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It is not easy helping those who are dying to die. But it is an essential duty of the living since most of the dying cannot help themselves. In the past week, a dear young man passed into the afterlife. He was 34 years-old. In my eyes, he was much too young to experience the transition to everlasting life, but I did not have a say in the matter. No one did. Some people believe that when it is your time to pass, it is your time. There seems to be this sense that there is no turning back once we are on the journey that carries us past the river Jordan, through the Guardian Towers and up to the Gates of Saint Peter. Sometimes resting is necessary in the Hall of Souls. No matter what the journey entails, people make it every day. I suspect it may be different for different people, but as everything in nature is fractal, the passage must be some iteration of an ancient pattern that was established at the beginning of mankind's existence. I hope someday I meet the very first man who died on our planet. He is an honorable man. I admired Ben. He was a defiant gentle soul who had a Buddhist's way of seeing the world. Some people would refer to him as Zen Ben. He was born with a unique skill set which I refer to as his fate. Every one of us has a fate when we are born. The features of our skill set include our temperament, cognitive intelligence, problem solving ability, emotional intelligence, stress response, likes and dislikes and body features that mature over time. Many of us deny our true fate and find ways to avoid being who we are meant to be.

I know a strikingly beautiful woman who was a member of the Pom team at The University of Memphis. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. She was a fantastic painter, winning several awards during her college days in art competitions around the United States. When she left school, a middle aged man asked her if she would consider being a pharmaceutical representative. At that time in her early twenties, she had a world view that did not include taking medicines for illness. The district manager was handsome and persistent, so she ultimately signed on. She put her paint brushes down and never again returned to painting. She now resides in Florida, is a district sales manager of a large drug company and is considered a financial success. But she is depressed, anxiety ridden and exhausted. No amount of money or corporate positioning can remedy her illnesses. She took the Right Hand Path. She has acquired some prestige through her wealth and occupation and some people would say she is dignified, especially her mother who had never been supportive of her being an artist. She lives a boring life and her occupational demands have robbed her of any internal peace. She lives alone and trusts no one. I am the only one who sees her as an artist starving to paint. She refuses to return to her creative side because she feels she has lost her ability to express herself at the level she did in college. One day maybe. But until that day comes, she will live in misery.

Ben was a chef. He had a number of opportunities to make it big, but he was happy living a bohemian life style. I believe that he saw the suffering in this world and had a hard time accepting that people could be so cruel to others. He had a sense of honor and justice that most of us would admire. He stood up for those who were unable or unwilling to stand up for themselves. He cared, cared a lot. But the aspect I admired most about Ben was that he took the Left Hand Path. He embraced his innate skill sets or fate and did his thing, not looking for awards, wealth, prestige, power or status. He walked the Left Hand Path. He may not have been the most dignified person in the eyes of those who had a chance brief encounter with him, but he lived an interesting life, full of emotional and physical trauma as well as some profound accomplishments that kept him optimistic and advancing to the next challenge. He lamented about a young woman he loved dearly, who accidently drowned in a pool. I do not think he ever got over that loss. I believed he could not find a sense of justice in that particular tragedy. It haunted him and all of us who knew her. Her life seemed so unfinished.

As destiny would have it, Ben treated his misery with alcohol. Since he was a perfectionist, he was perfect at drinking. Several months ago, he developed a liver problem and sought medical help. Some inexperienced physician told Ben that he had a liver problem related to his alcohol consumption, so he stopped drinking immediately. He had had enough and he was not going to let a liquid thief into his body and steal his life away. But to his surprise and those physician's around him, his liver did not respond to his abstinence. His liver continued to deteriorate. Instead of his physicians taking a noble path and finding out what was happening, they stood faithfully in the light of convenience, professing that Ben had created his liver problem by drinking too much. And it was too late to do anything about it. Ben was in Ashville, North Carolina at that time. Ben had no idea that his physicians were actually baffled about his illness and that they were not open to exploring the true nature of his disease. But Ben being Ben accepted his destiny. He became sad about his use of spirits to free his misery since his habits had come home to roost in a body that was weakening day by day.

I found out about Ben's illness from his mother. She called me about his situation. When she described the features of his liver disease, they were absolutely inconsistent with alcohol induced liver disease. She went to the hospital in Ashville. Her mission was simple: to get to the truth. When she arrived, she found Ben lying in hospital bed alone, and severely emaciated. He was the color of a pumpkin. He was glad to see her since he had always maintain that she was his best friend. His mother gathered as much laboratory information as she could and sent the results to me via fax. As I reviewed them, I realized that Ben had a rare autoimmune hepatitis, one that only attacks his biliary system. The result was that his bile was backing up in his liver and wreaking havoc with the rest of his liver cells. When I revealed my thought to his mother, she was elated it was not an alcohol induced illness. However, the illness had pasted the point of treatment. The delays in Ben's treatment had a profound effect on his longevity. Without going into extreme detail, Ben laid in a hospital bed for days before he was transferred via ambulance to his home in Cordova. Both Baptist and Methodist Hospitals refused to take him as an inpatient for further study. To all of you reading this blog, this is an ominous sign of the healthcare to come in our community. This is not a result of the new Healthcare Act. This is a result of the greed and compassionless worldviews of our local hospital administrators. A liver specialist tried to get Ben into Baptist but a prominent hospital administrator blocked the transfer and refused to let Ben through the door. It is a sad commentary that an administrator has more power to accept or reject a hospital admission than the best liver specialist in the region. I suspect that if Ben was that hospital administrator's son, he would have been accepted with open arms.

I was able to perform the necessary laboratory and imaging tests on Ben to determine the exact cause of his liver failure. He did not need a liver specialist. It was an autoimmune disease that had not been influenced in any way by his over use of alcohol. I had a visit with Ben and made sure he knew that his liver disease was not a result of his ingesting alcohol: it was just plain old bad luck. And I told him that there was no treatment to stop its progression or restore his liver function. He was amazing. He accepted his destiny and did not lament about taking the life path he had chosen. I think the Truth freed him as well as the rest of his family. I told him that the two most important factors in his remaining days were that he not be afraid of Death and not be afraid of Dying. He said he was not afraid of Death, but the dying part made him uncomfortable. He went home with his brother and mother. That was the last that I saw of Ben. Somehow he found the courage to pass peacefully.

The Holiday season is supposed to be filled with the Spirit of Giving and Compassion. Ben gave me the gift of caring for him in his last days, and for that I will be forever grateful. The highest honor a doctor can achieve is helping a soul transcend to the Afterlife. It is Holy work. As a chef, Ben served many people amazing food. As a person, Ben gave everyone an opportunity to be compassionate and non-judgmental. As son, Ben loved his mother deeply and she loved him unconditionally in return. He will be missed and thought about frequently in the next few years.

What I admire most about Ben was that he was fearless walking the Left Hand Path. I wish more people would follow his example, live authentically and find peace in knowing their Truth. Then again, I have found that most people lack the nerve to do it. Perhaps that was the greatest skill Ben received when he was born: Courage. The courage to live and the courage to die with no regrets.


Posted by The Stone Institute News at 3:16 PM
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