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        Celebrating Humanity
Genuinely Human                  

Maggie   Passes   Onwards
                            © Tom McRae

My beloved Maggie, wife of over 35 years passed on to a Higher level of Existence at 2.20 a.m. Australian time on Sunday 20th July 1997. In the hours thereafter I had the most wonderful, meaningful experience of my life.

It is amazing to recall that just five weeks before she'd been her usual vibrant bubbly self, before agonising back pains started without warning. In the early hours of a Sunday morning I rushed her to Emergency Services in our superb public hospital where she was diagnosed as probably having passed a kidney stone. On the following Friday she told me she was still in pain with some nausea but we both assumed this was a recurrence of a bad attack of shingles she'd suffered a couple of years before.

On the Tuesday our G.P. sent her for an ultra sound scan which revealed round growths on both adrenal glands this led to a CAT scan the following day which disclosed a large tumour on one adrenal, a smaller on the other, and a primary tumour in the right lung that had given rise to the others. Thursday found us at the Queensland Radium Institute where full diagnostic procedures came into place while drugs to control pain and nausea were applied. We opted to have it all done on an Out-Patient basis and a series of scans and needle biopsies over the following week confirmed Maggie had malignant tumours of the worst type. A course of radiation therapy was proposed for the larger adrenal tumour and future plans were for chemotherapy once this was reduced or destroyed. A further week of planning followed then the first dose of radiation was scheduled to start on the Monday, by then she was still so nauseous and in pain that she was admitted to hospital to have those symptoms brought under control.

On the Wednesday an incredible chain of events began to network around us. Out of the blue I received a phone call from Frank an American professor of Religious Studies domiciled in Korea. A friend from Religious Studies here in Brisbane, Eddie Crangle, had taken up a visiting professorship at Seoul last December, Frank was his friend and had been told on no account to miss meeting me while he was attending a conference here. We duly linked up and I found he was a specialist in death and grief counselling so I'd a lot to talk to him about when I drove him around the place.

On Monday 14th July he asked me to take him to Karuna Hospice a Buddhist run facility to assist the dying and their relatives. I was vaguely aware that such a place existed but had no idea where. As the facility was near the hospital I took Frank to meet Maggie and watched her smile for the first time in days. She was free from pain and nausea and able once more to participate in intelligent conversation. Frank took the Korean mantra bracelet from his wrist and put it on hers while saying appropriate prayers, I wear this as I write.

At Karuna we met the wonderful nun who runs the place, the Venerable Yeshe Khadro, and multi -denominational support staff. Karuna has no in-patients the policy being to get patients home with their loved ones where all are assisted on that final journey. I took the opportunity to discuss our crisis with them and asked for full details just in case I needed their support further down the track. We left this wonderful place filled with the love and compassion that overflows there.

At the hospital Maggie was getting better and better, fed via a nasal tube she was putting on weight and looking more like her normal self... then came my Wednesday 16th visit. She bravely told me the tumour was not responding to treatment but was growing and that the doctors wanted to discuss some options with us. At this meeting we were told that secondaries had now entered the brain, they might be reduced with radiation but this meant she'd have to stay in hospital until the end. She could gain only a couple of weeks, but she'd suffer from vomiting, hair loss, giddiness, etc. We concluded that as the other tumour had not responded there was little advantage in taking this course. We opted for home where she'd be with me and her beloved cats and I asked the hospital to contact Karuna. From then onwards the amazing networking continued.

I left the hospital in a state of shock, returning to my empty house. Initially I was filled with despair then God took me by the shoulders and raised me in strength for the times ahead. At long last I understood the real meaning of the Psalm in which David tells how God raised him from a fearful miry pit, set him on a rock, and showed him the way ahead. His pit, like mine, had been hopeless despair.

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End Of The Beginning

I brought Maggie home on the Friday morning and was she glad to be out of hospital ! Tired after her journey home I got her to bed and sat back to wait for a feeding machine to be delivered and for our Karuna nurse to arrive. The machine was duly set up and I was instructed in its use. Maggie was quickly back on the liquid feeds from which we planned to ease her back on solids.

The Karuna nurse arrived, he looked familiar and he was. Eighteen months before a friend had set up a night of spiritual meditation and John had been one of those involved. We established a link that night but time and circumstances had broken the connection. He, of all people, was looking after Maggie who took to him immediately. I later discovered he is the professor of nursing at our Catholic University, he does this wonderful work in what spare time he has available.

