Raw Nerve Part I

A little over ten years ago
I had $300,000 in stock.
I wasn’t one of the 1%
but I was one of the financially blessed
Today I have nothing,
my fortune crumbled
like the ruins of the Anasazi
a few dollars stuffed in a safe
I don’t even know how few anymore
I have stopped counting

When my husband was
diagnosed with cancer in 2006
I had no idea that
between medical expenses
and staying home to be with him,
in 5 years I would be
imploding financially
even had I known what would happen
I wouldn’t have done anything different

The last five years with Ken
were precious beyond understanding
for someone whose decisions are based on financial security
it would be impossible to understand

This last 9 months since Ken’s death
have been great teachers
I have learned that I can endure
more pain than I previously knew existed

I have learned that telling my friends
about my financial situation
and seeing the looks in their eyes
Is okay
I actually feel sorrier for them
Than I do for myself
I have lost the compulsion to protect
all the things that previously
defined my identity
Now my identity is defined by what I
am willing to feel
what I lend my heart to
the pulse of life-force surging through me

Ken’s life and death transformed me this past 5 years
I no longer am willing to lie,
to others
or to myself
I have nowhere to hide,
no reason to pretend
so I must remain open
open and available to all life offers

I have learned that free clinics have caring people
but the systems don’t work well
for the people for whom they care
I have been in pain for 14 days
a raw nerve in my molar set off a chain reaction
it was pulled on the 27th
I attempted to be seen on the 23rd
but there weren’t enough dentists to go around
and I was sent home
caringly, lovingly sent home
but sent home in pain nonetheless

I cried all the way home
I learned that you can drive a car
in a torrential downpour of tears
and not crash

I had held it together for
my first visit to a free clinic
a place I never expected to be
as I drove home the immensity
of my situation
of my fall from society’s grace
overcame me
I was the same person who I was
when I was making lots of money
had the same talents
the same capability
a bigger heart
and yet, here I was
driving home
unable to get help

An infection was missed
and took over my body
bladder, sinus, pus in my gums
because of the holiday
I couldn’t see a dentist
again until January 3rd

The inmates at OSCI where I volunteer
have a better social contract than that

I went to the urgent care on the 31st
the pain was so intense
they wanted $155 up front
I could have put it on my credit card
but I didn’t know how I would pay for it
so I left
I was taught to pay my bills
that integrity mattered
so I went home
besides there was something immoral,
inherently wrong about the price
I waited for the free clinic to reopen

Tuesday morning
I drove in at 6:30am to get into line
to make certain I would be seen
I hadn’t slept the night before
the pain was growing
taking over my consciousness
so getting up early didn’t really matter

At 10:15 they finally called my name
I don’t know if the tears I shed
when I asked if there was a possibility
I wouldn’t be seen that day
made a difference or not

I have learned that my insurance expenses
will go up now that I am widow
one car will cost more than
insuring Ken’s and my car together
to the insurance company
I guess I am now a greater risk

I have learned that I can maintain this 5 acres
by myself if need be
and that it is therapeutic to try

I have learned that Ken’s presence
Is more present these days
than his absence
and I wouldn’t have learned that
if I hadn’t been willing
to stay with him through
the days and nights of dying
and if I hadn’t been willing
to allow myself to grieve
to feel the loss
to experience and explore
the echoes of his life
as they bounced off my heart

I have learned that this world
is not what it seems
and that caring for others,
all others,
is more important
than caring for myself

I have learned to ask questions
to question everything
that assaults my soul
to ask, “Who do I choose to be?”
“What makes my soul soar?”

When I was blessed
with financial means
I was more interested in
hanging onto what I had
in making more,
not in helping those whom
but for a few twists of fate
I could have been

I didn’t know
what I know now
even though I had become
much more self aware
I hadn’t learned these lessons
I still looked at the world
through my eyes alone
I didn’t see that
all people are amazing
all of us have unimaginable potential
all of us need a helping hand
every now and then
and helping each other
gives all of us a hand up
gives lift to our collective soul
unleashing the pure potential
that lies within each of us

Looks are deceiving
Kenny taught me that
looking at me right now
you would see a distorted face
swollen with infection
a half chipmunk face
without the cartoon
when I went to the pharmacy
people stared
and then quickly looked away
I live alone
I can’t send my husband to the store
he’s not here anymore

Kenny taught me something else
through his living
and his dying
he clearly showed me
the insanity of judging another’s path
we just never know
we can’t

He told me to be present
to allow myself to feel my life
to feel the loss
to feel the pain
I don’t know if he realized
that being present to the suffering
is a doorway for the soul
knowing or not doesn’t matter
what matters is that
in those final days
he was more present than anyone I have ever known

The last lesson was simple
“The only thing that matters
the only thing that lasts
is Love.”
It is simple and yet not easy
each day the message deepens
within me
body, mind and soul
Sitting in the free clinic Love asked me
over and over again
Who are you?
Will you choose love or fear?
Will you love this moment?
Will you love these people?
Will you love as I do?

Thank you everyone who has come forth with offers of assistance. I was not specifically asking for help and yet the message is one asking us all to come into community wherever we are in the world. It is past time for us to be singular and now time for the Great Arising of Oneness. The problems with money, health care, poverty, invisibility, brutality are not singular problems. They are the open ache inherent in the separate experience, of which we are no more.  Help whenever and where ever you can. There is always a Gayle somewhere in need of your help, perhaps right next door to you or down the street. Help please. It is how we regain our true humanity.

And … if you feel drawn to help here at the farm, come and join your hearts with ours. It is our hope to grow many delicious foods for sale, to teach people how to can, smoke, and dry what is grown, to offer cooking and herb classes and to join in deep, meaningful conversation as a Point of Light Community.

One thought

  1. Gayle,
    Rev. Suzann from ALC suggested that I meet with you. It appears that we have some common ground. I am just graduating from One Spirit Interspiritual/ Interfaith Seminary. My husband, Ron, died of brain cancer in 2010 and I am very interested in midwifing the conscious death process. I live in Vancouver and would love to meet with you.

    Blessings and Peace,

    Lisa Aschoff

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