In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Achy Breaky Bodies

Hello friends,

Sorry for the lack of updates recently - I've been fighting off a respiratory illness for over a week now. Yuck! Richard has a cold too. We are lucky, though, we'll get over these illnesses soon enough. Not so much for Mimi. She continues to get a bit weaker every day. She's still eating a little, is also still talking and interacting somewhat. As much as we would like to make valid predictions, we really don't know what the progression of Mimi's illness will be. Due to the fact that she's still taking in some calories, she may still be with us for a while. On the other hand, she may be very close to the end. She's experiencing more pain, enough so that it was decided last week to increase her baseline dosage of pain meds. Nausea continues to be an issue. Please make prayers that everyone throughout the world has a healthy body and mind!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stormy Weather

Dear friends,

The major storm predicted in Seattle turned out to not be such a big catastrophe. Hope that everyone prepared well and were secure during the wind and rain we did have. And thanks to Mimi's sister Melissa for her kind hopes that we stayed indoors and safe during the worst of the storm. We did!

Mimi's friend and spiritual advisor from Portland, Kadam Heather, was here this weekend and spent time with Mimi. Heather has quite a bit of time of experience spending time with the dying, and she observed evidence that Mimi is now actively dying. Her face and limbs are showing signs of approaching death, and her bodily functions are shutting down. She's experiencing mild hallucinations, but her mind continues to be happy and content. Heather sent me this text yesterday while she was spending time with Mimi: Mimi woke up and I showed her a picture of Vajrayogini and her whole face lit up and she smiled and nodded "yes". Then she pointed to Manjushri and said "I want to understand her mind." Mimi has also been periodically holding her mala in her left hand, which is one of the things she requested for the end of her life. How wonderful that Mimi's many years of spiritual practice are coming to fruition at this time. It's encouraging to observe that her inner weather is peaceful and calm.

As always, many, many thanks to those who have been spending time with Mimi and Richard, and also to those who have shared their thoughts and prayers from afar. Your support means so much!

With love,

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Not Long Now

Dear friends,

Time for another remote update on Mimi from Toronto. We're more than halfway through fall festival and the blessings are raining down. Thanks for keeping Mimi and Richard in your prayers here in Toronto or wherever you are this week. I've been talking with Richard on the phone every night and he's in fairly good spirits. Friends in Seattle who aren't attending fall festival are taking good care of him. Thank you, wonderful friends!

Last week Mimi started missing doses of her regular meds, sometimes because of having a hard time swallowing, other times missing a dose due to an untimely bout of nausea and vomiting. Missing any of her pills could be problematic since they're all working together to control her symptoms, but this was especially a concern with two of her medications: an anti-nausea pill, and the glucocorticoid (steroid) she's been taking to control brain swelling. The anti-nausea medication can be delivered via a different route, so that was easily fixed. The anti-inflammatory steroid was a bit more tricky. We were concerned about her suddenly stopping the steroid because sudden withdrawal of a glucocorticoid can cause adrenal crisis with symptoms like severe pain and vomiting, fever, convulsions, psychosis, dehydration, etc. So, to minimize her chances of experiencing adrenal crisis, the decision was made to taper off the steroid. She just took the final dose yesterday. The fact that she's no longer taking the steroid, in addition to some other signs Richard is seeing, lead us to believe Mimi won't be with us for much longer. Kadam Heather from Portland is coming to visit and provide spiritual support to Mimi this Friday. I'll be back on Friday as well, and will continue to keep you posted about the progress of these final stages of Mimi's life.

During this festival I've been contemplating the vast loving kindness that Mimi has shown to her family and friends around the world, and the amazing example she has shown in cherishing others. Mimi's an aficionado of English literature, and I happened to come across this Emily Dickinson poem that describes a small fraction of the kindness that Mimi has shown to living beings in her lifetime. And who knows, maybe she has even helped a fainting robin ;)

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

In the comments or by email, please feel free to share your stories about the ways that Mimi has cherished others.