After John left Maggie's condition began to deteriorate as the brain tumours did their work. I managed to get her seated in our front room for a while where we sat and talked of many things although her speech became progressively more incoherent. At 21.00 I got her to bed but by 23.00 she was in a state of confused dementia, desperate to write notes of thanks and goodbye to all her friends. I ended up by joining her in bed and holding her close and she periodically dropped off for a while before awakening and demanding she be allowed to get up into the very cold night.

Next morning she was so bad I contacted John, he consulted with our GP and they put it to me that the feeding tube be removed and a slow dispensing syringe connected up to keep the medication going until the end. It was obvious this would be fairly soon so I asked John to organise volunteer carers from Karuna as well as a counsellor for myself. I don't know what I would have done without that afternoon carer as by then I was shattered with stress and lack of sleep, Una did lots for us while I stretched out and relaxed for a while.

At night a new carer arrived, Birgit, a wonderful German lady who immediately started cosseting me in the best hausfrau way. Soon afterwards the Counsellor arrived, Gabriel, despite the name this was a lady who, believe it or not, was another participant in our Spiritual Meditation group of 18 months before. We had also developed strong bonds at that time and this new link in the chain was quite unreal, we fell into each other's arms in a mammoth hug.

I talked things over with her until around 22.00 we joined Birgit in the bedroom with Maggie. Cancer death beds can be smelly places with all that sweat and urine but we three all noticed that Maggie was emanating a subtle spicy perfume as she lay there comatose and totally at peace, it reminded me of the accounts of saints passing on. I then went to the cot I'd made up in the spare room while Birgit stayed with Maggie.

At 02.20 she called me to the bedside as My Love had just gurgled briefly and stopped breathing. The temporal pulse was still active when I got there and I held her hand, telling her of my love for her as she slipped off. It was beautiful, totally peaceful. No gasping for air, discolouration or convulsions and she looked beautiful. We rang Gabriel and she turned up shortly afterwards with bags of material she considered important demanding a cup of tea. I sat a little longer with Maggie, holding her hand, until the ladies asked me to get them clean sheets and nighty and leave them for a while.

Once those glorious people had done all that had to be done they came and conducted me to the bedside. My Beloved of 35 years lay there like some Oriental princess with a jewel on her forehead, this was actually a precious crystal pendant belonging to Gabriel. Ten candles burned in two wavelike holders on the bed head with a stupa in between them. A lamp dispensing the perfume of heated oils. Each in our own way we participated in an ancient ceremony to guide the soul to The Light of the New Life. Gabriel has a lovely singing voice and she sang the Tibetan invocation mantra created for this purpose. I made my own input from Rosicrucian sources and the three of us spread The Light over her body, endeavouring to communicate with the spirit that remained at this stage within the body.

A Miracle then took place, Gabriel saw a golden light emanate in all directions from Maggie's head, my eyes were closed but at the same time I was overwhelmed by wave after wave of pure love flowing through me as Maggie poured her love of 35 years into my inner being. It was ecstatic and impossible to put into words, I tried telling my friends what was happening but that was inadequate, the love flow continued to build up in me and my body shook so much with the experience that I had to sit down.

Tears filled my eyes, not of grief but of joy as the wonder just kept flowing into me. Pure love proving beyond a doubt that my wife was not dead but had attained a new level of existence. Aeons later the wondrous waves stopped but the pent up love remained within me. We ended our service, Gabriel left, and Birgit resumed her vigil. I spent the rest of the night in my cot bound with my wife in the most intimate bond that two people can experience, the total union of our souls. I didn't sleep, just revelled in this wonder although I did worry in case she wished to bond forever and become earthbound, I needn't have worried. As morning broke she gently detached herself although enough Light was left within me to sustain me for the days ahead.

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Next day formalities had to be met but I was able to ring our closest friends and invite them to pay their respects. I'd been dreading this bereavement and was amazed at my inner peace and at the way I could conduct each visitor to Maggie's side.

All our guests greeted my Beloved and held her hand, most commented on the incredible power within that room. Around 15.00 it was obvious that the soul had finally quit the body although it was still with us. Friends left, Funeral Directors removed the empty shell, and I was on my own yet far from alone. Both God and Maggie were with me, what else could I need? Wednesday came and Gabriel arrived so we could plan the funeral service. This we intended to be more meaningful than the usual sterile Christian event. We would not be mourning a death but celebrating a life.

I placed my hands on Gabriel's head and gave her the personal triple phonetic name that I felt best described her role in my crisis. "Arch" short for that Archangel Whose name she so worthily bears, "Arc" for that segment of the Wheel of our life in which she'd joined, guiding us both to Enlightenment, and Ark as she had truly been my Refuge and support, I don't know what I would have done without her.

