I walked into the spacious kitchen, bordered with large windows overlooking a peaceful ocean peninsula in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. My long-time friend, Beck, guided me to the hospital bed positioned where I assumed the dining table used to be. The brightness of the clear sky showered into the room and onto Brian, Beck’s stepdad, who was laying in the hospital bed, crippled by the effects of the degenerative disease, ALS.
As we approached him, Brian looked up from his reclined position in bed and his face radiated joy. This surprised me. He was truly happy to see me, and Beck, even though I figured he probably wouldn’t remember me. Brian and I had only met a handful of times over the last two decades I’d known Beck, exchanging surface pleasantries at best.
Beck began the re-introduction, “Do you remember Dee?”
Brian surprised us with his response, “Are you married to the fast runner?”
I paused for a moment and wondered how he knew that my husband was a runner, and a fast one at that.
He continued, “His name is also Brian, right?”
“Yes” I replied, perplexed that he remembered my husband more than me.
Brian’s eyes lit up as he shifted in his bed and said with a sly grin, “He was the secret weapon of our Cape Breton relay team many years ago!”
I had no idea. I remember my hubby running that relay race, sometime around 2010, when we were living in the Maritimes, but I didn’t know who it was that enlisted his speedy legs on their team.
Beck chimed in, “Oh jeeze, I remember that too! I was also on that team. Your hubby killed it for us!”
I was still sitting in disbelief at what linked us all together, when I was suddenly pulled to the reason I wanted to connect with Brian: the deeper calling of spending some time with him, offering what it is that I can to someone close to death. Brian must have sensed this too because he changed the topic and asked, “What is it that you do now, Dee?”
I stumbled in my response, “Umm…”, nervous of his reaction to what it is that I do, working with Spirits and energies unseen. Thankfully, Beck stepped in and said, in her typical, no-bull-shit style, “Dee’s a Healer. She works with energy. She has a ton of experience with hospice clients.”
Before Beck could continue, Brian looked at me with curiosity and sweetness in his eyes and said, almost sheepishly, “Do you think you could do that with me?”
I sighed a breath of relief, relaxed the tension in my body (the parts of me that were skeptical about his openness to receive), and said, lovingly, confidently, with a wide smile full of compassion and the knowing sense that this was meant to be, “Of course. That’s why I’m here.”
Beck left us alone, and I picked up the Koshi chime I’d brought from my home on the West Coast. The magical tones radiate from a cylindrical shape, made out of bamboo, with metal rods inside and a crystal hanging in the center. The whole thing hangs on a thick, black string with a ring at the top. I placed my index finger in the ring, and began moving the chime, playing the soft and whimsical sounds as though they were landing on Brian’s body, preparing him for our time together.
When I play the chime, it feels like a lullaby, like the kind of music that’s wholesome and safe and welcoming, as are the songs we sing to lull children to sleep. This lullaby, however, feels more like a song to allow us to wake up. To wake up to the softness of our true nature. It’s like a song to welcome you home to your self, your soul. When I play the chimes, I feel like I’m not the one creating that intention – it’s like the chimes have asked me to play so that this invitation to settle into the soul can be created through its’ vibrations.
Brian’s face and body visibly relaxed, taking in the sweet nature of the chime’s song. In my mind’s eye, it looked like the chime was placing a soft blanket of goodness over him, preparing him for what is coming, not only during my time with him on this day, but preparing him for what was to happen in the coming weeks.
Earlier, I was on the front porch with Beck and Brian’s wife, Susan.
“He was talking about the Christmas holidays and his birthday. That’s a few months away. A good sign” said Beck, with a look of stumbling hope.
“It’s been a faster decline recently” shared Susan, looking fazed, overwhelmed and exhausted.
“Mum, you need some help. Let’s hire someone to come and relieve you” said Beck, with a look of concern. “You can’t do this all by yourself. He’s got a least a few more months. You need time for you.”
Spirit came into my mind and said, “He’s got two weeks, if that.”
My mind started reeling: What do I do with that? I can’t tell these women what I heard. It will crush them. But do they need to know? Is this even true? They may do things differently if it’s true…
I was thinking of this deeper, knowing sense of Brian’s shortened timeline as the chimes played softly over him. I knew this was my only chance to spend time with him. After I left today, I would not see him again in this human form. If, in that moment, I were able to fast forward two weeks, it turns out, my intuition was right.
I wondered to myself, as I watched him receive the vibrations of the chime, Did HE know?
I felt called to bring the sounds of the chime to a close. I gently placed it to the side and began to offer smooth, soft, healing touch to Brian’s arms and legs. His whole body was so frail and thin. The bones of his legs protruded through his loose track pants, his knuckles and elbows larger than the rest of his fingers and arms. His body was no longer able to grow or maintain muscle mass. I didn’t know that much about ALS, except that the neurons connecting to the extremities decline in activation, so I wondered if he could feel the touch, if the sensory neurons were also affected by the disease. I got my answer with the look on Brian’s face: pure, relaxed bliss.
I often feel like touch doesn’t happen enough in this world, and it feels so nice to offer it, with a clear intention of healing touch.
As I continued my slow, smooth hand motions over his arms and shoulders, Brian began to speak.
“Thank you for being so open and vulnerable with me. It’s a huge gift” said Brian, looking directly into my eyes. “Not many people can be with someone who is dying and not need anything from them.”
I understood, but he continued, “Some of my friends have come by and they are so uncomfortable that they need me to calm them down or listen to their stories instead of simply being with me.” He paused and closed his eyes and said, “I love that they came by, but it’s so draining when that happens. I don’t have the energy.”
I remembered how I used to be like the friends Brian was describing. My grandparents are the only people I’ve lost in my life so far that were really close to me. During my teenage years and 20’s, each one had slow declines in health over a year or so, leading to an eventual ‘peaceful’ passing. I would go and visit them in the care home, or the hospital, and I’d sit on a chair near their bed, awkwardly. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I felt all my own grief and sadness and didn’t know what to do with it all. I couldn’t really be there for them.
Being able to spend time with Brian in this easy, peaceful and compassionate way brought back all these memories of those awkward moments with my grandparents that were so full of my own fears that I couldn’t sit there and hold loving space.
I looked into Brian’s eyes and said, “My ability to be here with you brings me healing. You’re healing me.” Tears started to form as I continued, “I feel deeply that what we are experiencing here is also healing my grandparents.” I wasn’t sure if either of us were fully understanding the expansiveness of this experience, so I continued, “When I’m softly stroking your arm, I’m stroking the arm of each of my grandparents. Your gift to me is a gift to those I’ve lost.”
We both let silent tears of gratitude leak down our cheeks.