Next Thursday it will be twelve years exactly.
For three months my husband had been in the hospital fighting for his life after the placement of a left ventricular assist device – one of the very first experimental models. Problem was – nobody knew that he had MRSA, and worse, nobody knew he was allergic to sulfa, the one antibiotic with a sure record of killing the superbug. His body had reacted to the sulfa drugs with Toxic Epidermal Necrosis Syndrome: he had lost 85% of the skin on his body, and was being treated as a burn patient. Despite the most heroic efforts of his medical team, however, the non-sulfa antibiotic compounds could not eradicate the pathogens from his body, and his organs were beginning to fail.
I refused to accept that the end could be near. Each new crisis, I insisted, was “just a bump in the road” – the doctors would find a solution and he would recover. I assembled teams of Reiki practitioners and held group sessions in his hospital room, until he finally shook his head “no.” Even then I refused to accept the end…until his spiritual circle came and did ritual with him. They returned with me to our community’s spiritual center to finish the ritual, and one of them – a Reiki master – asked if I would like to have a treatment.
Lying there on the table, with my friend channeling Reiki energy to my heart, I finally began to open to the understanding that my husband had accepted his coming death weeks earlier, that very little was holding his spirit to his body…that he needed me to let him go. The frozen denial, terror and grief I’d been holding since his admission to the hospital began to crack open, and I cried for the first time in months…..cried? No: I screamed, wailed, keened, sobbed. My friend held and rocked me until it was over and I could sit and recover.
I spent the night there and the next day went directly back to the hospital, where my husband’s medical team – all 20+ of them, doctors, surgeons, assistants, residents, social workers – crowded into his ICU room to tell me that the antibiotic cocktails were doing no more than tweaking his chemistry; there was no real healing happening. They gave me 12 hours to gather his family and community to say goodbye before they pulled the plug.
Nearly 40 people passed through his room in those 12 hours to make their farewells. At 2:00 the next morning, in the company of three of his community members and myself, the nurses detached my husband from the machines that were keeping him alive and sent him into the great beyond. He slipped away quickly, effortlessly, the only sign of his passing being the stopping of his breath and the whine of the flatlining heart monitor. His friends stayed with me, gathered his things from the room, followed me as I drove home. Thanks be for the cats waiting for me; without their compassionate cuddling I don’t know how I would have gotten through the night.
It took me a long time to be willing to practice Reiki myself again…..a small miracle with my cat Junior was what restored my belief in my ability to channel its healing power. The friend whose Reiki session had allowed me to accept my husband’s passage continued to send Reiki during the period after his death, and held a four-day healing ritual for me to grieve his passing. I will forever be grateful for the lesson he taught regarding Reiki’s healing powers toward grief.
What do I know now, as a Reiki master myself? That this universal healing energy can touch, ease, heal diseases of the body, mind, and spirit….and that healing does not always mean the restoration of health. When the body is too badly damaged, healing for the soul can be the passage into death. In either case, it is for the practitioner to get out of the way, release all expectations and demands, and simply let the energy do its work.