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Member since: Sun Jun 4, 2017, 04:46 PM
Number of posts: 1,660

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This is a photograph of my mood this morning.
Quiet, contemplative, optimistic.

Emerging from the shadow of my wife's death three weeks ago, I can now see that life always goes on.
Photography is a healing art.
Posted by The_jackalope | Sat Sep 30, 2017, 07:33 AM (3 replies)

The Gerasimov Doctrine

The Gerasimov Doctrine

In February 2013, General Valery Gerasimov—Russia’s chief of the General Staff, comparable to the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—published a 2,000-word article, “The Value of Science Is in the Foresight,” in the weekly Russian trade paper Military-Industrial Kurier. Gerasimov took tactics developed by the Soviets, blended them with strategic military thinking about total war, and laid out a new theory of modern warfare—one that looks more like hacking an enemy’s society than attacking it head-on. He wrote: “The very ‘rules of war’ have changed. The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness. … All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character.”

The article is considered by many to be the most useful articulation of Russia’s modern strategy, a vision of total warfare that places politics and war within the same spectrum of activities—philosophically, but also logistically. The approach is guerrilla, and waged on all fronts with a range of actors and tools—for example, hackers, media, businessmen, leaks and, yes, fake news, as well as conventional and asymmetric military means. Thanks to the internet and social media, the kinds of operations Soviet psy-ops teams once could only fantasize about—upending the domestic affairs of nations with information alone—are now plausible. The Gerasimov Doctrine builds a framework for these new tools, and declares that non-military tactics are not auxiliary to the use of force but the preferred way to win. That they are, in fact, the actual war. Chaos is the strategy the Kremlin pursues: Gerasimov specifies that the objective is to achieve an environment of permanent unrest and conflict within an enemy state.

Sounds sort of familiar, no?
Posted by The_jackalope | Fri Sep 29, 2017, 07:17 PM (1 replies)

Memento Mori

On the evening of September 6, 2017 our living room was its usual familiar, comfortable, cluttered mess. Outside the front window late afternoon sunshine slanted through maple leaves. An hour before, Kathy had eaten a small dinner - three exquisite grilled scallops and a crème brûlée from her favourite restaurant, whose owner had been astonished and thrilled to be asked to prepare a meal for such a special occasion.

After her final dinner Kathy decorated her favourite blue leather recliner with a pale yellow afghan she had crocheted forty years ago and an assortment of her beloved silk scarves. Around her neck she hung the amethyst pendant I bought for her birthday in 1976, that had become a lasting symbol of our love.

There was no fear to be found anywhere. Her air was one of deep relief that the time was finally here, overlaid with calm curiosity and half-suppressed eagerness.

We said some heart-full goodbyes, but they didn't have the same sense of urgency they had two weeks before. That was the night I sat with Kathy, holding space for her as she made two consecutive unsuccessful attempts at suicide. The following morning she made the decision to turn the task over to the professionals of the medical establishment. She knew what she wanted.

At 6:00 Kathy settled herself into the recliner. In my mind's eye it became her seat in the back of a small ferryboat on the bank of the River Styx. I took some photographs of her.

At 6:30 Charon the ferryman arrived, in the person of a gentle Indian anaesthesiologist. He asked Kathy if she was sure this was what she wanted, and she smiled as she said "Yes."

The nurse who was assisting put an intravenous line into the back of Kathy's left hand as the doctor began laying out large syringes of midazolam, propofol and rocuronium.

I sat down facing Kathy. We held each other's hands. The room went utterly still. The doctor's voice emerged into the silence: "Are you certain that you want this to go ahead?" Once more Kathy said, "Yes, please."

We gazed deep into each other's eyes, touching each other’s souls and feeling the eternal bond that made us one. She smiled again, and her gaze seemed to turn toward more distant visions.

"I love you."
"I love you too."

Kathy's eyes sank gently closed. There was no other sign of what was happening. As the doctor pushed propofol into her vein, her breathing slowed. Before the third syringe was empty, it had ceased. After the doctor checked carefully for a pulse he turned to me. "She's gone." I heard the nurse announce the time - 6:49. A remote stillness roared in my ears.

There was some paperwork. As we waited for a call back from the coroner, I showed them some of Kathy's art. They said their goodbyes and left.

I kissed her one last time. With some difficulty I got my camera out again. I took the final picture of my beloved. I sat with her until two men from the cremation service arrived. I declined their offer to walk with the gurney out to their waiting vehicle. The door clacked shut behind them. I said a silent prayer.


I had some initial misgivings about posting these final photographs. Kathy had given me repeated permission to do whatever seemed right following her death. In the end this seems the right thing to do. By showing them I honour her courage, her heart, her wholeness, her self-awareness, and her commitment to the flow of life.

At the same time I hope to unveil the moment of death a bit. In my own small way I am trying to remove a few of the barriers that have been placed between us and death by a culture that is inexplicably fearful of it.