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Next day, we held the funeral service at the local crematorium, I anticipated some raised eyebrows as what Arch and I had planned was far from the usual funeral service. The chapel was packed out with our friends, this alone was intensely moving, and we played them in with a lovely pop song emphasising the Miracle of Love between two people. I was amazed at the way in which I was still coping but realised it was largely due to the wondrous spirituality of the previous days.

The coffin was left open and Arch started things off by inviting everyone to pay their last respects and place a jonquil (small daffodil) in the coffin. She explained that she would be singing the same Invocation Mantra she'd used early on Sunday morning and we'd walk around to music commemorating Hildegard of Bingen using that great lady's words in the songs. I started the procession and looked at my beloved wife once more. She'd been superbly prepared by the Funeral Directors and looked utterly beautiful although not nearly as much so as while laid out at home. Far too much makeup for Maggie and she looked just a trifle severe, perhaps that was why.

Ark was a wonder as she linked the stages of the Ceremony then came my turn to make input. Yes I was strong enough to deliver the final oration, pointing out that we were gathered not to mourn the death of my wife but to celebrate Her good life well lived. I explained how each human being is a unique entity that, like a precious jewel, is composed of many facets. Rather than stringing out the usual tale of the deceased's life I invited all present to reflect on the facets of Maggie that they had personally encountered, looking with joy at their own involvement in her time amongst us. I then shared the story of the miracles that had taken place, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop as others joined in the wonder of it all. Arc read this little poem written by another hospice patient now deceased...

Life is eternal and love is immortal and death is only a horizon and a horizon is nothing save the limit in our sight.
Look to this day, for it is life, for yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision but today well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope.

She then read that wonderful portion from the closing of The Little Prince where he tells of how when you look into the heavens'll see my star joyful and full of laughter.
(How appropriate for Maggie that was).

I placed a single long stemmed rose on my Beloved's breast saying 'I place this rose in token of our eternal love.' Maggie's best friend Barbara then placed a sprig of rosemary in the coffin telling how it was a sign of remembrance before John, a masonic friend added a sprig of acacia with appropriate words. We three joined Ark at the rostrum for the committal. I felt it was my right and duty to press the necessary buttons and with Ark hugging me did so saying something like 'Goodbye my Darling One ' (not too sure) while my three friends held me close.

We ended with one of Maggie's favourite songs, by Steeleye Span.....The Harvest of the Moon

And the song that we sang could be heard for miles around The air was full of harmony you should have heard the sound as we gathered up our differences and threw them in the air And gave them to the wind that shakes the barley.

Then as now as I write this account this brought the tears, writing this ending of my tale finally broke through and gave the chance for some real weeping. I needed that badly and welcomed it. Grief must never be bottled up and there is neither despair nor self-pity speeding my tears as I type on.

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Final Reflections

This is the time when people come out with....Why did God allow this to happen? I admit such thoughts passed through my mind just a year ago when a dear friend Miriam lost the baby she'd carried to term. A well paid scientist she'd given up everything to devote herself to this child yet it was gone before she could enjoy holding the tiny living creature in her arms. Why? I asked why? The message came through that we are not a load of puppets with a man in the sky pulling our strings. Rather we are free people who, while we think we live in a stable world, are actually liable to disastrous experiences that can occur without warning. Would you honestly exchange this for a life and thoughts dominated by an external source no matter how benevolent that was?

Many people platitudinously shrug off tragedies like Miriam's mine. and countless others by saying It is God's will. What bloody blasphemy that is, why blame it all on God? The baby died because the placenta detached just prior to delivery, not because a loving God decreed it should happen. Even worse are those who come up with waffle like God needed a new angel in the sky and he honoured Maggie by choosing her. This is an even more blasphemous statement making God a murderer set to serve his own selfish ends, rather like one of the old Greek gods grabbing an attractive mortal maiden to further his lusts.

In fact My Beloved's death was never due to God's will. It came from lung cancer brought on by the subtle pressures that induced her and most other kids of her age to take up smoking as a sign of maturity. It is a sobering thought that while mass murderers are viewed with repulsion within our Society those who promote cigarettes with their lies and distortions kill millions each year but are regarded as respectable citizens. Her death is on their heads along with those of countless others, I pray the Karmic progress of those responsible will end in their receiving the fate they so justly deserve.

