Death by Chocolate

IMG_4972Today it’s 888. It’s the 8th day of August in the year 2015 (2+1+5=8). It’s a year and one day after losing one of my dearest, most beloved friends.

She was the brightest light in my life, and had been for most of the time I’d known her. She enchanted everyone she touched. When she touched you, you felt special.

“Love, light and blessings” was her signature sign off. If she knew you well she would lower her head in praise and raise her hands in prayer and say “Jai Ma” – Glory to the Goddess. That always made me stop, reflect, and connect with that earthy part of her – and every other woman who is connected to the Divine Mother. What a gift. Deep breath inevitably followed. Ahhhhhhh.

She stopped me in my hurrying tracks and helped me remember how sacred life was. For that I am forever grateful.

My relationship with her began so many years ago when she was my Kundalini Yoga teacher. She taught me about our primal connection to the earth and to the breath. She helped me open up a channel of energy in my body that I’ve actively been nourishing since then.

When cancer knocked on her door she grabbed hold of the responsibility for it like a tiger mother. She researched, she questioned, she argued. She found a program in Chicago that had an integrative solution. Month after month she bravely got on a plane from Florida for her treatments. She came home and I helped cook for her until a young friend moved in to feed her the healthy food she knew was necessary for her healing. And heal she did.

In the middle of her dreadfully long journey, she was free for a while.

Her long straight red hair grew back curly and wild and a playful lioness emerged. She was radiantly well for a while. She, I and two friends created two workshops called, “Tools for Empowered Living” and presented them in lovely hotel by the beach. Her courage, faith and determination showed through her teaching.

We started to make a movie about overcoming cancer as cancer was creeping back. This time integrative treatment was pieced together at home here in FL – juicing, sprouts, green foods, IV vitamins, acupuncture and then finally, chemo. This one was designed especially for her tumors and we had so much hope. It made her sicker than the chemo before.

One day she called to say she was done with the chemo – it was making her life so unpleasant. She bravely told us that she was ready to die. I can remember choking back tears as she asked if I was ready to let her go.

That lasted a day. A second call assured us that she was done with the chemo BUT she’d changed her mind and she wasn’t ready to die, she was ready to heal and was taking healing back into her own hands.

Her Goddess “Sistas” supported her rebellion from the chemo that was sucking the life out of her bones. She was brave and determined and we supported her courage with soup that boiled for days, paintings that were created just for her, oils, candles, vegetables and sprouts. We read to her. We meditated with her. We started a MasterMind group that wove a support system around her (and the rest of us) that lasted until the cancer came roaring back. Even the Shamans we took her to couldn’t keep that away. The surgeon was called in and from there we began the journey of losing her and finding ourselves.

The power that stirred within her ebbed and flowed through the seven year cancer journey we took together, until finally, wanting her release desperately and praying for the day to come, one year and one day ago she let go. Jai Ma.

On August 7th she finally slipped away from the body that could no longer sustain her energy. She rose up. She ascended. She transitioned into the pure energy form she was before she chose this lifetime as her lesson. She’s happy where she is now, and I have this on great authority.

She loved beauty, art, science and magic. She loved her boyfriend, her brother and the bike rides they took together. She loved her two girls, who are as different as day and night. She delighted in the young talented women they had become. In the end each of them spent precious time by her side – laughing, singing and practicing what she was in the last two weeks of her life labeling, “Death by Chocolate.”

When she wasn’t singing to the nurses, doctors (or anyone who happened in to help make her comfortable in Hospice) she was dictating instructions to her friends. I started taking notes. When I questioned what she was doing, she responded by tossing back to me “JoAnna, you’ve always told me I needed a good project – well now I have one!” And so it came to be that I found myself in the office superstore that day with a bag of items – a purple plastic box, index cards bound together with a glittery cover, pens, pencils and notepaper- all so anyone with her could take the notes that she dictated with the precision of a CEO.

She directed me to write down how each of us would participate in her death – Death by Chocolate – her boyfriend, her daughters, her nurses, we all played a role and she wanted to be the Director. One last time. Bless her heart and soul!

After her most recent surgery, she’d developed a fistula outside her belly. As physical things go this one is especially gross. For a woman who prided herself in her once shapely and well-toned body, this was the ultimate insult.

For a woman who loved cooking and eating good food, this was the ultimate spiritual challenge.

For long periods of time she was only allowed ice chips. Her nutrition dripped in through a port in her chest. As she stabilized she was allowed a little water and a little apple juice. How she enjoyed those precious sips!

Gradually tiny tastes of fruit and applesauce were allowed. Oh how she rejoiced! She developed an exquisite appreciation of the few foods and flavors that could pass though her body. Although I’d dined with her dozens of times through the years, I’d never seen her more grateful for food, more ecstatic about taste or more expressive about her bliss as I did those last few months.

