“Today is a good day to die.”
–Native American saying
One day Four weeks ago I walked into the neurological recovery room at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills for the second time, only to find my Dad playing Cone Head in his bed. The surrealism was unfathomable because that was my father’s head we’re talkin’ about, and he’d just had major brain surgery performed by the renowned Dr. Keith Black, who not long before that had told me that the surgery was a success, that he’d gotten all the tumor out, and I felt like a million bucks. Because everything was gonna be all right, as soon as the swelling went down, that is. And so it did, and within the first 24 hours of surgery, Dad was moved from neuro recovery to neuro ICU to the sweetest suite of the hospital, and we were well on our way. Someone was taking real good care of Pops, and he and I exchanged thumbs up because we had done it. We had gotten through this major issue of brain surgery, and you see, that hadn’t always been the plan.
My father came out here on May 14 because he’d had major swelling in the brain. That nasty glioblastoma multiforme was acting up, and Dad was on his way out, but we just didn’t know it at the time. He’d been first diagnosed back in January ’08 and was given 30 days to live back then. It ruined my dad’s trip to South Africa for the croquet championships, but Pops had an important decision to make, and he’d made the right one. He decided to stay and battle this new life situation, which turned out to be the beginning of the greatest transformation these senses ever witnessed. My father bore down with exploring all the alternatives to traditional treatment. He probably tried them all, some of which seemed to help, and he pushed hard toward recovery. But, of course that all changed come May.
The “Bad Boy of Croquet” was getting beaten up pretty badly by the toughest foe he’d ever encountered, and he was suffering as a result thereof. Disorientation set in as did the nasty side effects of the steroids, of which my father affectionately equated physically to “Buddha belly” and “no dick.” So this is how I found him, and we went to work right away. Our first stop was with the incredible neuro oncologist Dr. Timothy Cloughesy at UCLA who reiterated the urgency of the situation, and the need for immediate surgery.
By a sheer stroke of dumb luck, one of my friends referred us to a neurologist who referred us to a cardiologist who then referred us to Dr. Black. So when my dad was back in the hospital suite the day after surgery the reality that the battle had just really begun began to set in. The easy part was over, and the serious stuff was about to begin. We needed to immediately battle this grade 4 cancerous residue that had spread from my father’s right frontal lobe to the left. In a week’s time, Dad would begin an aggressive campaign of chemotherapy, 42 straight daily doses, and radiation for six weeks. Joy.
Dad wanted to continue the alternative supplementation to his therapy that might give him a chance. I’m not sure he had ever totally realized how grave his situation was, but my personal denial was beginning to wither away. I was starting to realize that my time with my father would be limited. This Super Man in my life was subconsciously preparing his bed for checking out for good.
During my father’s three weeks of intense therapy, we both experienced amazing personal transformation. The things that seemed so important only days or weeks before really meant nothing anymore. My father and I began to put things in their proper order. Fifty years of wasting each other’s time had come to an end. I worked hard with my father, and pushed him in his new regimen. We didn’t have time to waste, all we had, at all times, was right now. Each moment was precious, and many were very difficult. I fell off my father’s oak tree. I was as difficult to deal with as was he. Yet, the façade of ego had begun to melt away, on both ends. There came a time for mutual admiration and respect that had never been there in either of our lifetimes.
My father taught me the virtues of wheatgrass juice twice a day, and vegetable juicing twice a day. He introduced me more deeply to the virtues of tai chi and qi gong. My girlfriend introduced us to her family’s chi practitioner, and my father – and I – were introduced deeper into the reality of chi flow through the physical body. We did exercises three times daily to rid the body of negative chi, and then each day after chemo and radiation, on our way back to Ventura (these grueling daily five-hour trips did take their toll) we would stop at my alma mater, Pepperdine in Malibu, California, and work on an exercise to fill the body with energy from the sun and earth, and using the earth to help suck the negative chi out of the body. And you know what? This stuff was beginning to help. I don’t know how much it helped my father in the overall scope of things, but he would always say that the time at the dine was his favorite part of every day. And then my migraines stopped visiting.
I couldn’t go to LA the second day after my father’s surgery because I’d suffered a three-day migraine that floored me til Father’s Day. But I haven’t had one since. I never missed a day of taking my dad to LA for his treatment. But the joy I experienced in my physical transformation dissolved in the midst of witnessing the quick deterioration of this incredible Human Being I’d come to learn to love like no other. Dad was suffering all sorts of indignities as his body began to fade. It was difficult for my father emotionally, and I still rode the denial train believing that we would have some more time together, to do things like we used to, to do things the right way.
Pops wanted to be the poster boy for this nasty kind of fight he was in, but it didn’t turn out that way. But some things are amazing in other ways, and so was this process. Two new people were born unto this planet, and one of them remains. On that last day, this past Saturday night, I witnessed the total surrender to all that is by my father. I saw and heard and felt him settle into his ultimate destiny.
It was only a week and a half ago where Dad told me of his meditation where he’d asked God to tell him what his mission was. I may not have been sure of it at the time, but I know now what it was. My father’s mission was to change the lives of those closest to him, and he accomplished this in an amazing way. By dying my father saved my life. I’m a much healthier person now, who no longer suffers from migraines, and my life’s purpose has been dramatically altered in a very positive, high-vibrating way. And you know what, something else completely amazing took place. During these last two months together, my father and I learned to love each other. We learned to respect and admire the people that we were. We had never done this before, not to this extent anyway. My father was an incredible person who I really never gave myself the chance to know. My father was a tough sell, there’s no question about that. But when the mask of the ego was removed, the remaining Being was filled with so much compassion and so much of that all-important high-vibration we call love. My father was an amazing individual who not a lot of people really understood. But if they ever got the chance, they would find an incredible spirit who possessed a vibrant feel for life. For me, I’m a much greater person for having found this out.