How to Be at Peace Before Dying

Once again, I am at peace. I think that’s all any of us ever really want – to have a sense of deep inner peace, with ourselves and with others, and ultimately with the world. The Baha’i teachings say:

Let all your striving be for this, to become the source of life and immortality, and peace and comfort and joy, to every human soul, whether one known to you or a stranger, one opposed to you or on your side. Look ye not upon the purity or impurity of his nature: look ye upon the all-embracing mercy of the Lord, the light of Whose grace hath embosomed the whole earth and all who dwell thereon, and in the plenitude of Whose bounty are immersed both the wise and the ignorant. Stranger and friend alike are seated at the table of His favour. Even as the believer, the denier who turneth away from God doth at the same time cup his hands and drink from the sea of His bestowals.

It behoveth the loved ones of the Lord to be the signs and tokens of His universal mercy and the embodiments of His own excelling grace. Like the sun, let them cast their rays upon garden and rubbish heap alike, and even as clouds in spring, let them shed down their rain upon flower and thorn. Let them seek but love and faithfulness, let them not follow the ways of unkindness, let their talk be confined to the secrets of friendship and of peace.

That profound passage from Abdu’l-Baha’s writings represents the essence of what I try to do every day – create a sense of peace for myself and others.

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But the physical ailments I have tend to get in my way sometimes. My struggle at this final stage of my life is my uncontrollable up-and-down blood pressure. Trying to control it has become a new profession for me, it seems, and it keeps me busy. 

Because of that labile condition, I have developed a cyclical habit of either sleeping almost the whole day or getting almost no sleep. I’m not exaggerating – I either sleep the day away, or stay up.

However, I’ve found, this up and down and sleep or no sleep actually suits me well. With my personality, which may be because of my growing up as an only child or living as a single person for most of my life, I don’t seem to mind that extreme variability. Maybe there is a patient and skilled psychotherapist in the next world who can figure it out once and for all after I arrive. Who knows? 

Cancer-wise, I have not experienced much pain yet, but because of some fluid in my lungs, I have a little difficulty when I lay down in bed or when I am getting in or out of a car, which makes me feel the need to hyperventilate. When that happens, the image of a large fish comes to my mind, breathing out of water – so that is how I picture myself during the hyperventilation. I don’t remember actually seeing a live fish breathing out of water, but my mental picture of the fish matches my own hyperventilation. The human urge to breathe is probably our most basic instinct, but luckily my fish-breathing is still bearable, thanks to God.

Life is good.

Today I had to wait a little longer for my blood pressure to get high enough to allow me to move and walk, but after eating and drinking I regained some energy. The reason for my haste? I was going to give a talk to the nursing home residents, which I do every second Thursday. By the help of God, I was able to walk 100 yards to the room for my presentation.

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Today’s talk was the best experience I’ve had since I started giving these presentations a few months ago. The reaction of these beautiful souls, their participation and response, gave me enough energy that I thought I could speak for a couple of hours more and walk a much longer distance.

The funniest part of my presentation every time involves my drawings of the essence of the theme. I try to illustrate my talks with my own scribblings, mounted on an easel all the attendees can see. Today, when my drawing and the accompanying presentation were finished, everyone applauded my great masterpiece. One visitor said that my work was better than Picasso, and of course I agree with her. I told my young helper that after I leave this physical world, he should auction off all my handiwork and everyone agreed, since they are definitely one-of-a-kind. I have to confess, my works are slightly better than those produced by 3- or 4-year old children, and I am sooo proud of my superiority. Well, we all have to laugh at egos and make fools of ourselves, right?

Like many of us I have the habit of talking to myself in my mind, of mentally going over what I say to my audience, whether in my presentation or when I practiced officially as a therapist. I don’t know who benefits the most from my work, those people or myself, and my guess is myself. It makes me happy to hear what I’m saying and drawing, because usually I am trying to bring people’s hearts closer to God – which makes me become closer to Him, as well.

Since that’s the purpose of our living in this world, after my presentation I feel drunk with the wine of love of the All-Merciful, the prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God. Who cares when the cancer pain hits, who cares what the level of my blood pressure is! My inmost spirit is alive, and always will be!

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In a speech he gave in Eliot, Maine in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha said

… the life of the spirit is neither conditional nor dependent upon the life of the body. At most it can be said that the body is a mere garment utilized by the spirit. If that garment be destroyed, the wearer is not affected but is, in fact, protected.

A few days ago, when my BP was at its lowest and I had a near-fainting experience, and was falling into deep sleep, I was thinking maybe my physical garment was dying at that moment. I realized how wonderful death must be for those people who go to sleep in this world, only to wake up in the next world of absolute peace, love, and light. 

May we all have that opportunity.

So right now, I’m excited, content, and at peace, working on continuing to live in whatever state I am, hoping I can deal with my impending death with grace and humility. Praised be God, praised be Baha’u’llah and all the prophets of God. I am happy!

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