In the Medicine Wheel as it was taught to me the west road is the way of death and renewal. It is also the way of the masculine, our fathers, our emotions and air element. Over the past week as I assisted my father in his journey down the west road I was conscious of these things. It was just a year ago that I assisted Craig Marvel down the same road. As we prepared for Dad’s funeral services we got word of the passing of Gordon B. Hinkley. Though their lives were very different all three men shaped me in many ways that I am not fully aware of. I love them all dearly and am looking forward to more associations in this life and the next.
I subscribe to a world view that allows for limited contact with those who have passed beyond this mortal life. These experiences are usually brief for me but very real. People talk about a ’sixth sense’. I have felt that and it is real. To quote Bob Marley, “Who feels it knows it.” THere is usually some meaning or message associated with these encounters. Up to the week of my father’s passing I sometimes wondered if these experiences were only in my head. Things that happened in the Freeman Hospital in Joplin Missouri removed those doubts for me. Dad and I shared an experience that left me convinced that it is real. I am glad we had those moments of confirmation and that we both knew it. Death is not the end but a portal into the wonder of eternity.
As a person with my father’s condition approaches death they become increasingly hypoxic. Hypoxia as I understand it can lead to hallucinations. This would seem to make those often reported end of life visions of departed loved ones easy to explain away. I was not hypoxic or under the influence of any known hallucinogen. We both had the experience. I am satisfied of that. This was a couple of days before Dad’s last mortal breath. As he came closer to that portal those who loved him gathered from both worlds to celebrate his graduation. If there was a degree to be bestowed it would be measured by the quality of the lives of the 106 (2 more on the way) descendants he left this world. As my wife’s grandfather was wont to say of his progeny “There is not a scrub in the lot.”
I think that a big chunk of this life’s work, at least for a lot of us, is to idealize and worship our fathers/mothers, see the human failings they all possess, become dissillusioned and perhaps angry, to learn to see them as they really are, forgive their imperfections and finally embrace the whole of who they are. The operant verb here is forgive. Without that we pass through this life unfulfilled, having missed the greatest thing because a heart occupied with resentment for the very source of our existence can not embrace the creator who granted our parents the power to give us life through their bodies. It is a simple matter of the free flow of divine energy or love as we call it.
This was my course. I lived it all, at one time thinking my father was a god, an idiot, a tyrant and finally a loving man who only did for me what he thought I needed, and, in a very real way, gave me what I needed to stumble on and climb over to find myself. How can one argue with that?
The past week has been the most compressed and intense learning period of my life. I have heard others speak of the passing of a parent and wondered what that would be like. My experience was tender, powerful, faith affirming and very instructive. Dad’s last teachings for me were among his greatest. I was accompanied by a feeling of love, peace and joy that brought great comfort. There were times when I cried hard which is a good thing to be able to do, but for the most part I was upheld by a profound sense of joy to be able to witness his passing and assist him as I could. I came to appreciate my immediate family more that I already did. I was especially glad to have my three daughters there with me as we laid him to rest. This event only comes once and I feel like I got my money’s worth.
Before Dad passed I heard him say “Hoka Hey” which means in Lokota “It is a good day to die.”