In the words of another transdimensional sage, "Dying is perfectly safe. It's like taking off a tight shoe." He is right.

Do go gentle into that good night.
Embrace, embrace the dying of the light.

Carpe aeternum.

I love you, Kathy. May boundless joy be yours.

Posted by The_jackalope | Thu Sep 28, 2017, 03:36 PM (10 replies)

The Pollinator

Posted by The_jackalope | Mon Sep 18, 2017, 03:51 PM (4 replies)

After nightfall

A couple of days ago I got a new lens - a Nikkor AF-S 28mm f1.4E for the camera buffs - and took it out for a night-time stroll on a D750. This is what I came back with.

I have utterly fallen in love with this lens/camera combo.

This one is pretty Twin Peaksy.
Posted by The_jackalope | Thu Sep 14, 2017, 09:30 PM (4 replies)

At the going down of the sun

Since the death of my wife a week ago, my camera has turned more often toward the sun and sky.

Posted by The_jackalope | Wed Sep 13, 2017, 09:29 PM (19 replies)

I'm sorry for your loss.

I'm thinking a lot these days about the phrase "I'm sorry for your loss." People say it for a variety of reasons. They may actually feel sorry; they may say it because they think I expect it from them; it may be a reflex programmed way back in childhood, or it may be a way of safely acknowledging an uncomfortable event. All these reasons are perfectly acceptable, and I'm not going to bitch about politeness or caring.

What has interested me in the week since Kathy died is how my inner response to that phrase has evolved. While my outside voice still says things like, "Thank you, that's very kind," my inside voice is now saying something completely different. It says something like this:

Loss? What loss? Who got lost, and where would they have gone? Kathy wasn't her body. She wasn't even her mind, or her emotions. Kath was always a spirit, whatever that means. For a while the "spirit formerly known as Kathy" was focused in a physical body, now it is defocused into the universe - the eternal Here, the eternal Now. As Seth put it, she is now "an entity no longer focused in physical reality." That emphatically does not mean that she's "gone."

I don't even think "Oh, she lives on in our memories and in our hearts" - though that is true to some extent. What is far more true is that she lives on forever in everything. Whenever I take a photograph, I'm photographing her. When I walk down the street, I am surrounded by her. Well, that can't be exactly true, can it? "Surrounded by" implies that I am still somehow separate from her - she's outside, I'm inside. But that's just a culturally reinforced illusion. If she is now everything, then she must be me as well. And she is.

That's how I perceive her; that's my understanding of what happened. This is why there has been no sorrow in my heart. At first there was a sense of dislocation, because it was a fairly major change for all concerned. But sadness? No. She was happy to leave, even eager. She had wanted to go home for many years, and finally she could. Love means wanting for your beloved what they want for themselves. This is why I feel joy and celebration rather than sorrow. She got what she most desired.

But, "Thank you, that's very kind" works a little more smoothly most of the time. People at work are less likely to look at me sideways and wonder what planet I'm from. Luckily, you folks are not them, and we can sometimes tell each other our truth.

Thanks for listening.
Posted by The_jackalope | Tue Sep 12, 2017, 10:17 PM (14 replies)

A tribute to a great artist

Kathleen was, in my estimation, in the top tier of digital abstract artists in the world. She never blew her own horn, never tried to market her work. She was an artist, and for her making the art was all that mattered.

I've introduced you to her a bit in my previous posts. Here is a link to a small album of her work that I put up on flikr last night. It has 300 pieces in it, most of which were done this year. That represents 10% of her whole body of work. I've been given the task of curating this enormous collection, and I thought perhaps some of the people here would like to get a glimpse of her true greatness.

Thank you for letting me share so much of our process here over the last few months. Posting here has given me a great sense of release and relief. You have held space for her passing in the most gracious manner possible.

Kathleen's album on flikr
Posted by The_jackalope | Sat Sep 9, 2017, 10:59 AM (15 replies)

She is gone.

My beloved soulmate, Kathleen Farago May, died today. She was 65 years old, and had been suffering from ovarian cancer for the last five months. In the end the suffering proved too much to bear, especially given that there was no chance of recovery.

Her transition happened as she had wished - peacefully at home, without pain, with serenity, awareness and deep curiosity.

The world will miss Kathy's wisdom, insight, love, humour and her overflowing creativity.

Her spirit will live on in the memories and hearts of all who knew her, as well as in the thousands of sublime works of art she created during her lifetime. Her soul has become an integral part of the world and the deeper Mystery, as it has always been.
Kathleen, we who love you honour your life, and wish you a safe, joyous and transcendent journey.

