28/05/2010

A TRIBUTE to my Father

2 years ago today, my Father died.

I don't like looking back - I too much enjoy being present to this momentary NOW, and it took me a long time to get here!

But sometimes it's necessary to acknowledge (to recognize and to accept) that part of the present is our connection with the past. Sometimes it's necessary to look back and reflect upon where we came from. Today feels like one of those times...

My Old Man died of a rare neurological disease called Motor Neurone Disease (or ALS if you're American, or sometimes it's known as Lou Gehrig's disease - that's how rare it is: no one can agree what to call it!)
It's a particularly bad disease to get (in case you're planning on getting a disease) because it's basically a slow burning death sentence. Bit by bit, the body stops working. And the medical establishments have no idea what causes it, and less idea what to do about it.

My Dad's disease first showed up in his throat - one day his speech started slurring. He told me about a phone call he’d had from an old work colleague - who asked him if he'd been drinking. He wasn't a big drinker - actually, he was one of the most sober people you could ever meet. So this old work colleague was surprised! But he hadn't been drinking. It's just that his vocal chords were wasting away.


In the end, his body packed in completely. I had a phone call one day from my Mother - if I wanted to see him again while he was still alive I should come home soon. So I got on a plane the next day, and spent the weekend with him. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen in my life - the man who when I was a child, seemed super-human; my hero, reduced to a skeletal 'bag of bones'.

I've seen footage of the American G.I.'s who liberated the Nazi concentration camps, and they were crying like babies: those men who'd fought their way through the second world war, openly crying their eyes out at the sight of the camp prisoners. That's how I felt. But this was a man I knew. My Father.


I spent the weekend with him. He couldn't speak, so there wasn't much communication. He couldn't even hold eye contact, because his neck muscles couldn't support the weight of his head. He was very weak. But when the time came for me to leave, he made a huge effort to sit up, and we hugged. I whispered in his ear,
"I love you Pops".

He looked at me for a long moment, and gave me a 'gesture', like a nod, that I'll never forget. That simple gesture expressed all at once encouragement, love, and respect. And in his eyes I saw that he was at peace.
We both knew, He and I, that we would never see each other again.


Seeing the peace in his eyes that day was one of the most beautiful moments of my life!

The saddest and most beautiful moments of my life, in one weekend. What a rollercoaster ride!

Why was that moment beautiful? Because for years he'd been fighting with life. He was quite a fighter too - he would fight on and on until the bitter end (which is exactly what he did then), and never admit defeat. There were only two choices for him - victory or defeat, success or failure.

In life, he couldn't see another way - it was only in the manner of his death that he knew peace and acceptance.

I'd been trying for years to get him to see that sometimes we have to accept life on it's own terms. Sometimes we have to bow down to a higher power: god; destiny; spirit; a deeper wisdom - call it what you will. Sometimes, LIFE has plans for us, and the only way to be happy and healthy is to YIELD to those plans. To ‘go with the flow’.

I'd been trying for years, and of course my trying mirrored his fighting! My Father's son! So the more I tried, the more he fought, and the more frustrated I became. And we grew apart a little...

But in that moment, when he looked into my eyes and I saw that serenity, peace, acceptance... in that moment he taught me what I had been trying all along, in my vanity and ego, to teach him!

It's not easy - to surrender control. To surrender. But it's so important. I believe that the disease my Father had (Motor Neurone / ALS / Lou Gehrig’s disease) is caused by that refusal to surrender. I believe that it probably happens mostly to people who want to CONTROL life, and can't stand to admit defeat.

(I would love to have the opportunity to work with someone who has MND – I’m a healer – to see if I'm right: to see if I can heal them. If you know anyone who has it, and has the courage to fight it in an alternative way, to try something new, point them in my direction please.)

Nothing is incurable if you know the cause.

So here's my tribute to my Father: my first hero, and a wonderful man. He taught me in life the importance of honesty and integrity; and in his death he taught me the importance of surrender and acceptance. What a great teacher!

He died two years ago today, but he lives on in my heart.


If you enjoyed this post, you might particularly like this – the story of what happened after I hugged him goodbye, got in a taxi, and went to the airport. The story of the longest, hardest day of my life, and probably also the single biggest lesson I ever learnt.


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9 comments:

Ben Ralston said...

