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Last night’s crazies blasted scattered scatter-shot through the denial of my ILD. As Dr. Singh teaches, such eruptions from the unconscious are not untoward: they alert patients to the reality of their terminal illness.

Hunger first woke me at midnight. After a snacking on an orange and buttered toast, I padded back to my bedroom, put on my oxygen, then pulled the covers over my head.

Wide-awake forty-five minutes later, I squinted at the street lamp outside my window. It was still snowing: its flakes chilled the core of my being. After I flipped my afghan atop the comforter, I sought the nether regions of my bed, but was still cold. Then, I grabbed my radio and searched my favorite stations—nothing of interest, there. Like ski jumpers arching their bodies in mid-air, tension mounted in my chest, only to be sucked within darkness.

One half-hour later, I rubbed sleep from my eyes and sat up on the side of my bed. I began rocking; their repetitions eased some tension and I squirreled back under the covers in hope of sleep. Again, I stared up at the ceiling tiles. Next, came leg circles atop the covers, but quit after two repetitions because of heel soreness.

Then I remembered the Lorazapan, still bagged with the other drugs in the kitchen cabinet, provided with my hospice sign-up. Dare I take one? Cut the dose in half? See what would happen? Decades of having taking ineffective drugs for my rheumatoid arthritis still freaked me out.

I did take the Lorazapan: .2 mg. It helped, but I was hung-over this morning—more adjustment to my sick role fortified by the acceptance prayer. This is working out.


“Death is the biggest change we face, so we need to practice change”—so says Ram Dass, formerly Richard Alpert, atheist and Harvard clinical psychologist. These words carry the weight of his 1967 conversion, followed by his second and ongoing conversion: the 1997 massive stroke with its expressive aphasia and paralysis of his right limbs. Its shock, he likened to Fierce Grace, a DVD that he published in 2001.

In this documentary, Ram Dass shows his disillusionment with psychedelic drugs that led to his conversion through Neem Kraoli Baba who renamed him Ram Dass, Sanskrit for Servant of God, and gave him the mandate: “Love my people. Feed them.” And for thirty years he taught, published, and counseled, attracting a worldwide following. All proceeds went to his foundations, Seva and Hunuman that still serve the blind in poor communities and publish spiritual materials around the globe.

Then came the stroke, followed by lengthy hospitalizations and rehabilitations, together with a brush with death. When Ram Dass was able to resume a limited schedule, he sounded different. Indeed, he had been “stroked” rendering him a consummate teacher of aging and death. His teaching and practice continue.

Ram Dass’s experience of “fierce grace” gives me pause. It suggests a tearing apart, a dragging down, a reversal of my way of living—such as happens with conscious aging, with its diminishments. Such wisdom is far beyond my grasp, yet ever fashioning my psyche in His likeness. I have only to participate in the daily dying.

“Death is like taking off a tight pair of shoes,” Ram Dass once quipped. It sounds so simple.





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