A Life of Transfiguring Intensity

People often tell me  that I “look great”.  I think what they mean is “You don’t look like you are dying of cancer!”  I don’t.  That’s because I haven’t had surgery, chemo or radiation, I eat well, and am surrounded by loving care of every sort and on every dimension.  I live in the shimmering grace of gratitude and love.  And naps.  And my puppy, Tara.

People also tell me “we are all dying, you aren’t really all that different from any of us”, and what they mean, I assume,  is “What’s the big deal? None of us get out of here alive.”  Or, in the case of a few close neighbors, “We are all suffering from one thing or another, as we age. ”  A few might even add “Suck it up” but are too kind to say it out loud.

Now that I am living in the realm of “I will die someday”, rather than “I am going to die really soon!”, I can understand these comments better, those spoken or unspoken.  And let me try to tell you, these realms are in fact radically different.  Unless you have experienced the diagnosis of imminent death, I am not sure that there is a way for anyone to know this.  It’s not a concept, it’s a felt reality.

Eric and I have subscribed to a wonderful magazine named Parabola for decades.  Last summer, I picked up a copy of their Summer  2015 edition, about Angels and Demons.  There’s a wonderful quote on p. 93 that goes like this:

The denial of death is numbing.  But when I know for certain that I can disappear at any moment, it frees me from dullness.  Each instant becomes a possible starting point for something I have never done or said before.  The thought of dying opens a passage that, like the straight gate of the gospels, leads directly to a life of such transfiguring intensity, I feel as if I had risen from the dead.  

This is from a book by Carl Lehmann-Haupt, entitled The Crazy Thing.  Hope to read it soon.  He lived with a terminal diagnosis, then got better, but realized that he was becoming complacent again, and had lost something along the way.

The gift of a terminal diagnosis: a life of transfiguring intensity.  Yes.

At this moment in time, I have one foot in the “dying soon” camp and another foot in the “maybe I’ll live another 10 years” camp.  No way to know for sure.  I still feel like shit most of the time, so not much has changed there.  I’d like to keep the “transfiguring intensity”, however, from time to time anyway.  Instant clarity!

What I do notice is that I am beginning to get interested in life again, how I might be of service to others, seeing other people here in the village, taking care of business. (TCB for those of us who come out of the 60s!) Can’t do much about any of this yet, but I have my head up above the waters for the first time in about 5 years or more, taking a look around between naps.

Sending you all love.  Have patience with each other, because we never really know what someone’s journey is about, or where it may be going.










4 thoughts on “A Life of Transfiguring Intensity

  1. Dear Susan, I would not have understood this two years ago…but I sure do now. Thank you for your writng, thinking, sharing. I believe you look well due to a commitment to your spiritual health and following your own intuition. Bless you…love, Marcia

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Susan, I don’t think we can live life consistently over a long period of time with the kind of intensity that comes when we look mortality right in the face. This may be what you are experiencing as your life elongates when you weren’t expecting it to. Perhaps this is where mindfulness comes in, and the creation of meaningful practices (which you are so good at devising) in amongst the mundane, the laundry and dirty dishes. Enjoy your trip to Mt. Hood! Wilderness feeds the life force, so soak it up. Love, Hannah


  3. Oh Susan I just read this post. I love how you write. I am amazed at your attitude on life and on death. I have had both the unspoken and the spoken words off, get over your grief by now. Suck it up! You should be grateful for what you do have. And more. I am grateful, and yes I still grieve and miss my Lisa so. I often think about life and death so differently now. At any moment life can change. I love more fiercely now. It has changed me so. Watching you be so passionate about life and death – well, I listen and hope to live my life with the same grace you do yours. Much love, Linda Eiden


  4. Hi Linda, Thanks for posting such a loving comment. I’m so glad that my blog is helping some. Lisa’s death is playing a role these days in how I approach life, actually. I’ll be posting a new blog in a few days, and hope to clarify this a little. Hers is a cautionary story. And Linda, grief takes as long as it takes, which could be a lifetime. The trick is to somehow balance on that abyss and still embrace your own life and all the goodness that is there when we look. Sending you hugs and blessings.


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