The Art of Dying

Peter Pan said, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” On June 25, 2017, my husband began his big adventure. It seems to me that the best way to do a Memorial Service for him, being a nomad, is over the invisible airwaves of the internet. That way it can wander around the planet as Ron so loved to do.

There is much to be learned from the dying process. And Ron, who taught me so much about love and forgiveness, continued to teach me with his dying. He suffered greatly as bone cancer devoured him from within. The courage and grace he endured it with made him a favorite of those who lovingly cared for him at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton, Florida.

We all build invisible walls around ourselves that are supposed to protect us but actually hurt us. Defenses are like that. They do the very thing they are supposed to protect you from. Ron’s wall caused him to sometimes come across uncaring, and say the wrong or hurtful thing. I knew that behind the facade was a sensitive, insecure soul. (As indeed most of us are.)

For Ron, it took a painful dying experience to break down the wall and reveal the pure, gentle soul behind it. During the dying process, all his defenses fell away. He surrendered to the journey. His vanity was stripped away but not his dignity. What many would endure with humiliation, he accepted with humility. Through the long, painful dying process, he expressed only kindness and gratitude. 

Why he had to suffer so, it is not for me to know. And for a while, I prayed that he would go quickly. And then I realized: this is his journey and his departure was between him and God. One person said to him, “You shouldn’t have to go through this.” Ron replied, “There is a reason for everything.”

Maybe it was his way of dissolving his defenses, overcoming pride and prejudice. For those who believe in karma, maybe he was working his out. Maybe it was to deepen our bond and bring us closer than ever. Maybe it was to hear some of the beautiful messages he received and know he was loved. Whatever the purpose, I do not know. But I know he succeeded.

Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea –
Past the houses –

Past the headlands –

Into deep eternity.

Emily Dickinson

In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, there was no word for death. When someone passed, they used a word that meant “Not here, somewhere else.” Ron is not here on the physical plane, he is somewhere else.  Somewhere beyond the laws of time and space, somewhere without limits and pain and sorrow, somewhere where the angels sing and the love of God fills him to overflowing.

And God Himself shall wipe away all tears. Where darkness was I look upon the light. All pain is healed; all misery replaced with joy.
A Course in Miracles

The death of a loved one is perhaps the hardest thing we have to face in this life. We think what we see and touch and hear is real but it’s not. We are ethereal beings and death is dropping the heavy garment that keeps us earthbound.

I do believe that there is an art to dying. I don’t agree with the resistance urged by Dylan Thomas…

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Rather I would say…

Lay down your weapons, break down your walls.

Look back with gratitude. Reach out with kindness.

Resist not the dying of the day for this is but one dimension of life.

There are many roads yet to travel. Follow the Light and let Love be your guide.

This, I believe, is the art of dying. And I am so proud of Ron for mastering it.

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ITALY – a Land to Love and Linger In

Who doesn’t love Italy? It is among the top 5 most visited countries in the world. Even those who haven’t been there love Italian food, Italian wine, Italian cars, authors, designers and opera singers. 

I just felt so happy, it was like the sun came out of the clouds for me.
I love Italy. 
Bruce Sterling

We have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time in Italy and are happy to be back again this May 2017. This is the 3rd year we have leased a car to spend months traveling around Europe. If you are to be there for any length of time, leasing is much more economical and practical. You get a brand new car, fully insured with GPS, standard or automatic. Check it out at europebycar.com.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

In the past, we have sailed along the Italian coast on various cruise ships, and taken excellent land tours of both northern and southern Italy. Consequently, we have visited most of the great cities in Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna, Assisi, Naples, Perugia – and many of the historical sites. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country.

Now we seek places off the beaten path. We cruise to Europe in the spring and return to Florida via cruise ship in the fall on repositioning voyages. It is the equivalent of flying business class but includes 2 weeks of room, food and entertainment. I choose the ship based on the dates and ports of departure. This year we sailed Celebrity Reflection out of Miami to Civitavecchia, Italy. Cruise lines now charge $75 per person from Civitavecchia to Rome city or airport and vice versa. There are other options: A train if you are not overburdened with luggage, a taxi or a shuttle. I arranged a shuttle with NCC Plus for $70 for the two of us. They were fantastic. 

