Author Archive

Dallas Obituary 2

2015-11-07

The following notice appeared in the Sunday Dallas Morning News on September 7, 2014:

Martha Elizabeth Ward (Nee Hudson)

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Martha Elizabeth Ward, author, poet, and bhakta, was born July 17, 1960, in Amarillo, Texas, and died Wednesday, August 20, 2014, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, of natural causes following a long illness.

She graduated from Amarillo High School in 1978 and was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Records with honors from Southwest Texas University in San Marcos in 1982. She lived in the Dallas area for many years, working in positions such as Director of Medical Records, and medical records quality auditor for the State of Texas. She had two children, Jennifer and Michael.

Disabled by a botched operation in 1997 that left her with a chronic pain condition, she took up residence in the Shivayogi Ashram with her guru Professor Emeritus G. V. Desani, noted author and spiritual teacher, and Ray Ward, her husband-to-be and GVD’s personal editor. She managed the Professor’s aides, and learned about Theravada Buddhism, mindfulness exercises, and Bhakti yoga. She loved living in a literary household, her writing and music, and being able to spoil her children.

She died as she had hoped, in the arms of her loving husband, surrounded by friends, and the sounds of a baby’s laughter.

She is survived by her husband, Ray Randall Ward; the son whom she loved above all, Michael Lee Felton; her dear brother, Michael Eugene Hudson and his wife Kathy; their daughters, Channa Foster and her son Gideon Foster, her goddaughter Danielle, Callie, and Cate; her parents Clyde Milton Hudson, Mary LaVonne Riley Hudson; her estranged daughter Jennifer Elizabeth Felton-Woods-Lingner and her husband Ryan, and her four grandsons, Michael and Gabriel Woods, Asher and Grayson Lingner.

She was an organ donor, and her skin was donated for reconstructive surgeries. Her remains were cremated and will eventually be scattered at sea, according to her wishes. A memorial service will be scheduled sometime next year. Her full obituary will be published on her blog, iamdying.net, and posted on her Facebook page, facebook.com/elizabeth.hudsonward .

In the Dead of Night

2014-09-06

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‘iss me.

What? (rolling over & kissing her neck)

I love you so much .

I love you too, dear.

I’m having so many memory lapses, it scares me.

You have a terrible disease.

I miss you so much.

I miss you too.

I’m afraid I’m going to die soon. That fear comes and goes. I don’t want to leave you alone.

You’ll be going to a better place, with our teacher. We were both there before we came here. I’ll join you there soon.

I hope so. I wish I was still pretty.

You are, dear. You’re beautiful. Remember the story of the Little Prince?

Yes.

Of all the flowers in the whole wide world, there was only one that was his, and his alone. And of all the flowers in the whole, wide world, you are the only one for me. The scent of the old rose is incomparable. It grows only on the older vines that have lived through the winter, not the new vines of spring.

Do you remember the picnics we used to have?

At night, naked, in bed?

I could still eat the food we used to put on the platters…

Well most of it, anyway.  The taste of the raisiny port, Blue Stilton , the cheeses, crackers, tiny meats, chocolates.  Some of it you’d take from my mouth into yours, like a baby bird. Especially the chocolates.

And the music.

Our menage-a-trois with Beethoven, or at least his visions of Heaven.

I can’t be close to you, like we used to.

We’ll have to work towards it. Save for a couch that unfolds into a bed. Then we can roll about, wrestle, like we did.

We have had such a hard life.

Yes, especially, emotionally. But we’ve also had more blessings than many. I’ve been granted the ability to make enough money for us to be together, in our own place, safe, shielded from the weather, hire people to help you with your writing.

I know.  I give thanks every day.

So do I.

I’m afreaid I’ll forget who you are.  I won’t know you.

That may happen. But it will always come back.

Are you sure?

That’s how the disease progresses. It comes and goes, your memory and awareness. I remember a story of a couple. He had the disease.  He was sleeping more than 20 hours a day. He hadn’t spoken for months or shown any sign of recognizing her. She was with him as he died.  At the very end, she told him that she loved him. He squeezed her hand as he used to. He was still there, knew her, loved her. Then he died. I will be there when you die. You don’t have to worry or make any effort. I will know that you are there, that you love me and that I love you. Then we will be together again after a little while.

(She squeezes his hand. He places her forearms on his and interlaces their fingers, squeezing back.)

I have to try to get another hour of sleep before I have to get up to go to work.

(She starts to snore, softly.)

Land’s End

2014-09-06

A long dry spell between posts has come to an end.  Her spoor has turned from the stones to the sea.  She has returned to whence she came, and will walk these shores no more.  She swims free at last.

