September 6th, 2007
“Don’t die! Not now, not in the hallway with all these people going by … please don’t die!” His chest started to move once again … shallow, but I could see it. The nurses pushed the gurney as we exited his hospital room and rushed down the corridor, on our way to a wing called Hospice ….
The Background (2005-2006)
The pain had started in late November 2005. Home was Calgary, Alberta, Canada and we’d flown out for a long weekend to Vancouver Island, off the west coast of British Columbia. We were there to check out the retirement property we’d excitedly bought a few years earlier (another story coming … ).
We took a day trip to the other side of the island, to the popular surfing community of Tofino, perched on the Pacific Ocean.
I was keen to explore the boardwalk down to the ocean but Ron was resisting the walk, plodding slowly along, and I was impatient. He was only sixty-four and had been fit all his life, so age was no excuse. At forty-four myself, I wasn’t interested in having to slow down. But he was taking his time, so I had no choice but to meander along with him.
When we returned back home after the weekend, this man who had never seen a doctor in the twenty years we’d been together, called to make an appointment. He said something in his abdomen “felt wrong” ….
“It’s not good … “
On December 22nd, 2005, he got the news. When he called to tell me about it, I was at work in a day-long strategy planning session. I took his call in my office and heard him say, “It’s not good.”
But he then went to say he was off to play bridge for the afternoon and would tell me about it later. So, while I felt a bit uneasy, I wasn’t overly concerned.
After the strategy session ended, I finished up the last of my to do list, knowing the business clients I needed to connect with were about to head out for Christmas break.
When I got home from work (… late … one of my few regrets in life), he gave me the word the doctor had given him … “adenocarcinoma.” What the hell is that? He had no idea and nor did I. But he told me the doctor had “wished him luck” ….
Using the internet, I quickly realized we were dealing with cancer. We didn’t know it then, but in time we came to realize it was pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly.
Abandoned for Christmas
The next day was Friday, December 23rd, and the calls I made to find someone … anyone … to talk to about what was going on revealed it wasn’t just my business clients who were headed out for Christmas. The healthcare system, along with anyone who could help us make sense of what was going on, was also shutting down for two weeks.
Thus began our foray into the world of conventional and alternative health care. The former served only to scare and confuse us; the latter bought us twenty-one months of relatively symptom-free life before depositing us here … September 6th, 2007.
How fate (“Spirit”) had brought us together
During the chaos of this day, and the inevitable conclusion rushing toward me, the story of how Ron and I had come together was floating in my mind. I had come to understand by then that our meeting had been fated … a pivotal event in my life orchestrated by Spirit.
I first met Ron in 1985. I worked for an international consulting firm, based in the Calgary office. He had just transferred up from the United States to take a short-term position as a vice president of his company’s Canadian affiliate. It happened to be a client of my firm’s.
I was assigned to a project Ron had instigated and worked with one of his direct reports. I don’t recall actually meeting Ron during that time, but I do remember seeing him from afar … his arrival weeks earlier had caused a quite a stir.
The rumour mill was rampant about this American “son-of-a-b*$#%” who had been imported to crack the whip and turn things around. (As Canadians, we’re hypersensitive about being told how to do things by our American neighbours.) I was just as happy to not have to interact with him directly.
The project finished successfully and I left the client, never having met Ron. Shortly thereafter, I was assigned by my firm to a large out-of-town project, in the beautiful city of Vancouver. It was to last at least a year, if not longer … what fun!
Then Spirit had stepped in ….
After arriving in Vancouver, settling into my apartment and into the project … it was abruptly cancelled … after just four days! WTF … ?? This was so odd … after all the time, trouble and expense of bringing together a team from all over. Surely, if the project’s future was that tenuous, it would have been delayed. However, there it was!
The team disbanded and I returned to Calgary, somewhat shell-shocked, wondering what would come next.
As it happened, Ron had just been in touch with the partners at my consulting firm. He wanted to continue with the next phase of the project I’d worked on and they were grappling with who could handle the work. Of course, I was the ideal candidate.
Delighted I was back home, they immediately shuffled me back over to his company … apparently, just as Spirit intended.
This time, I did meet Ron. Back then, I was all of twenty-four years old and somewhat easily intimidated. He was forty-four and could instill the fear of god in the most seasoned of veterans with just one look.
When I approached his office for the first time, he came out, looked at me and demanded, “Are you any good?” I’m not sure what came over me, but I heard myself say, “Damn straight!”
Within a matter of weeks, and unbeknownst to me, he told my boss he intended to marry me.
No pressure, Karen
I remember my boss calling me into his office “to talk.” He wanted to discuss how things were going at the client. Then out of the blue, he reassured me that I wasn’t to feel pressured to do anything for the client other than my job ….
What??? As a look of confusion crossed my face, he relayed Ron’s comment about me. I burst out laughing in disbelief … ridiculous! Not only was he too old and not my type, I was living with my boyfriend in a long-term committed relationship. Yeah, sure, good luck with that, Ron! Hah!
But as I’ve since learned, Spirit can be very persistent when something is meant to be. Those twists and turns in life that seem to be such “bad luck” at the time … well, there’s actually “a method to the madness.” We can’t always see it, but sometimes it becomes obvious …
Spoiler alert … Ron and I were engaged within six months and married on August 9th, 1986. He was the love of my life.
September 6th, 2007 … the race to the Hospice wing
With two nurses steering his gurney, I tried to stay as close as I could while we navigated the myriad hallways and elevators of the local hospital, on the way from acute care to the Hospice wing. I could hear his breathing continue, shallow, but still there.
The Hospice staff were waiting for us, and as soon as we pushed through the main door, an energy of peace, quiet and compassion enveloped me.
And my husband of twenty-one years … the man I fully expected to grow old with … the man I was still excited to come home to each day … was pronounced dead.
The staff maneuvered me into a chair while they cleaned him up. The craziness of the hospital, acute care, and the race against time, all retreated and a new reality tried to take hold.
As I sat in stunned silence, I remember the two Hospice staff facing me, bending down to my level to give me their condolences. “We’re so sorry for your loss,” they whispered compassionately, as they looked into my eyes.
I had the oddest, very distinct feeling of being a movie camera operator, filming two actors looking directly into the lens as they pretended to talk to the main character. Only there was no one there, just me, operating the camera.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out who it was they thought they were talking to.
The perspective of hindsight
My spiritual journey had started more than two years earlier, but in time, I came to realize it was just a warm-up act … slipping quietly into my life to help soften the blow of what now lay ahead.
And I thank my “lucky stars” every day.
For it was through my fledgling understanding of the workings of Spirit … or the “Universe,” as I called it then … that I was able to navigate this tragedy. The insights and learnings I gleaned along the way about what this life truly is … and how it really works … led me to one filled with more joy and peace than ever before.
This is what I wish to share … for in the sharing, perhaps there’s the opportunity for others to find this, too.