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Dying Dad 1: The Confession

Dying Dad 1: The Confession

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Published by dberm108
My dad has six weeks to live. He immediately confess his sins to me in private. Then my mother, brother, sister, and I escort him to his death.
My dad has six weeks to live. He immediately confess his sins to me in private. Then my mother, brother, sister, and I escort him to his death.

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Published by: dberm108 on May 24, 2009
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02/02/2013

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Dying Dad: The Confession
August 30, 1994I am sitting here, not liking my father very much. This is perhaps not good timing sincehe
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my mother and I
are sitting around waiting for a one o’clock appointment to hear that heis dying of liver cancer.Ten days ago at IMS, I entered into silent space in anticipation of three months of meditation. The first week of silence was spent in a mix of meditation in the morning andevening, interrupted by still lingering chores in the afternoon. Over the week, my hours of meditation grew, and accordingly my world grew, slower, stiller and sweeter.Every year since 1989 I have made some attempt at three months of quiet in the autumn.Over the years, my model of meditation has gotten much softer and more informal. Gone are thedays of committing to some great heroic quest for enlightenment, some titanic struggle of goodagainst evil, some mighty battle to slay the dreaded ego. Now I don’t attempt so much. I justenter into quiet places and open to whatever happens to arise.During the first couple of attempts at way mellow meditation retreats, not much happenedon an inner-personal level. Two years ago, my silence was bent and finally demolished by anunfinished romantic affair that managed to follow me onto retreat only to detonate in painfulfashion for all involved. Last year, disruption came from an altogether different direction: tendays into the retreat, I got one, then another, kidney stone.This year, I was sure it was going to be different. I had had a brief romantic revival withmy friend Carol in the spring and summer, but we had already mutually agreed to let that passaway, so my interpersonal horizons were free of any ominous emotional thunderheads. Also, thisyear I was psyched. This year, I had a vision of why I was practicing.In my first years sitting long retreats, I tried to practice by the book. I obtained my visionand agenda from the teachers and from the existing formal model. As mentioned above, I hadsince cast off the formal model of practice, but I think I spent the subsequent years simply notdoing the program. It wasn’t until this year that I replaced the official program with one of myown invention. This year, my personal practice has developed a flavor of its own. More than justa negation of preexisting form, I seem to have developed, not exactly an alternative form or 
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 program, but still something tangible and personal and interesting to myself.It was my adventures with Colleen last year that have inspired my practice with positive possibility. Colleen fascinated me with her leap into the psychotic abyss, and then in our subsequent exploration, she reawoke in me the mystically dimensions of my practice. In theformal model at IMS, there was no need for magic or mysticism. It was all very practical andactual. Just pay attention to exactly what you’re experiencing. The eyes see, the ears hear, the body feels, the mind thinks—just this much, nothing special, nothing more. There was a lot of value in the simple clarity of this practice, but now it feels like time to use these simple attentiveskills to investigate the mystery that lays in all directions beyond immediate perceptual reality.This year, upon entering silence space, I issued an unspoken invitation to any and all phantoms from beyond the ordinary to visit me as they chose. I was expanding my field of investigation beyond what was actual and perceivable and real. The IMS model recommendsmindful awareness from the first moment one awakes until the last moment before sleep. Inkeeping with this recommendation, retreatants are encouraged to sleep as little as possible, thusmaximizing the time developing mindfulness. But now I was opening my practice to include themysterious country, and experience has repeatedly shown the gateway to the mysterious is usuallyaccessed through dreams.All year, since Colleen, I had been working on mindful dreaming. I was having frequentlucid dreams: dreams in which I was aware that I was in fact dreaming. At first I tried to takeadvantage of the power of knowing I was the dreamer of my reality by making things happen for my selfish pleasure and amusement. Alas, I discovered in doing so, I would soon be lost in thedream again. I came to realized that I was better served just working on stabilizing mycontinuous awareness that I was dreaming. Thus, upon entering into lucid dreaming, I wouldsimply practice moving slowly through dreamscape, while gently reminding myself that it was adream.This style of lucid dreaming, I soon discovered, was virtually identical to normal wakingmindfulness practice. Ordinarily, we try to experience the flow of sensations and perceptions,while remaining aware that they are only passing phenomena. Likewise, I was learning toexperience my dreams while holding the awareness that they were, in fact, dreams. I soon foundthat not only did my meditation practice assist me in developing my dream practice, but also mydream practice reinforced my waking practice. I would find myself walking through the woods, pretending it was just a dream. But instead of gently reminding myself I was just dreaming;
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instead, I would remind myself I was just walking in the woods. This game made persistentmindfulness much easier and much more magical.But what has this got to do with not liking my dying father? Some dream I had on retreat,maybe? Unfortunately not. I spent a week settling into quiet space; a week softly setting thetable as invitation to magical visitors from dreamland and beyond. Just settling into quiet space,open to whatever might therein arise.What arose, alas, was an urgent call from my parents. A routine urological exam haddiscovered blood in my father’s urine, and the medical investigation had reached the point wherecancer was strongly suspected. Over the ensuing three days, my father had a bone scan, a liver scan and finally a biopsy of a suspected tumor. All test results were pointing to advanced cancer.My initial reaction of shock quickly dissolved into dismay at my suddenly imperiled retreat. I wasalready in retreat rhythm and my momentum told me, No, I can’t get involved in this; I have to gosit and walk.It didn’t take long for the anguish of rupturing the precious envelope of my retreat to beovercome by the obvious inevitability of necessity. There was no choice but to go home tosupport my family in this ultimate of life crises. I tried to lament the poor timing of this crisis butI couldn’t take that complaint seriously for long. I knew obviously that death pays no heed to anyearthly schedule. Life is always in process; death always interrupts it in the middle. Death is oneveryone’s schedule but it always arrives unscheduled. I guess it’s like the fire alarm at IMS
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Thealarm goes off now and then, and the retreatants are trained to stop what they’re doing and proceed immediately to the front lawn to await further instructions. Of course, at IMS it alwaysturns out to be a false alarm. In my case, the alarm was signaling an authentic emergency, and Ihad no choice but to leave the safe envelope of quiet practice and report to the front lawn inanticipation of further instructions.I arrived home to find the building of our family ablaze with impending disaster, yet my parents seemed to be trying hard not to hear the alarm that was blaring so obviously and ear shatteringly. My mother kept pointing out that my father looked and felt so healthy; how could it possibly be so that he was dying? In fact, except for a sharp pain in his ribs near his liver, myfather did seem about the same as always. Still, I knew that cancer cooks like a microwave oven:from the inside out. It starts invisibly amid the normal commerce of the body as a singledemented cell. Only after a long time does that single mutant grow into a colony obstructive anddestructive enough to set off any alarm. By then, as we would soon discover, it is way to late to
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