Adieu, my sweet!

We are transcribing her recordings and will post her poems and stories and thoughts here.

Fresh spoor

2011-11-20

I follow as closely as I can the tracks of my silkee as she wends her way along the strand.  The call of the sea has been strong of late, as she is suffering most grievously here on the shore.

Shortly after the previous post, some nine months ago, she began to have painful spasms in her throat.  Soon she could not eat normal gluten-free food.  She had to go to a soft food diet.  I took her for an EGD.  A few days before the procedure, she began having a different kind of chest pain.  We told the anesthesiologist, and he demanded a cardiac workup.

Off to find a cardiologist, who found low to moderate blockage of one cardiac artery, and prescribed a vasodialator that kicked off abdominal migraines (twelve to eighteen hours of non-stop, uncontrollable vomiting).  Then another med, and a third, all triggering abdominal migraines, before she dropped her as a patient.  The GP refused to prescribe her abdominal migraine meds, because of the heart condition.   She was having ten  to twenty episodes of cardiac pain a day, sometimes passing out, popping nitroglycerine pills and enduring the resultant headaches.  Off to find a second heart doc.  Insurance refused to pay for an arteriogram, we waited to get one done as part of a research project.

By this time she was barely holding on, the cardiac pain and fatigue were so severe, she was unable to do anything:  write, read, watch TV.  Her depression worsened.  Her FTD was getting worse.  Before, she had a wall up to keep out the unwanted thoughts generated by the dying neurons in her brain.  She has practiced for fifteen years a Theravada Buddhist mental culture, anna-panna-sati, mindfulness of in-and-out breathing, the Burmese Forest School version, brought to the United States by G. V. Desani.  She has also her japam, and ishta as a bhakti yogini.  These kept up the wall for years.  Now the wall came crashing down.  Nightmares happened while awake as well as in sleep.  Hallucinations occurred, quickly recognized as such, but disturbing, nonetheless.  She sometimes feels abandoned by God, and has to fight through her own dark night of the soul.

She began falling, and re-injured her knee, repeatedly.  This kicked off pain crises involving her RSD.  Her pain  has been out of control for months.  She now must use a chair-side toilet, as the bathroom is too far away for her to walk.  Other, new pains appeared.  Intense, sharp, deep joint and bone pain; greatly worsened fibromyalgia-like pain.

Cardiologist number two had no clue about how to treat cardiac angiospasms.  I did the research and recommended a treatment plan for him, which he prescribed.  At least he finally gave the approval for the EGD.

The EGD found no pathology other than mild irritation of the lining of the esophagus and stomach.  Smooth muscle spasms again.  Again, GI had no clue of how to treat it.  Referred her to other, useless specialists (we could do some tests, but we couldn’t do anything to treat you, regardless of the outcome of the tests).  Twenty minutes on the internet yielded therapies apparently beyond their ken.  Now off to find a doctor smart enough to prescribe them.

Her heart pain is now fairly well controlled, using the beta-blocker, metoprolol.  This med also eased the nightmares that she has suffered for years.

Her throat spasms are worse, she cannot have even soft food.  She’s on a liquid diet, and sometimes has problems even with that.  Cooking was a way to show her love, now that is gone, too.

Typing is more difficult for her, neurologically.  So we adapt.  She will tell me what she wants to write.  I draft, she comments, and we repeat until she’s ready.  This is the first product.

Ideas of Peace, July 4

2010-07-04

The Dartmouth lads at Powerline have again re-posted the excerpt from Calvin Coolidge’s speech of July 4, 1926.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

These are truly ideas of peace, upon which public lives and more nations than ours can be built.

Memento Mori

2010-03-29

Today the effort should be done,

Who knows if  ‘morrow death will come?

— from The Word of the Buddha

Since antiquity, serious thinkers have kept reminders of their mortality close at hand, to help free their minds of earthly bonds and distractions.  Frequently they would be portrayed holding a skull, or having one on their desk, their memento mori, remember that you will die.

To the Anchoress of Sterling, they come unasked.

The Anchoress sat working by the window, next to the new basket of spring bulbs that are vigorously sprouting.  The Anchoress turned from her squint and spoke to me.  “For the past three minutes I lost the ability to write.”

“How so?”

“Three times I tried to write a note.  Each time, when I looked at it, it was as though I was looking at a foreign language.  I didn’t know what the letters were or what the words meant.”

“Is the inability gone entirely now, as though it never was?  Or, are there remaining effects?”

“There are remaining effects.  I am repeating letters too many times when I spell words.  And I am confused, still.”