With love,

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Letting Go

Dear friends of Mimi,

Greetings from Toronto! It's been wonderful seeing so many of you here at the New Kadampa Tradition fall festival, and receiving your loving concern, well wishes and prayers for Mimi in person. I'm concentrating strongly on visualizing both Mimi and Richard here with me during the festival empowerments and teachings, and I'm sure that many of you here are also doing the same. How wonderful and powerful that we can carry our friends and family into this remarkable mandala with us!

I had a long phone conversation with Richard this evening, and he updated me on a few developments with Mimi. As you know, the gross levels of Mimi's body and mind are greatly deteriorating. However, a few of the things that Mimi has said recently indicate that she's still using her subtle mind. For example, during a visit yesterday from a hospice massage therapist, Mimi said, "I've lost the path and I can't seem to find my way back." Given the experiences she's been having lately with her body and mind, this statement seems to suggest that Mimi is actually forgetting about how her gross aggregates function. In fact, at times she even seems to be unaware of their existence. Also, when the massage therapist had first arrived at the house, Mimi told Richard that she needed some time to get herself together. Richard took this to mean that she's dissociating her identity from her ordinary body and mind. She needed a few moments to remember how to attach her "I" to the collection of parts that everyone else agrees are Mimi. These are such good signs to have as death approaches: she'll be ready to let go when the time comes.

While a large number of Mimi's local friends are here at fall festival, many others are stepping up to support her and Richard. We are so grateful for their kindness! Wherever you are in the world, I hope you can feel the cherishing and blessings coming from Seattle and Toronto.

With love,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Birthday Wishes

Dear all,

Today is Mimi's 53rd birthday! Friends and family members are sending their wishes in the form of cards, treats (cookies, pastries and chocolates, oh my!) and their loving thoughts and prayers. However, as Richard says, it's probably not the best birthday Mimi has ever had. She's continuing on a decline of her physical functions, with quite a bit of pain and discomfort, which are being controlled somewhat well by the medications provided by hospice. Her cognitive functions are also in decline with less ability to speak, understand and use good judgement. So Mimi's body is deteriorating, and her gross mind is pretty useless, but Richard reports that she's showing signs of being able to use her more subtle levels of mind pretty well. In fact, just the other day she and Richard had a discussion about the central channel. And, true to Mimi's amazing nature, she very rarely complains about the suffering she's experiencing. Those of you who have been following this blog over the years will agree that she has a very stable realization of actions and their effects. She understands why she's experiencing suffering and actually seems to be pretty ok with it all.

Looking forward to seeing some of you at fall festival in Toronto in just a few days, where I'll be checking in regularly with Richard by phone and posting to the blog from afar.

With love,

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Better and Worse

Dear friends,

Just a brief update on Mimi today. Her leg is feeling better, the pain has decreased considerably. One person on Mimi's health care team speculated that she had an injury that led to blockage of lymph drainage. We're learning that functions of the body that we take for granted while we're healthy simply don't work properly when we're sick and dying. Perfect reason to develop renunciation and get the heck out of this contaminated existence. Mimi's energy is low and appetite is waning a bit. Her cognitive functioning is noticeably in decline. She has, however, gotten out of bed a couple of times (under Richard's supervision), which we weren't expecting. Another lesson learned: it's impossible to predict the course of these last stages of Mimi's illness. What a huge reminder that absolutely nothing that happens outwardly is within our sphere of control. One area where we have been able to make an impact is in hiring the home health care agency. Workers spend three nights a week here and Richard has been able to get some uninterrupted sleep. A care worker has just arrived for an afternoon shift while Richard attends his support group meeting. Providing support for Richard is almost as important as caring for Mimi, and we are so grateful for everyone who is helping to do so!

With love,

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Better, But Still Not Coasting

Dear friends,

Good news: after yesterday's crisis, Mimi is feeling a bit better today. Her leg is still hurting, but not as badly, and she hasn't had to use any supplemental pain meds today. However, it's looking like she won't be leaving the bed very much from now on. To prepare for this eventuality a hospice bath aide was here today, and she gave Richard a tutorial on how to effectively and safely move Mimi around in the bed. Also, the first visit from an employee of the home health care agency happened last night. The care worker stayed awake and alert so that Richard could get a full night's sleep. What a difference it made! Thanks again for your support and prayers, they're make a huge impact here.

With love,