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Tuesdays with Gooley- Episode 23

{disclaimer:  I am NOT Gooley..  On Tuesdays my friend Gooley guest posts.  These are HIS stories.  His life. His Antics.  Every other post on this blog is written by me.  EXCEPT for the ones titled “Tuesday’s with Gooley”  Please don’t ever mistake MY messiness for his..  I am clean and I smell good}

Death, Dying, and the Meaning of Life… Suck it Monty Python.

Late Monday….Few ideas…so, let’s talk about death and dying. Hooray!!!

I know. WTF? The truth is the subject fascinates me. The experience fascinates. Having witnessed several close family members slowly die of cancer, fascinated me. I have evolved an almost enthusiastic view of dying.

Weird huh?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to get all Kevorkian here. It’s just that I have seen the cycle and accept the inevitable. I trust that there is something on the “other side” but am smart enough to leave it at that; I’ll understand when I get there. No need to spend the rest of my life in fear or worse; in some unnecessary search for meaning and right doing to secure some mythical “place” in heaven. I call bullshit on the fairy tale distillation we are spoon-fed through biblical metaphors and bedtime stories. The acceptance I enjoy allows me to live with the absence of fear as it relates to my fate. And that’s awesome.

It’s important to note that I’m in a GREAT mood.  This is not one of my vodka soaked shoegazer “woe is me” posts. This is genuine in terms of how mood matches subject. I know it’s a strange paradigm but one that I have come to embrace…even be called upon to navigate. The dying process, participated in and honored in a conscious way, is the most beautiful celebration of life imaginable.

Here’s how I got here. A bit of a stroll through the chapters of my life. These are the dog-eared pages that mark the passing of loved ones.

Age 16…Mom died. This one was a blur…in every way. I grew up in a cloud of denial partially perpetuated by knowing that Mom had cancer when I was 6 and not knowing the significance. I took cloudy comfort for all of those years in the fact that she would disappear every once in a while and come back “ok.” The disappearance was to the cancer clinic for treatment. I was young and understandably my parents wanted to protect me from the darkness of inevitability.

I get this. It’s a natural response, so I appreciate them doing their part to preserve my childhood.

The truth was that she was dying. At age 16, while swimming in the waters of denial, I witnessed my mom die while aggressively ignoring the facts. I was closed, dark and unequipped. My family was doing the best they could to navigate these waters. All I remember was a lot of confusion, desperation and anger. It was dark and I had no context at that time in my life to process. When she died I went numb.

Age 30…Sister died.  Also known as the turning point. She was 42 and had lung cancer. She was a casual smoker and quit at age 30. WTF??  I was in the process of digging myself out of 7 years of bad decisions and at that point learned enough to at least be present and humble. Fortunately that was all I needed to do; stand back and witness divine orchestration unfolding all around me. It was fucking unbelievable.

By no means did I have my shit straight at that point in my life. Quite the opposite actually…but I had become aware at least that I had more important things to do and made a couple good decisions in the right direction. I had been searching for answers in books and philosophy at the time, so was beginning to create a language and context for the unknown forces that were propelling me. I was a spiritual infant…being called upon to guide this important dying event  unequipped in knowledge, though exuding “something” through my ridiculous haze of ego and bad decisions.

A lot happened as my siblings all gathered together around my sister’s death bed as hospice supported our process. A LOT.  What happened in those days and minutes leading up to my sister’s passing shaped my life and can’t be easily explained. It simply informed me of that which pulsates around us and can’t be seen without looking with alternate glasses with an open heart. I will explain “THE MOMENT,” which encapsulates the essence.

I was exhausted. My family was exhausted. My sister, Kathy, was the prime care giver and at the end of her rope trying to micromanage symptoms and making sure Barb was comfortable. Barb was in a hospice hospital bed in the living room. We all took turns on watch to make sure Barb was alive/comfortable. After my watch I passed out on the sofa a foot away from her bed.

All I remember is my sister Carol, waking me up with these words…”Jim, I think Barbara is passing.” As that happened or right after, I don’t know; I felt a rush through my body and I let out a primal scream as my sister Kathy absorbed Barbara’s last breath while consoling her face to face. My family describes my scream as animal and they get a little nervous as they try to describe what they saw.