After more pointed questioning, she asked, “Do you think that I am going to lose the ability to write, permanently?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll just move on to dictating, as we talked about.”

“It may not be for a long time yet.  You’ll have better days, and worse.”

“It’s not how I thought it would be.  I thought it would be there one minute, and then it would be gone.  But it’s more complicated than that.”

“You mean thinking that you’re writing someting correctly, and it being wrong, and then realizing that it’s wrong.”

“That’s it.  It’s exactly like you said, What was the word?”

“Interface.”

“Yes, it’s exactly like an  interface problem.  Like with the computer.  I know what I am trying to say.”

“But it just doesn’t come out right.”

“It’s very upsetting.”

“I know.  And scary.  I think we need to concentrate more on the more important things, while you can still write, and spend less time on the unimportant.  Only do the unimportant things after you are unable to make progress on the important work.”

“You’re right.  But there are some things I want to do.”

“It’s important that you follow your interests.”

“You’ll have to remind me, prompt me, because I can’t remember.  You’ll have to come close and sit with me, and help me along.  Once I’m writing, I love it and I can lose myself for hours.”

“I know.”

“It’s strange that you can have something be so important emotionally, that you are reluctant to approach it.”

“But it’s a very natural response, a paradox.”

Philippe de Champaigne, Life, Death, Time

Vanitas, Philippe de Champaigne , 1671

The Anchoress of Sterling

2010-03-21

Julian, or Julianne, Anchoress of Norwich petitioned God to grant her three things.  These were things no normal woman would want.  But then Julianne was not a normal woman.  She was an Anchoress.  Rather than a family and children, she chose to be celibate.  Rather than living in a village, she turned away from the world toward God.  She had herself ceremonially walled up into an anchorhold, a tiny room built against the outside wall of a church or a cathedral, with only a tiny window, a squint, as a portal to the world.  Through the squint, food came in, chamber pots came and went, and advice might be given to those who asked.  She spent her days praying to God.  She asked for spiritual blessings for one who has renounced the world, not for human blessings for one wholly immersed in it.

She sought to experience fully the pain, the suffering, of Christ, in his agony, dying on the cross.  This was the first of her petitions.

The second petition was for God to grant her a terrible illness at a young age that would bring her to the point of death.   Her petition was granted.  She faced her impending death in her anchorhold.   She was attended, it may have been, by a servant or two.  After receiving the Last Rites, she recovered from her illness.

Her third petition was to receive three specific wounds from God:  true contrition, natural compassion, and fullhearted longing for God.  Unlike the first two petitions, she attached no conditions to the third.  While it is charming — to me, at least — that she attached conditions to what she asked from God, not to attach conditions is courageous.  Perhaps the only thing more dangerous in human terms than asking God for spiritual blessings is to ask them of a lesser being.

Later in life, the Anchoress of Norwich wrote about sixteen visions, or understandings, or showings, that God granted to her.  She wrote The Revelation of Divine Love so long ago that the English she wrote then has to be translated into English we can understand today.  It was the first book by a woman written in English.  She saw God’s divine love as the love of a mother.

I know another anchoress, who is still, for now, among the living:  The Anchoress of Sterling.  (No, not the worldly-wise Catholic woman who blogs as The Anchoress!  A real anchoress.)

To the Anchoress of Sterling, all the blessings Julianne sought have been granted, without petition.

Her physical sufferings have exceeded those of Christ on the cross. His pain extended for days.  Hers are more severe, and for more years than his days of pain.

She has been granted at a young age severe physical illnesses — not one, but several — that will take her not only to the point of death, but to death and beyond.

She has born the three wounds throughout her life.  These wounds are so much a part of her, that her greatest fear facing death, is that she may be deprived of them.

She lives as a celibate, in an ashram or abbey, in a small room, in a single reclining chair.  She cannot lie down on the bed in the room, as it causes her great pain, and vertigo.

She spends her days praying to God.  She sees God as a girl or young woman.  Her rosary is from a Catholic Domitilla, her prayers a great Vedic mantram with bijas.   She also practices Theravada Buddhist mental culture.  Her squint is a notebook computer, with a wireless internet connection.

She has a rough-spoken manservant, whom she met on the internet a decade and a half ago.  He became her lover, then her spiritual teacher, then her husband, now her servant.  He sleeps on the bed next to her chair, and tends to all of her physical needs.  He also spends his life praying to God, doing the mental culture of Mindfulness of In-and-Out Breathing, cultivating love for his mistress, and working at a job to provide for her needs.

