group, Shining Path, was in operation. Soldiers toting guns patrolled the first floor.
I thought a man standing in line was going to have a heart attack. His face reddened as he screamed at the officials to let him and his party proceed to the gates for immediate departure. He has become a symbol for me of the need to “let go” when I have no control … which much to many people’s dismay, is most of the time.
The party with whom I was travelling took a different approach … perhaps a way to welcome what we could not control. We found a big round table outside a gift shop on the second floor and played cards all afternoon until we were finally permitted to depart. We arrived home without any further incident.
It seems to me, that the welcoming and letting go practices Stephen and Cynthia recommend are especially useful during this time when our lives are disrupted by the COVID 19 virus … when we are not in control of how and when our lives will end. I learned this lesson most profoundly in 1999 when my daughter gave birth to a baby in the most dire of circumstances.
I wrote about my experience of softening in the face of those dire circumstances and opening my heart to how it would all work out. I am still in awe of the miracle recounted in my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, in the chapters titled “Grace Unfolding” and “Fire Walk” on pages 248-262. May that memory carry my daughter and me through this time.
Because we are in a somewhat precarious position — totally dependent upon the kindness of friends. (Thankfully Kate, who was going to the grocery anyway, picked up a few things for us last night. And others have offered to do the same.) I am familiarizing myself with grocery delivery services and just restocked my supplement supply through Amazon.
Eventually, when Nicole and I are unable to meet our needs ourselves and we are too much for friends, my long-term care insurance will pay for services … a future reality I can’t help but ponder at this time.
More reason to practice. I’m grateful for the reminder.
- Fasting (training to develop our physical capacity to be available to truth at a subtle and intense level)
- Prayer to open to the unknown … to gain insight and timely assistance from sacred texts
- Chanting … preferably with your favorite name for the Divine on your lips … a powerful channel to maintain contact with the Divine when you are in the throes of what might be terror and excruciating pain … a way of consciously returning to the Source
- Opening to “not knowing” … to just “being” … to being “present in the moment” to whatever happens, excluding nothing … present to “what is”
- Cultivating stillness in the midst of activity
So, this is what comes up for me as I continue to recover from my lengthy bout with the flu (it is now 3/13 and I think I have finally turned a corner … no queasy stomach after dinner tonight!) … as I contemplate how to deal with a pandemic … as I reflect on the open heart I will need as time marches forward toward my end.