"A rare and beautiful dialogue on liberating death. Through the wisdom of our grief,
we enter into an existential sense door, where death itself becomes a festival of wonder,
a heightened radical ride into the heart of the ever-present future, and beyond. This
is a must read for every person on earth who cares about the future of life and death."
- Jeannine Davies, PhD, Psychologist, author, Relational Dharma
Greetings. Thank you for being with me on this journey. A preface to my book, Facing Death.
A year ago I was diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. An emergency room visit revealed a severely enlarged aortic aneurysm, an often-lethal swelling in the largest vessel leaving the heart. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was like a radiator hose ready to burst, a ticking time bomb on a short fuse, and that death could and likely would come "at any second" if I did not undergo immediate open-heart surgery.
I scheduled three surgeries and cancelled them all due to the shock and the tears, inevitably, of facing something so dramatic. I decided to come to Maui, my second spiritual home (after Burma) to enter hospice and apply for the right to take my life.
Hawaii allows the right to die by your own choice, and through a rigorous process I was granted the pharmaceutical substance necessary, should I make this decision.
I took care of business. I went to see my beloved daughter, Sahra Bella, in Vancouver. I wrote my will and my Five Wishes. I looked deeply into who would handle my burial and my body. Reverend Bodhi Be, here on the island, at his green funeral organization, Doorway Into Light, had attracted me. I had known of him, had respect for him, and he agreed to handle my body and bury it, whether I die by natural causes or choose to consciously, mindfully euthanize on my most sacred terms.
I've had this vision for some months, and the only thing that was left was a heart-to-heart with the man that I entrusted, who bequeathed me with his compassion to take care of my body and bury it, should I die here. I felt pressing questions in perhaps a little sharper detail; "Who are you? Who are we?" I wanted to get to know him.
This book, Facing Death, is perhaps the most sacred conversation I've ever had. It was deliberately designed to be one sitting, to be read in an hour to an hour and a half, to be felt, to be resonated with, to cry along with us.
We sit and talk in the context of Ukrainian/ Russian war, and with it the threat of a new world war. Countries are on nuclear alert as global meltdown unfolds and climate catastrophe brings with it some of the most biting questions and difficult answers. Even as we speak, multiple extinctions go on in multiple universes and multiple galaxies. Inbuilt into the system, to state the unthinkably obvious, is death.
Within it, we each have our religion, our prayer, our miracle, our hope, our mindfulness, our Dharma. This conversation is meant to illuminate, in the humblest way, this epic issue of life and death. What does it mean to mindfully inhabit the inevitable? As Bodhi Be says, "We all know we're going to die but we don't know when." It's inbuilt into the system.
This book is part prayer, part scream, part hymn, part meditation; a sonnet, a love song to God, to each of us. It's not meant to teach anything except to inspire our own humble, vulnerable, dignified way to face the inevitable. So, may I invite you to enter this portal with us, an existential human conversation of the heart. I hope there's something beautiful in it for you, as there was for me, and I know the Reverend Bodhi Be.