God has nothing whatsoever to do with the many tragic deaths and disasters that occur daily on this unstable planet. When we are assailed by such traumatic events however HE will give us unlimited love, comfort, and support, I know this from my own wonderful experiences over the last few days. He is with me and comforts me just as David said He would in the Psalms. Skeptics may dismiss my experiences as merely Freudian Type compensation to tide me over, Mateys you haven't got a bloody clue! I know only too well what took place within me early that Sunday morning and no ivory tower type academic will ever convince me otherwise.

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A New Start To My Life

I still grieve deeply for the loss of Maggie but new light came into my life when I was in the deepest depths of despair. Despite the message of hope I received, and the wonderful support given to me by many friends I remained desolated by my loss. I found myself unable to attend any of my Masonic or Miniatures Club meetings prefering to stay quietly at home trying to cope with a grief I tried to deny although it remained strong inside me.

It would come on me without warning and I can only compare it with a deep dry well in desolate ground in which purifying clear water rises up to overflow into the barrenness, cleansing it, and preparing the land for new growth. Despite the sorrow it brought in its wake I learned to welcome this cleansing, healing grief I could cope with that but despairing loneliness was beyond me when it hit at times.

On 17th August I had to attend our Miniaturist Club's meeting with my displays for the September Show so they could be measured up. At the meeting I renewed acquaintance with many friends including Aubrey Bartlett, the Founder, and his lovely daughter Toni, both good friends over several years. I spent some time talking to Toni during the meeting and Aubrey asked me to come round to his house and check out a perspex case as a possible display container for my tiny card models.

Maggie was a skilled Craft worker and had many items ready for sale at her monthly Craft Market, I'd decided to donate those to the Karuna Hospice and my Counsellor had promised to come and collect them. Weeks had passed and she didn't show (found later she'd been ill) and the items triggered my grief every time I saw them. I therefore decided to kill two birds with one stone, visit Aubrey next morning then go on to Karuna. So it was I arrived to check out the case and found Toni at home on 2 weeks leave so she could work on her Show display. We checked out the box and had coffee and I decided I really liked this Bartlett lady but I had other business to do that day.

I left and drove over to Karuna hoping to see a counsellor but there was nobody there I knew. I left Maggie's Craft material with those strangers and felt the wrench of losing another part of her as I drove back to my empty home. Loneliness grew throughout that day and by nightfall I was really close to falling in the Pit of Total Despair. Voices seemed to say "This is all you have to look forward to for the rest of your life." I remembered my old pal Bob who lay dead on the floor for 4 days before he was found, would this be my fate? Grief and despair grew by the minute.

Within myself I knew I was being totally stupid and realised I had to do something positive next day. Should I ring up Toni Bartlett and invite her to come up the Coast with me? I balked but did so in the end and to my joy she accepted. Hardly had I put the phone down when it rang again, a very dear local friend inviting me over to dinner with her and her husband that night. Suddenly the world looked brighter and The Pit receded to the horizon.

Next day Toni and I left Brisbane as the friends we'd always been but by the time we reached Mooloolooba, an hour's drive north, some strange alchemy had started working. Something neither of us had expected but we both could feel. By the time we drove back to Brisbane a bond had been established between us which grew over the next few days. Alas we had to split up for a fortnight as Toni had to complete her display and the Show was coming ever closer, this actually worked out well as it gave us a chance to look at things from a distance before we got too committed to one another.

We met again when the Show opened and found our feelings were undiminished and since then an amazing love has grown between us. On 27th September we became engaged, deciding to marry on 14th June next year in her parish church. Our love continues to grow and our future looks very good indeed. Yes out of the deepest darkness Light has returned to my life again, we both thank God for this miracle. Hope and Joy can arise even when Life seems at its worst.

Karuna Hospice recently held its Annual Service of Remembrance, Toni and her father joined me at this moving event where at one point in the service bereaved folks placed lighted candles on the altar to commemorate their Loved Ones as the long list of those who'd died in Karuna's care was read out.

A time came when we were invited to publicly tell of any reflections or thoughts we had about our bereavements. Many people were openly grieving so I felt obliged to narrate the wondrous story of Maggie's final gift to me, afterwards several people thanked me for sharing my story and said it had been of help to them in their own sorrow.

Toni and I both are very much aware that Maggie is with us both as part of our new loving relationship. We know full well it has her blessing and that she will share in the joy of our new life together.

Tom McRae   Brisbane Australia

Oh wad some power the Gifty gie us
Tae see oorselves as others see us
(Robert Burns)

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Note:   Friend & Human of the finest carat, Tom McRae has enriched this Site with his beautiful & moving account.
Here are my deep gratitude & appreciation for the sharing, Tom, along with blessings and greetings no end to You, Toni + "Dad"!

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