In one of my last meetings with Dr. Clark Wang, we were talking about his preparations to venture off to the other side of the country to have a double bone marrow transplant for his rapidly advancing Lymphoma. It was a long trip for someone not in pristine health, and the chances of returning to the South were not high.
Many months before, he had begun a courageous and most-public pre-planning for his funeral, investigating Green funeral processes that do not add chemicals to the environment, physically, and represents the most direct interpretation of “From dust you are and to dust you shall return,” spiritually. He spoke and wrote with amazing candor on the topic and taught me much about how our physical death can be an easy moment of transition for our bodies to return to the earth, and not do any harm to the earth while doing so.
We first met through a Blood Cancers survivors (and care givers) support group at Duke University Hospital where we were both oncology patients. We spent December of 2009 in a special class offered by the Medical Hypnosis Society of North Carolina, on self-hypnosis for Cancer Patients. The goal of that class is to use simple-to-learn self-hypnosis techniques for many side effects of the cancer treatment process: chronic pain management, skin issues (at the time I had uncontrollable itching on my arms due to one of my post-treatment drugs), and a lot of general survival stress. With a cancer diagnosis, and subsequent treatment, Life changes. We use every tool at hand to fight the good fight.
Even alternative treatments like Hypnosis.
December of 2009 wasn’t a great month for either of us. He was in the midst of increasing problems with his latest remitting of the cancer. I was only able to locomote by way of a wheelchair. It didn’t really slow either of us down.
As he moved deeper into the spiritual depth of his Life (a difficult and tumultuous time for one who is trained to be a person of numbers, a scientist), we talked about what it would be like to take that final launch. I mentioned Tolkein’s poem Bilbo’s Song at the Gray Havens, and even though he was familiar with The Hobbit and the Return of the King trilogy, he hadn’t read this poem.
In the story, as Bilbo has finished all that he was to accomplish in Middle Earth, he boards the boat in which he sails off quite literally in the sunset, in a beautiful setting that gleams with familiar Nordic mythology. And this, as he sailed away from all that had burdened him, and aged him, and laid heavy on his heart – this song is what he composed.
I am glad to have had the time to share it with my friend Clark. I’m glad for our times together, even as they tested the deepest parts of my soul with hard-hitting dialogue that pulls no punches. A dialogue that only two friends – and two comrades at arms – can have.
Bilbo’s Last Song At the Gray Havens
by J.R.R. Tolkein
Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.
Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.
Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!