I fell off the couch breathless, confused and exhausted. There are many theories. I have mine. I know – scratch that – my whole BEING knows what happened. My family all felt the passing of my sister’s spirit as I felt it travel THROUGH me and off to somewhere.

We then sat around my dead sister for 6 hours. As a family.  Relieved. Laughing!! Making jokes about who was going to call the hearse. My brother – who is not the king of emotional terrain – famously offered, “I can’t believe I am sitting in the same room as my dead sister, laughing, and don’t want to leave!”  Seriously it was beautiful, orchestrated, and REAL. Our family is not very good at bonding. We bonded for the first time that night.

Age 36…Dad died. At this point in my life I had a string of good decisions accumulated which were catapulted by the events witnessed 6 years prior. I had pursued my philosophical education and thought I knew some shit. So when my Dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, I intervened. With all of my knowledge, I took it upon myself to create a quality of life endgame for my father to adopt.  I was knee deep in Californication at the time. Rife frequencies, green food, vegan diets…the whole nine. I was on that shit. I negotiated with his primary care physicians and created a “whole-istic” plan to preserve the best chance of quality of life. The doctors loved me…and by love I mean wanted to slap my psycho ass. The truth is I did have an effect and may have carved out 3 years of life after being told he had only months.

Gotta love my dad. I concocted a hideous health shake for him to ingest twice a day. He wouldn’t do it – unless there was a shot of vodka in it…then it was ON. I see my future.

I downplay the significance of my involvement but I do hold that the 3 years he ENJOYED were only possible through an approach which took into consideration who he is and how he functions and then creating a plan in harmony with his psyche and motivations. His doctors learned to respect me.


Age 40…Sister in law.  The most humbling moment of my life. Just like Barb, the news was a surprise and the life expectancy short. Dana was given months and my brother was desperate. By this time, my family relied upon me for guidance in this realm.  I had chops in terms of different and effective ways to access optimal health. My brother dove in head first and became an expert in alternative therapy.

Sometimes, no matter what course one takes, it’s just your time. It was Dana’s time.

I will never forget. Accepting that her days were numbered, I flew to Nebraska to spend time with the family and pay last respects. I was hoping to share my great wisdom and soften the hard edges of death by levying my great spiritual knowledge. I was being called upon once again to minister the family and orchestrate the inevitable.

Fucking ego. Deflated in one epic exchange at Dana’s death bed.

Dana was on morphine and only occasionally conscious lying in her bed. My brother was ensconced in end life care…administering morphine, etc, etc. I was surveying the emotional landscape of the family and trying to connect all the dots and challenging people to communicate with each other and with Dana in ways that were outside of their comfort zone. I counseled. I pep talked. I got up in their grills. When I had determined in my ego governed brain that “everyone was going to be ok,” I then chose my moment to visit Dana at the side of her bed. After all, I was in charge and it was my responsibility to take care of everyone.

So I conveyed to her in all sincerity that everyone was going to be fine and that it was ok for her to let go. “It’s fine, Dana, everyone will be fine. You can let go now.”

Her response, Her CLEAR response was, “Don’t do this to me. No. don’t. Get out.”

Humbled to the core…irreversibly and in instantly, I learned the power and meaning of these end life orchestrations. I listened to her, looked down, squeezed her hand and said thank you. I then walked back into the family environment and sat quiet for the rest of my visit.

Dana was in charge. The bigger, unseen part of Dana created an experience for everyone to participate and learn. I learned and I remain humble to this day. I may have knowledge. It may have value. I will share it if and only if it will serve to uplift.


A few universal hints have put this topic in front of my face so I’m glad to have the opportunity to hash it out and make it real again. Big Balls ain’t getting any younger. Family members are declining. The spirits of old friends and family are present in my psyche.  Where do I stand now? Still humbled. Still fearless. And reminded of the fragility of life. I just want to make mine count and love my friends and family NOW so I have nothing left unsaid when it’s all over.