I will write about our time in Italy in my next blog.  In the meantime, some things you may not know about this beautiful country…

Rome was founded in 753 B.C. and gave birth to the Roman Empire. At its height in 117 A.D. the Empire was 2/3 the size of the United States. It reached from Portugal in the east to Syria in the west, from Britain in the north to the northern deserts of Africa.

Today the Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana) is slightly larger than the state of Arizona. It has 7,600 km or 4,720 miles of coastline. 

Two countries – Vatican City and San Marino – are nestled within its borders. 

Famous authors include Dante, Petracrch and Boccaccio. Pinocchio (meaning pine nut) was also penned by an Italian.

Famous designers: Valentino, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and Prada.

Famous car makers: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. 

Italy produced the first operas and claims Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, and Pavarotti as native sons.

You may have the universe if I may have Italy. Giuseppe Verdi

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy proudly boasts of achievements in poetry, painting and architecture by many famous artists: Raphael, Michelangelo,  Donatello, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Famous scientists and mathematicians: Da Vinci, Galilei, Volta, and Fibonacci.

As of 2016, Italy was the world’s top wine producing country.

It is the largest exporter of olive oil. (While Spain is the la
rgest producer, Italy blends olive oil imported from other countries making it the largest importer and exporter.)

The home of pizza, pasta, risotto gelato and espresso.

Italians created many delicious cheeses including parmigiano-reggiano, gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella, asiago and provolone.

There is in the DNA of the Italians a bit of madness, which in the overwhelming majority of cases is positive. It is genius. It is talent. It’s the masterpieces of art. It’s the food, fashion, everything that makes Italy great in the world. Matteo Renzi

Italy has some problems

Italy lives with the threat of three active volcanoes – Etna, Vesuvius, and Stromboli – and devastating earthquakes. They suffered several this past year.

High unemployment, high aging population and low birth rate (lowest in Europe).

Nevertheless, there is so much to love about Italy and the warm-hearted Italian people. It’s good to be back.

I was offered a free villa in Hollywood, but I said no thank you, I prefer to live in Italy. Ennio Morricone

Thoughts to Ponder from Former Presidents

This month we celebrate President’s Day. It is a national holiday created to honor the births of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Two other presidents were also born in February – William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan. The words of these four gentlemen are worth pondering.

  1. GEORGE WASHINGTON 
First President and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Born: February 22, 1732
President: April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
Died: December 14, 1799

 

George Washington was the only president to be elected unanimously. In accepting the presidency, he believed he had given up “all expectations of private happiness in this world.”

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

Some day, following the example of the United States of America, there will be a United States of Europe.

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

2. WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON

William Henry Harrison Sr. was the 9th President of the United States, and the last president born as a British subject. 

Born: February 9, 1773, Charles City County, Virginia, VA
President: March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
Died: April 4, 1841, Washington, D.C.

William Henry Harrison died one month after taking office. The wet and freezing weather in which he delivered the longest inaugural address in history may have contributed to his death. His vice-president, John Tyler, assumed the presidency. He was the first to take office without being elected to that office. People questioned his legitimacy and nicknamed him ‘His Accidency.’

There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.

The liberties of a people depend on their own constant attention to its preservation.

Times change, and we change with them.

Sound morals, religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness.

A decent and manly examination of the acts of government should not only be tolerated, but encouraged.

All the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

3. ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, revered for abolishing slavery and preserving the Union.

Born: February 12, 1809
President: March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
Died: April 15, 1865

Hours before he was assassinated, Lincoln said, “I believe there are men who want to take my life and I have no doubt they will do it.” He did not want to go to the theater that fateful night but was unwilling to disappoint people who expected him.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.

4. RONALD REAGAN 

40th president. Seven Congressmen moved for impeachment following his invasion of Grenada.

Born: February 6, 1911, Tampico, IL
President: January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
Died: June 5, 2004, Bel-Air, Los Angeles, CA

Before entering politics, Reagan was an actor and was considered for the role of Rick in the movie Casablanca.

We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.

There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.

Trust, but verify.

To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will.

Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.

How can a president not be an actor?

There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.