The Old Lady, Hiawatha and Grandpa

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To quote the immortal words of Curtis, played by Cab Calloway, in the Blues Brothers; “You get wise. You get to church.” Well, when western medicine told my wife that there was nothing they could do to cure her cancer, we got wise and we got to church and synagogue and Buddhist temple and shamanic spirit channeling. That was just in the first week.

When I say we, I mean she went, and I went with her. Don’t get me wrong, there was no resistance on my part. There was nothing in the world that I wanted more than just to be with Rebecca, no matter what we were doing or where we were going. I wasn’t going to let my cynical, British inner voice interfere with her need to find a positive path through this new part of her journey. But she’s my wife. She knows me. She knows what I think and how I think. We shared our love and exchanged the occasional rye smile in which she thanked me for being there… and I thanked her for being there.

In that first week after the diagnosis of her recurrence the greatest stretch to my cynical flexibility was the Shamanic Spirit Channeler. Rebecca had been invited to this Spirit Channeling event before we had met with her doctors. We were sure that her health was still fine. This was just another routine round of tests in an endless line of routine tests. There was no way I was going to waste my Saturday night at some Shamanic Spirit Channeler. But shit happens. We got the diagnosis and Rebecca got a really strong feeling that she needed to find a spiritual path through this latest struggle. I was a willing, supportive and loving husband. I would LOVE to go Saturday night to the Shamanic Spirit Channeler.

You have to love living in Berkeley, CA; you can find more spiritual paths than people in this town. At least we didn’t have to travel far to see the Shamanic Spirit Channeler. We walked up the back of the beautiful old Julia Morgan Center and into the upstairs sanctuary. We were welcomed by a white haired lady dressed in a simple dress and invited in. In the center of the room were a few plastic chairs arrayed in a circled. We took our places in the circle with the 5 other people already there. Soon the white haired lady that had greeted us joined the circle and began to speak. She introduced herself and told us a little of her personal history.

If I am going to take advice on computers from someone I want to be sure that they know their stuff, the same goes for spiritual guidance. As the lady told us about herself I was, frankly, impressed with her history. She had been involved in transcendental meditation for a LONG time, including years of study in the Far East, years of practice in silent meditation, and channeling spirits.

She went around the room asking why we were all there. Rebecca told the story of her health condition to the hostess and the rest of the room, receiving the standard “ohs” and “ahs” and sad looks. I gave a standard, “I’m with her.”

“And now,” she said, “I will begin.”

She slumped momentarily in her chair, exhaled bodily and noisily a couple of times and jumped out of her seat into a one-knee kneel. She was now talking like a 1970’s Western movie ‘Indian.’ Her voice was pitched down an octave. She announced, “I am Hiawatha. I have come to speak with you.”

Her focus was all on Rebecca, and they started to chat. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I suppressed the laughing but found myself crying. I cried because, as they talked about Rebecca’s path to healthy recovery, I so desperately wanted it to be real. I so desperately wanted her to be miraculously healed. I almost laughed because there we were sitting in a circle of plastic chairs with a little, old, white haired lady kneeling before us talking like a bad impression of a movie Indian claiming to be Hiawatha. Why, I couldn’t help thinking, do these people always channel famous Indians?

Hiawatha and Rebecca chatted for a while. No great revelations were imparted, no great wisdom, just what I would consider standard platitudes about self-healing, self-care, mind over matter kind of stuff. The stuff that can be very empowering but can also set up a sick person to see their ongoing ill-health as a spiritual failure. Pretty much the stuff I expected.

And then Hiawatha decided it was time to leave. I was mildly uncomfortable with the fact that Hiawatha had totally ignored all the other people in the room. I guess the young, beautiful, healthy looking person with recurrent metastatic cancer even impresses dead folks. But before she left she said to Rebecca, “I will speak with your ancestors. I will ask your ancestors to help you in these difficult times. Each night for the next seven nights light a candle and think of your ancestors, and they will help you.” She slumped for a moment and then got to her feet again. She looked around the room at us all, and with her voice returned to normal she asked, “How was it?”

So we hung around as long as was necessary not to be rude as all of the people told Rebecca how sorry they were that she was so sick and how tragic it is in one so young. We stood and smiled and tried to make them feel better, as one does.

Half way down the block on the way back to the car we were planning the next spiritual outing. Tomorrow we were going to take the kids with us to the Buddhist priest giving the Healing Buddha Empowerment in San Francisco. What time were we going to have to leave the house? Oh, and sure, we should buy some candles to light for the next week. Can’t do any harm, right? But be sure not to get the ones with the lead wicks. They’ll make the kids stupid. What about that Shaolin priest, auric healer in South Africa who apparently heals cancer all the time? No way we can afford it. It’s a shame. He’s meant to be really good. And on we went.

The kids were great at the Empowerment. How many 7 and 10 year olds do you know who will sit peacefully and patiently through six hours of meditation and teaching? We kept talking about the guy in South Africa. Rebecca lit her candles and thought about her ancestors.

Then on Wednesday, four days after the chat with Hiawatha, we got a call from a member of Rebecca’s family back East. “The strangest thing has happened,” she said. “An old bond, of your grandparents that we didn’t even know existed has come due, and we just got a big check in the mail. We would like you to use the money to go see this guy in South Africa.”

So Rebecca went to South Africa and experienced a miracle, but that’s another story. And Rebecca’s long dead Grandfather paying for the trip…pure coincidence, right?

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