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Filed under: Tuesdays with Gooley



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19 Responses to "Tuesdays with Gooley- Episode 23"

  1. Amy M.R. says:

    My girls want to know why I’m crying so hard at 8:00 a.m. What a beautiful post that hits home a little too much. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Dan Mcsherry says:

    Bearing your soul there man! I have told people that if they cry when I die …I will haunt them for the rest of their lives. I did EVERYTHING! I did it twice. I did it MY way. I loved passionately and can offer no more. So CELEBRATE it!!! My father told me old fashioned wakes would last a week…and they would drink for that whole time and NOT SLEEP! With that being said Jim I have lost a granfather at 90 who smoked two packs of Newports a day and drank a jug of Wild Turkey everyday. I really have lost nobody else and wonder if I can be as strong as my words….It takes incredible strength to tell this story. The mighty soother of souls and healer to getting sent out like that from Dana.I am sure that stuck with you for a while. Everyone knows your good intentions. But thats just it in a nutshell. We know nothing! We know nothing of where we came from or where we are going. Life is just so different for everyone and so is death. All I know is I am here…And you are here with me…And I know that we will make the best of it until its over…Thanks for sharing your deeply personal and highly emotional journey Jim!

  3. Dan Mcsherry says:

    And I must protest the Monty Python jab…This scene is after Lancelot kills a couple dozen of this guys family…One of my favorite lines of all time…”Lets not bicker and argue over who killed who”….Thought it was apropriate…

  4. Amazing…wish i could hug you. It absolutely in no way is the same as losing family, but i sat with two best friends until they died – cancer also. Watching that process, it changes you forever. I appreciate so, so much that you wrote about it – and in such a honest beautiful way. This all sounds stupid and hollow, but i hope you get it…you are awesome, and THANK YOU for sharing it.

  5. This was beautiful. My favorite post yet.

  6. Kirstyn says:

    Seriously? Tears! Humbled and fearless are the only way to be…love.

  7. Geri says:

    AWESOME post!! Thanks for the very intimate view into what makes Gooley tick!! I love me some ‘Tuesdays with Gooley”!!! I’m sure we could just be the best of friends! I’ll bring the VODKA!

  8. Gooley says:

    Thanks everyone!
    It’s interesting… I really did write this all with a smile on my face. As much as it may come across as a soul plunging purge, I’ve moved through it all and celebrate the experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve shoe gazed these topics’s normal. Now I’m left with the good stuff.

    Ya’ll should have seen that shake my dad choked down! There were greens and cod oil and flax seed and powders…it was ridiculous. Then I brought out the vodka ceremonially. Of course poured myself a drink and tipped our glasses together.

  9. Rebecca says:

    wow Gooley. just wow. I been cleaning house took a break and decided it was time to check up on my favorite man. and now I’m fixing to go back to cleaning as soon as I quit crying. I know what u mean when u said all that.
    my uncle died when he was 14 and little my was 11. I don’t remember much from that time. but my family told me I freaked out. sorta like u did when ur sister passed.
    my sister in law and 2 nieces passed in 05. and my son was the little age of 8 months old. he doesn’t remember them but he has played with his “angels” since then.
    one of my uncles passed in march of this year. very bad time for everyone.
    my grandma died april 24 of this year. I had to b the rock and plan everything for my grandpa.
    my uncle RJ passed a couple weeks ago. again a suprise. and a horrible horrible time for my family. started feuding within the family and its still going on. I love this post the most.

  10. Toby Martini says:

    Sharing ever deeper. Good stuff!

    Was just reading something about how examining death, being with those that are passing, and especially near-death experiences all make people happier overall.
    It makes it easier to trivialize the trivial and find joy in the foolishness of people’s striving.

    And you know I’ve always enjoyed those conversations the most.
    Talk soon, my brother!

