Monday, May 18, 2009

In Memory

A friend of mine, a Taiji sister, just passed away. It is a sad event. Little more than a year ago she was practicing Taiji 4-6 times a week and was notably strong for her age. Around that time she embarked on a missionary trip to Africa and was required to take a round or two of immunizations. Almost immediately upon returning she began having problems with strength and balance. The medical officials floated several potential culprits, including a reaction to the immunizations. While we may never really know, I am afraid the latter is a good possibility. Although I am told the doctors rescinded that diagnosis before long.

In any case, my friend went downhill fast. She continued coming to Taiji class and meetings in the park as long as she could. But before long she was in a wheelchair. The last time I saw her she came to class and sat through our form practice, doing the hand movements from her seat. But she was in good spirits. She was reading Roger Jahnke, and Thich Nhat Hahn, and looking to the future. But she never returned to Taiji functions.

I got an email from her some two months before she passed. Actually she dictated it to a friend as she no longer had control of most of her body at that point. She said she had limited movement in her hands and neck, but was confined to bed for 22.5 hours a day. In her message she thanked me for my patience in our Taiji practices together, and she expounded on all her blessings. She was thankful for the opportunity to learn patience in her condition, for the good people around her, and for the time to reflect on the importance of spending time with loved ones. Instead of decrying the whole experience she determined it was heart-opening.

I never heard from her again. Two months later I received news she had passed from this life. There are several things about this that are remarkable for me. One, of course, is again another reminder of how quickly time flies and how soon life is over. Another thing, for me at least, is the insanity of western medicine--especially immunizations. Another frightening thing about this is our limited control in the sequences of our lives. I am engaged in healthful and mindful practices because I want to ensure I have some control over how my life unfolds. But we must remember, as Don Juan told Castenada(1), death is always just over our shoulder. This does not mean we should tremble in its presence. On the contrary, it means we should live our lives as impeccably as possible, and never, ever take a single moment for granted.

1. Castenada, Carlos. A Separate Reality; Further Conversations with Don Juan. Washington Square Press.