Have you been affected by MND / ALS?
Are you suffering with grief?
Did what I said about acceptance and surrender mean anything to you personally?
Please feel free to answer these questions, or ask any other questions that you might have, by leaving a comment. I'm always happy to open new channels of communication.
With love, Ben

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

I could relate to you and i hope past loving memories give you strength to carry on. My mom is doubted with MND. Doctors will confirm it after 3 months. As of now She has a little problem with her speech nothing more. I would really appreciate if you could throw some light in this regard.
I'll keep checking your blog. Thanks :)

Ben Ralston said...

Hi anonymous,
Yes, I can throw some light on it, but I am not sure what you would like to know?
I'll tell you what I feel is important, and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.
First of all, the doctors know next to nothing about MND. They cannot even give a positive diagnosis: the way they diagnose MND is by ruling out everything else, which is why it will take them 3 months.

Secondly, the average life expectancy of someone after diagnosis is 2 years. I'm afraid that's the good news.

The bad news is that there is a steady decline during that time. So it's not a good 2 years - in the end, it's really very bad.

Here is my advice to anyone who is finally diagnosed with MND: forget about the doctors, they cannot help you. If you want to survive MND you must have the courage to make BIG changes in your life, and you must do it now.
Come and see me. I believe I can help, and I will do everything in my power.
You must act soon (NOW), because with every day the chances get less, and you will lose more hope.

I hope this is helpful to you anonymous, and I'm sorry that it's not a more uplifting message. But it's better to be very realistic about MND, because it can happen fast.

With love,
Ben

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the prompt reply. I understand what you said. My mother lives in India and i in US.So i don't know practically if its possible to meet you or not. She's doing breathing exercises like pranayam etc and taking the medicine(Riluzole) prescribed by doctors. I hope you understand my situation ...Can you give some suggestions to slow the process.

Ben Ralston said...

Ok.
MND is a disease relating to the brain. The brain is the organ of control.
So your mothers disease is almost certainly related to control issues. the best thing she can do is to work on herself in this respect. If she can understand herself better, and let go of her need to control... this is her best chance.
As for suggestions to slow the process, pranayama and other yoga techniques can only help -especially Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing). Headstand would be very good if she is able. Also one litre of water through the nose with a neti pot every day, and a long fast. Doctors will tell her to eat more. I say try a long fast. Anything which drastically changes her perspective on life is a good thing. Moving house, city, travelling etc.
I work with people over skype or phone just as easily as in person. Let me know if she is interested.
Ben

Anonymous said...

hi ben, I M A MEDICO( PRESENTLY STUDYING) AND MY FATHER HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WID MOTOR NEURON DISEASE 2 YEARS BACK.TILL NOW HE WAS PRESENTING MAINLY SYMPTOMS OF WEAKNESS AND SLURRING SPEECH BUT NOW HE'S COMPLAINING ABT BREATHLESSNESS.MY MOTHER HAS BEEEN HIS SUPPORT ALL THE TIMES AND SHES BEEN DOING ALL THE ACTIVIES OF DAD LIKE COMBING HIM,BATHING,EATING ETC.WE ARE ALL TRYING OUR BEST TO HELP HIM THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY .PLS HELP ME I CANT SEE HIM DYING.CAN YOGA HELP?IS STEM CELL TRANSPLANTATION HELPFUL? THANKS.

Ben said...

Hi Anonymous,
I'm so sorry that I didn't reply sooner. Somehow your message escaped my attention.
I hope you're Father is doing ok.
I'm sorry to tell you that there is no way that the medical system can help him. Yoga can help a little. Stem cell research, as far as I know, cannot help at all.
You will, I'm sure, cope with the situation. More than that, you will learn from it, and whatever you do in future, you will do it better as a result of this experience.
With love,
Ben

Christina Allen, Certified Body Ecology Coach said...

Actually, Stem Cell Therapy could very possibly help. Donna Gates, Founder of Body Ecology and Body Ecology's Medical Advisor, Dr. Leonard Smith both have extensive information in this area. Both Donna and Dr. Smith firmly believe that it's important to to detox, cleanse and nourish the body prior to receiving stem cells. Mind you, I'm referring to cord blood stem cells (cells harvested from consenting mothers with healthy births...the blood from both Mom & Baby are tested then harvested. The stem cells will go the weakest parts of the body then quickly allow the body to heal.

In closing, I hope that in helping others with this heart wrenching disease, that you find peace in the loss of your beloved father. Very best wishes to you and your loved ones.

Christina Allen, Certified Body Ecology Coach said...

I should have clarified in case anyone misunderstands...the cord blood is from the umbilical cord from a healthy birth - NOT the ones from embryonic stem cells.

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