  11. Amazing… I look forward to shaking your hand at the March next month….

  12. Brenda Boo says:

    I love this post, yet I have issues with it. To be specific, not issues in your generosity of sharing this part of your life journey, but in that I am so completely and utterly scared and confused and sad at the idea of death and what happens afterward. I don’t have faith in anything except that I am deeply affected by nature. The rhythms, the death and rebirth of it, the power, the fragility, the symmetry…I can go on and on. I stand in awe of it. I feel most peacful near water, and I always have. I feel balanced and in the presence of greatness. I think the bible is a really great guide that many people turn to because…well, there are a ton of reasons. I’m not one of them. My brother died a few years ago. He was 1 1/2 years older than I am. He accidently overdosed on methadone. How he got it (no prescription) or why he had it in his system is a complete mystery. No heroin addictions or anything like that. We can only surmise that he had chronic migraines and someone told him that it is used as a very strong pain reliever. Again, just a guess. We’ll never know. I wasn’t there. I had a fight with him a few months prior to his death and hadn’t spoken to him for those months. The morning I got the call that he died in his sleep changed me. I felt it. I knew I’d never be the same again, and I haven’t. I have fear that he is either truly gone…the soul thing just a “thing.” Or that heaven doesn’t exist when we die, just a perpetual, never-ending hell. I hope one day to have an experience or experiences that you have had, where I just know he is ok. He is at peace, finally, after a life of always feeling less than. But so far, no such luck. My question to you, you wrote, “I felt a rush through my body and I let out a primal scream as my sister Kathy absorbed Barbara’s last breath while consoling her face to face. My family describes my scream as animal and they get a little nervous as they try to describe what they saw.

    I fell off the couch breathless, confused and exhausted. There are many theories. I have mine. I know – scratch that – my whole BEING knows what happened. My family all felt the passing of my sister’s spirit as I felt it travel THROUGH me and off to somewhere.” Why do you think you responded with a primal scream? It seems so violent. If death is a positive passing, why no sense of peace? What’s your theory on that?

    This is an extremely long post prob. better suited for a private message, but maybe others besides you will feel open to sharing their experiences. I will leave you with a letter I wrote the day I found out my brother Glen died. It best describes what I was feeling, and I feel you will appreciate it.If you are interested in reading, you can find it here!/notes/brenda-hegedus-welch/my-brother-glen-hegedus-december-28-1970-january-29-2009/49299073747. Another here:!/notes/brenda-hegedus-welch/a-memory-of-glen-on-his-39th-birthday/227888023747 and a last one here:!/notes/brenda-hegedus-welch/my-smiling-happy-brother-glen/10150580811573748

    Love you, Gools.

    1. Gooley says:

      I REALLY want to chat eye to eye. Really. I’m chomping at the bit to reply so will donincompletely HERE before finding you privately to keep the dialogue. My primal scream happened…it was real and tapped in some way into ME And my essence. It was not negative. If I could explain to you all of the other unbelievable and beautiful experiences that transpired you could see the context …ALL LOVE AND LIGHT.
      Trust that…you don’t need to understand it. The mind is fucked :) the heart is what’s up!!
      Love you !!!!!!!
      I’ll read your letters and digest and we’ll pow wow off line :)

    1. Gooley says:

      For whatever reason, I can’t open the links.
      Please “friend” me on the FB. I do want to read and discuss.
      Again, just want to put an exclamation on how positive the whole experience was.
      I woke up this morning with a theory as to why I screamed. If it was a sensation of butterfly kisses or cats licking I would not have recoeved the knowing. I needed a powerful unquestionable sign…and the fact that it was witnessed I can’t question it….
      She came back with another sign later…my earlier post about the meditation retreat…I think I eluded to her message there as well.
      FRIEND ME:)

  13. I am still processing all of that, but it sure was beautiful.

  14. joe dee says:

    jim, you have an amazing gift of being able to convey so much more than words. Put this on the list of things we need to talk about next time i see you, i have some things maybe you can help me understand and a few things that you may be able to add to your exploration and vast knowledge on this. take care my friend and thanks for another amazing and thought provoking post.

  15. TLevy says:

    Really a wonderful post…captured me instantly and held me til the end. Thanks so much for sharing your words.

  16. [...] “Tuesday’s with Gooley”  Please don’t ever mistake MY messiness for his..  I am cleanSee all stories on this topic » Cancel [...]

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