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01 April 2005 @ 03:40 pm
Birth, old age, disease and death  
One can't help thinking about death this week, with Terri Schiavo's final, merciful death and the Pope hovering near death, with Bhakti Tirtha also heading in that direction rapidly. Always such thoughts are in the background of my mind, living with heart disease. I frequently have gastric-related chest pain that mimics the pain from heart disease (angina) perfectly. At such times I have to try to evaluate whether this is the "real thing" or just another such episode, and look to secondary symptoms to alert me to the difference. I often wonder if I am guessing correctly when I don't have it checked out, yet I can't go to the hospital every time I have such pain. Sometimes it is as often as a couple or even three times per week.

Other times I lie in bed at night feeling my heart go through palpitations as the rhythm becomes irregular. Palpitations are common with a damaged heart. There is also the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. So I feel these fluctuations of rhythm and reflect on my mortality and my continuing awareness that I really have no control over when death is coming for me, and that I should live in a state of readiness.

The positive benefit is that it makes me more conscious of how I interact with others and how I live my life. I don't want my last words with someone to have turned out to be dishonest or harsh. I also want those I love to really know how much they are loved, not just guess or assume.

Yesterday I was relieved on Terri Schiavo's behalf that her ordeal was over, and I am very sorry that the only way out of her damaged brain and body that we offer her is starvation. I was lighting a candle for her and just really aware that for her, no matter what her death offered, it had to be preferable to her life as it was. I pictured the joyful homecoming I believe she might be having as her deceased friends or relatives were there to greet her and comfort her. I think she is receiving many blessings for the wake up call her ordeal has given us to make our wishes known to our own families. I think much suffering will be averted in the future because of her.

I also read about the Pope's condition and reflected on his life and beliefs. I don't agree with all of them but I recognize someone who has genuinely lived out their spiritual beliefs with the best of intentions towards all. For that matter, I think that sums up my feelings about Srila Prabhupada. I think he made mistakes in the implementation and yet I recognize the sincerity of belief and purpose behind his actions. I wish them both nothing but the best possible spiritual outcome.

This last month has been an exciting and exhausting time for me. The creation of this forum has gone even better than I imagined it would. I figured the growth would be much slower. In a month we've made almost 3,000 posts! (2954 as I write.) Tomorrow will be our one month lunaversary (as I call them). I so remember the excitement of that first day, March 2nd, as I bought the forum and worked feverishly to create the subforums and get it online. Now we are about to acquire new skins and a logo, and I think we have made a good start towards providing a haven for those who question or leave Gaudiya Vaishnavism and are finding their way spiritually.

On the health front I have been going through a series of iron infusions to help me overcome my severe anemia. I had 8 weeks of iron infusions and my red blood cell count was still below normal. I thought this was odd, as I've done better with them in the past. Today my doctor's assistant called and said they were referring me to an oncologist who also specializes in anemia. The word oncologist struck me like a blow. It has left Dave and I wondering if they are thinking my anemia is caused by some form of cancer, or are they just wanting the doctor's expertise in anemia in general? We're still reeling from the other diagnoses I've received in the past 4 years and we're just not sure we can take on another one.

So today I am inevitably thinking about these issues and how I've felt this last year in general as I became more and more anemic and didn't realize what it was, and how I am half ready for death, half clinging for life--as many people with chronic health problems are. Part of me is weary of the struggle to stay in this body and questioning what I am willing in the service of that goal, and part of me is tentatively curious about the other side and looking forward to the possible cessation of pain and discomfort and exhaustion. Yet I am tethered by the people I love on this side, who still outnumber the people I love on the other side.

I recognize that my task is to both be fully present while I am still here and also fully prepared to make the transistion.

It is an art and I have not mastered this yet. I am a work in progress.

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