Friday, August 11, 2017

Leaving the Past Behind

Abandoned by the Contoocook
CC Jean Stimmell:5/30/16
Undergoing ER visits and two hospital admissions fighting multiple infections, over the last six weeks, split me open like an overripe tomato. The result has been, unexpectedly, a spiritual awakening.

Suffering in pain from a total knee transplant, combined with volatile fevers resulting in alternating chills and burning up from ongoing infections put me in limbo land: totally dependent on doctors and staff who, in turn, could provide me no answers, no lasting respite from my illness – because I was proving to be allergic to most antibiotics.

Floating in what, at times, seemed like an endless la-la land, all possibilities became real, even death, but not with a sense of fear but weary resignation. This is how people die, I thought – even me–slowly taken down peg by peg by escalating medical procedures and repeated allergic reactions, until, one day, I slip seamlessly to the other side, a void that seemed to me, little different than the feverish hallucinations of daily hospital life.

Then, suddenly, my world shifted: I transcended from terminal weariness to sublime peace and calm: Worldly cares and material concerns evaporated. I found myself floating on a forgiving cushion, resting totally in the here-and-now, a cloud without beginning or end.

My world reduced to the size of my hospital bed,  my bum exposed in my hospital johnny, having control over hardly anything, dependent on others for everything, yet how can it be: I felt totally free – and sublimely happy to be alive in this moment of time.

Whatever happened, I don’t want to lose that feeling.

According to spiritual gurus, experiences like mine can, indeed, lead to revelations and epiphanies: “Often times, extreme suffering is the portal to spiritual awakening. Great pain and desperation can make a person willing to die. And spiritual awakening is a death, a death of mistaken identity and a realization of who we truly are.”⁠1

Thankfully, my ordeal that started June 27th, suddenly ended this week: A genius, infectious disease doctor burst into my room like an angel and diagnosed my malady in less than 5 minutes. Following her treatment plan, I made immediate progress, enough to be discharged from the hospital Wednesday, August 9th. I am now on a trajectory toward full recovery.

I feel like a sailor in a lifeboat, long adrift on the open sea who, suddenly wakes up to find his boat has washed up on an island: not any island, but a rich tropical paradise.

I am writing this all down because I do not want to forget or make-light-of the importance of my experience. I intend to meditate on my fragile awakening daily. There are important lessons to be learned.

P.S. My most sincere thanks for my superb support: Russet, my son, my friends, and, in particular all the caring doctors, nurses, VNA, tech people and staff who hung in there and didn’t give up on me.


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