In the silent early hours,
When moonlight reveals
Those things that daylight misses,
The shades of memory
Are quite free to come and go.
Thus a visit from an old friend,
Dead now twenty years and more,
With a smile as warm as ever,
But a hand as ungraspable
As mind itself.
In June of 2008 I had a life-saving operation, a liver transplant. After regaining consciousness, I lay immobilized in intensive care for a few days and nights. One night, the nurse who usually hovered nearby, was called away to help deal with another patient in the next room who was dying. All of the staff became so focused on this man that I was left alone for a rather long time.
Lying there alone, I felt suddenly felt a great need to have someone there with me. I was dependent on an oxygen line and uncertain that I could keep breathing if I lost consciousness. Focused powerfully on my breathing, and powerless to move an inch, I turned to my own mind for help. I began to visualize an old friend of mine who had passed away a few years before.
Gene had suffered greatly in his life, surviving both tuberculosis in his youth and lung cancer as an adult. In the years we were friends, he walked with painful deliberation and struggled constantly for air. But he had such a powerful spirit, he never let his difficulties get in the way of his passion for the things he loved, art, music, history, literature and an appreciation for the beauty of women. Gene taught all that knew him by example how to face pain and adversity with courage, good humor and a relentless zest for life.
He was just the sort of friend I needed at that moment and so I conjured him up. I felt his presence and I could almost see him standing by my bedside. Gene was a fierce atheist, a product of an Irish upbringing that forever soured him on anything that smacked of God or an afterlife. I apologized to him for dragging him back from non-existence, for giving him a life of sorts again, if only for a short while, to help me in my moment of need. He seemed to understand and we had a great conversation about memory, existence and where it is that life actually lives. We agreed that it lives in the mind, where the past, the present and the future all have their existence, and where we were in fact having our conversation. It is also where we are at this moment, writing and reading this blog.
When the crisis in the other cubicle reached its' natural conclusion my nurse returned. I bid Gene farewell and allowed him to return to his beloved non-existence, thanking him for allowing me to use him in the way I had.
Now that three years have passed, I am once more undergoing another medical ordeal, this time it's interferon treatment to clear my system of the virus that has caused all the problems in the first place. It will go on for a year and it can be very demanding physically. I admit to feeling some anxiety about doing it, as it is not without serious risks. But a few nights ago, in the early hours when moonlight reveals those things that daylight misses, I had a dream visitor, my old friend Gene. He didn't say anything, he didn't have to. Although I could not grasp his hand, his smile told me all I need to know.
"The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable,
the future is ungraspable."
~ The Diamond Sutra
Our photo today is of the eery beauty of a night-blooming cactus, photographed hours before the dawn.