Kathy was born on May 24, 1952 in Budapest Hungary. She escaped into Austria with her parents in the final wave of refugees in 1956 by walking out across snow-covered marshes, one of the youngest children to take that route. She came as a refugee to Montreal, where she spent the next 16 years. She then spent 11 years in London Ontario where we first met in 1972, 13 years in Rochester New York, and 14 years in Los Angeles, where we were finally re-united. She spent her last seven years in Ottawa, making art full time.

She realized she was an artist at the age of five. She was especially prolific during the last decade, thanks to her embrace of digital art and fractals. She has left us an enormous body of work, literally thousands of digital paintings. Her images have caused many of her fans to say that they feel they are looking at the structure of reality itself, or perhaps getting a glimpse into their own souls. Spending time with Kathleen's work is a transcendent experience. I will always treasure the memory of watching her at work, as her Muses channeled the inspiration that flowed from her hands onto the computer screen.

Bodhi Paul Chefurka

Kathleen has asked me to share this last message with the world.

To my loved ones:

I have decided to take my leave, based on the current state of my body and quality of life. I regret only that I don’t have the energy left to say an individual goodbye to each of you. I celebrate that you have each been in my life and my heart! Your friendship and love have been a pillar of strength in my life and they are treasures that I will carry with me into the mystery that awaits. Please know that the brevity of this note only reflects my waning energy, not any absence of depth of emotion and appreciation. I am deeply grateful for your presence in my life and hope that you can feel how much you each have meant to me. Thank you for all that you have done and been to me – I will see you on the other side, or perhaps even before!

Kathleen Farago May
Posted by The_jackalope | Wed Sep 6, 2017, 07:45 PM (139 replies)

Collecting my thoughts

I have gathered up the various bits and pieces I have written over the last two weeks. This morning I edited them into this letter that I'm sharing with the small circle of friends in whom we have confided as events unfolded. In this circle I include all the members of DU who have shared the process and offered such whole-hearted support here on the End of Life board. You are a rare and fine group of people, and I'm proud to have you as friends.

After this post I shall go silent until after Kathleen's passing. Thank you all once more.

The Jackalope (née Bodhi Paul Chefurka)

Just over a week ago I sat with my twin flame Kathleen as she calmly performed two unsuccessful suicide attempts over the course of four hours, using a different technique each time. I have never seen such resolve and commitment in another human being. It was beyond any possible doubt the hardest experience of my life. It took all my strength and love to stay present for her as the events unfolded.

The experience taught us both that amateur suicide is a risky, failure-prone undertaking (please pardon the dark pun.) It's easy to think you know more than you do, and of course there's no chance to practice. I can't stress how much I do not recommend it if a medical option is available. The following morning she initiated the request for professional assistance under the legal provisions for MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying).

Kathleen has had a deep, lifelong mistrust of institutions and the people who run them - especially medical institutions. Her fear of losing her autonomy to a bureaucracy that cares more about its rules than her needs was what made her determined to do it on her own. In the end, it seems her fears were unfounded, and any slight risk to her autonomy is vastly outweighed by the professionalism and compassion of our palliative medical community. Blessings upon all these angels of mercy.

Neither she nor I are all that attached to life, it would appear. That took some of the edge off what would normally be a very fraught decision. As always I am in complete alignment with her wishes, and am in awe of her courage and clarity. We are indescribably grateful to live in civilized 21st century Canada, with access to both legal medical marijuana and legal medical suicide.

Kathleen has had two independent medical assessments as required by law, and has been ruled eligible to receive medical assistance in dying. She will have the procedure on Wednesday, September 5, 2017 after the mandatory ten day waiting period has expired. The consulting physicians were kind, empathetic, and caring beyond our expectations. They are doing everything in their power to ensure her a peaceful, pain-free death. The home care nurses who have come every day are similarly dedicated to her comfort. The entire palliative care system has performed in the highest traditions of compassion at every turn.

She and I have been meditating on the amount of horror and misery that exists in the world. In contrast, the degree of privilege represented by our experience is breathtaking and humbling. That it is available without cost or question to an ordinary, impoverished middle class couple scrubs away the grimy crust of cynicism, to reveal the best of humanity.

There is no sadness in our home today. Instead there is a spirit of quiet celebration and joy. We both feel a profound sense of completion.

Our journey that began 45 years ago at a smoke-filled hippie party and wound its idiosyncratic way through years of friendship and decades of separation, has culminated in a seven-year explosion of unconditional love when we re-united in 2010.

We have done everything that needed doing; we have left no thoughts unspoken. We have forgiven everyone - whether they needed it or not; we have told all our loved ones how much we love them. We have said our good-byes, no more words are needed. The look in her eyes tells me that we are truly one soul.

When we look into each other's eyes for the last time next Wednesday, as the doctor gives her the release she desires, it will be with full consciousness and the certain knowledge that neither of us is really going anywhere.

May all beings find peace.
Posted by The_jackalope | Sat Sep 2, 2017, 11:52 AM (12 replies)
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