Her strength of resolve and her creativity are both increasing as she approaches the end of this life.  This blog is one of her happy conceits, a metaphor of her life.  She is a were-seal, a silkee of Celtic lore, who lives in the sea, sheds her seal skin to live and breed on dry land as a woman, then must leave her husband and children, don her sealskin, and return to the sea.  The sea is the heaven she left to suffer in this comparative hell, and to which she will return.

Want to Really Improve Health Care?

2009-11-03

Via Instapundit:  The post at fightaging.org, The Doom that Fell Upon Medical Progress in the US, only touches upon the tip of the iceberg of the needless human suffering caused by the exploitation of patients — the consumers — by “our” medical system.  In the underlying post they cite, American Healthcare Facialism, Prof.  DiLorenzo from the Ludwig von Mises Institute captures more of the problem, from a political and bureaucratic perspective, caused by state interference.

The problem is older and more deeply rooted in human nature.  G. B. Shaw observed in 1902:

No doctor dare accuse another of malpractice. … But the effect of this state of things is to make the medical profession a conspiracy to hide its own shortcomings.  No doubt the same may be said of all professions.  They are all conspiracies against the laity and I do not suggest that the medical conspiracy is either better or worse … but it may be less suspect.

The medical community’s monopoly is based on technical knowledge that was wholly their property.  The laity was largely prevented from acquiring this knowledge or even the means of acquiring it.  The internet has profoundly altered that balance of knowledge.  Motivated “patients”, i.e., consumers, now frequently know more about their diseases than most of the doctors they encounter, much less the nurses or others of the doctor-lite crowd.  The doctor is no longer the sole, literate, non-religious man in the village.

We have granted the medical profession, and all the other allied “professions” and medical institutions, a monopoly over our medical care.  It has gone so far as to prevent us from taking medicines that we need without their permission.  That monopoly is no longer justified by the balance of knowledge — and hence, power — that now exists.

Prof. DiLorenzo points out the influence states have in inhibiting competition.  Again, using doctors as a conspicuous example:

Physicians have long enjoyed a degree of monopoly power derived from state legislatures that delegate to the American Medical Association (the doctors’ union) the “right” to limit entry into medical schools through accreditation. Only graduates of accredited (by the AMA) medical schools are licensed to practice medicine. [Not quite true.  Graduates from foreign schools can practice after passing a harder test than is required of AMA school graduates.]  The AMA has used these state-granted privileges to limit both the number of medical schools and the number of medical-school graduates. The reduced supply of doctors drives up the price of medical care and the income of AMA members.

The physicians produce an artificial shortage of doctors for the express purpose of providing full, highly paid employment for all physicians, even the most incompetent.  Implicitly, they are telling us — the people, the consumers — that their prosperity and job security are more important than our lives and health.  Like the military’s up-or-out policies — if you are passed over for promotion a certain number of times, then you are discharged — we need to graduate so many doctors that the incompetent cannot stay in practice.  And we need to demand the transparency of results — medical outcomes — identified by individual physician, to know which doctors are good and which are not.

The word “patient” indicates that, traditionally, we are to be passive, medically, in the care the doctor provides.  This is exactly what must change if we are to rectify the priorities of the health care system.

We must return to first principles, those upon which our republic was founded.  We must be clear in our use of words.  This is not a matter of Democrat/blue/left/progressive vs. Republican/red/right/conservative.  This has nothing to do with the political parties of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries or on which side of the hall the French factions congregated in the eighteenth.  These are all false, one-dimensional scales that mislead rather than enlighten.

This is a matter of liberty vs. tyranny.  Tyranny has its own eternal allure.  ” I am weak, I want someone to take care of me, make decisions for me.”  This motivates children, the weak and the slavish.  At the other end of the true scale is Liberty.  “I am strong, I can take care of myself and my loved ones, I will decide what is in my own best interests.”  These attitudes motivate the strong and the free.

In the true meaning of the term, Liberty is what we strive for.  The only progress that we can make is toward greater individual strength and enlightenment to support greater liberty.  Heading back from Liberty towards Tyranny is regression.  As usual, the terms have been stood on their heads in the current national health-care-reform debate:  a Liberal means one who wants the government to have a greater and more tyrannical role, and a Progressive is one who sees movement towards Tyranny as “progress.”  a Progressive is actually a Regressive, a Liberal, a wannabe Tyrant.

We must privatize the health care system, break up the monopolies, encourage competition, demand transparency of outcomes, and take back our power as free adults and as consumers.  We do have the power.  It is up to us to use it.

India is one indicator of the possibilities brought about by an abundance of doctors and freer access to medicine.