Strangely, just before she left us she seemed to be able to consume things that we hadn’t seen her ingest in months! The cafeteria brought mushy food every day. Little by little she tasted. Chocolate ice cream? Was this even possible? Taste by taste she savored the little bits of food she tried.

Hospice gave her an over the counter chocolate drink that she chose to savor as a delicious treat that she’d been deprived of for years. She extolled its virtues. Her boyfriend and her brother showed up with ripe melon and pineapple and strawberries. I watched, almost in horror, as I saw her open her mouth like a baby bird and consume things that I though surely would hurt her.

But they didn’t, and so she asked for the one thing she hadn’t even wished for for the longest time – her favorite dessert – Tiramisu. Creamy, dark, deep flavors all combined in what was for her a spoonful of bliss.

I took notes.

She found pleasure in one sip of “well decompressed ginger ale,” a perfectly tidy room and fresh flowers. Her direction for her style of death included tea, coffee, cookies and healthy snacks for visitors. Her direction was to sing as much as possible and if possible to sing and rhyme instead of speaking. (I must tell you this art was a joy to behold.)

She entertained her caretakers with a song whenever she could. Morphine pole and all she would dance around as best she could and sing and try to entertain all those who came near. She wanted to keep her vibration high and pass to the other side as a bright light.

In the notes I took she cautioned others in the same circumstance to make sure they have an advocate. She was blessed as her long time love Alan stepped up to that role handily. She knew how important that was, and how fortunate she was to have him there with her, advocating always.

She wanted to be bathed and taken care of by her girls. They played games every day and laughter was a prerequisite. She wanted the pleasure of choosing who got her jewelry and some of her precious things and took such joy from the gifting.

She offered to those going through what could only be termed a “deliberate” death experience (by chocolate) the advice to “Meditate on what you want to let go of and meditate on what you DO want to experience.” She directs, “Be comfortable and relaxed around everyone – to the best of your ability. Be as polite and loving in your conversations as possible. Try not to overstate the obvious.”

And then she added, “When you feel the time is right, sign up for Hospice. Life is serene here.”

Ahhhh. I am so grateful for the time we had at Hospice by the Sea – all of us, her family and dearest friends. One Sunday she said to me when I asked how she was, “I am beyond bliss. Everything is in a state of perfect flow and nothing is wrong.”

The last day I was with her she told the girlfriends that were gathered with her to create a little sacred ceremony that the most important thing was: HUGS! Every time she shouted that word, she’d point to us and watch as we’d hug one another. We’d look back and find her smiling – orchestrating her own delight. The Director.

When we left, we gathered up the candles, the crystals and the Hawaiian Uli Uli shakers (think maracas covered with feathers) that she requested we purchase for her little send off. The only thing left on her perfectly tidy table when we left, was the remains of the second serving of Tiramisu we’d shared that day.

The perfection of her planning wasn’t lost on me when I noticed that the powdered chocolate words on the top of our dessert said, “I AM” – the very words of her very favorite meditation.

Devi – I miss you, and I promise that I will recommend that people think about how important “Death by Chocolate” is and how living to suck the bliss out of each moment will enhance not only their death experience, but their life experience.

Yes, there’s a Positivity Practice in this post, several of them. Pay attention. Be mindful. Savor. Experience. Savor the taste, the texture, the light, the fragrance, and the positive experiences.

Suck the nectar out of each breath and be deeply grateful for the life that still stirs within you.

Find the bliss in every moment, in every drop of water. Look through the lens of death and it will change your life for the better. Thank you my dearest Devi for what you gave me and all those who were lucky enough to know you and love you. Namaste.

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6 Responses to “Death by Chocolate”

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  1. Bill Doerr says:

    JoAnna —

    What a wonderful, touching and thought-full post about a force of good energy that your friend, Devi reflected into and shared with others in this existence. Thank you for sharing this special event in your life with us. May we all make the most of the days we have and the friends and family we attract to move them as Devi has moved you. Namaste.

    • admin says:

      WE were all so blessed to have her in our lives, and now she is in yours too. Love you Bill!

  2. Nadine Hamil says:

    Beautiful… <3 thank you for sharing. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

    • admin says:

      It took a year, but I trust this was when the time was right. A lovely ready on 8-8 was the catalyst. Love you, miss you!

  3. Tracey Paradiso says:

    This is a beautiful tribute to your beloved Devi, and such an inspiring message on living life boldly and authentically no matter what challenges come one’s way. Thank you for sharing this profound story, JoAnna. Jai Ma, Devi! Jai Ma, JoAnna!