It is with deepest love and gratitude that I write this entry that I hoped never to compose. On May 15th, 2013 at 1:20am Central time, my best friend, wife, and Mesa Co-director, Kate Silberberg, left behind her disease ravaged body to return home to Spirit after a 10 month journey with pancreatic cancer. I know that this will be a shock to many of you, especially you who are new to our Mesa family via email.
Kate did not want a funeral and did not want those who loved her to mourn. She wanted them to celebrate her life, tell fun stories about her and “eat cake”. To fulfill my promise to her, about 200 people attended a memorial service for Kate at The Mesa Creative Arts Center close to the Summer Solstice, on Saturday, June 22nd. We celebrated her beauty, creativity, and immense love for life and all of us, and we ate cakes designed to look like her artwork.
If you want to know what transpired for us in the long silence of the last four months, read on. It may touch you somehow:
Many of you saw Kate (or photos of her) around Christmas or New Year’s Day and she seemed to look so well. She always managed to radiate so much Light, no matter what was really going on inside of her. The two of us thought she was generally getting better from the treatment she had been receiving at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Southwest Regional Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well.
By early December Kate seemed to be healing well from her November surgery to remove tumor tissue from her abdomen, but after Christmas I noticed that she was complaining about more pain and spending more time laying on the sofa with a heating pad on her belly. I chalked it up to the radical nature of the surgical procedure causing lingering muscle soreness.
At our New Year’s Day celebration at The Mesa, Kate was bubbly and on her feet most of the day, charming our guests and enjoying the holiday foods. Everyone commented on how great she looked, but even as I now look back at some of the photos taken that day, I see a hollowness in her expression.
The next morning as we headed to the airport facing 6 or 7hrs of travel to return to Tulsa for chemotherapy, Kate wasn’t feeling well at all. By the time we got through airport security, she was throwing up and doubled over with intense abdominal pain. I did my best to stay cool, but I saw my worst nightmare beginning to unfold. As much as I wanted to get her on the plane and back to the safety of CTCA, a numb reality set in: There was no way she was going to make the trip with flights and stopovers. She couldn’t. We would be forced to deal with the emergent situation here in Pittsburgh.
Kate was transported back to Sewickley Hospital via ambulance. X-rays showed her bowels were backed up, but all other testing was normal. She was given something for pain and sent home. For the next few days we tried to get things moving for her, consulting with her care manager in Tulsa, but by that Sunday she was back in the ER and admitted to the hospital. I was frantic. There we were, back with the old doctors and the old medical system we had left to continue our journey at CTCA.
A CT scan showed that Kate had a bowel obstruction of some sort, possibly a side effect from surgery, caused by chronic constipation from chemotherapy and narcotics, or from the metastasized cancer. By the end of the week we were told she needed surgery. My heart sank to think that someone other than her gifted surgeon at CTCA would operate on her.
When the time came, the surgery took far longer than I had been told it would and I knew my worst fears had become realized. In the waiting room I was told that when the doctors had tried to go in through her left side in the usual arthroscopic way, they hit tumor tissue that was “like concrete”. They found it necessary to re-open her lovely, well healed incision from November and did a bowel bypass. I cringed at her uncertain future.
Over the next few days, I watched Kate spiraling downwards in the tired old energy of that outmoded institution, an energy that dragged everything down; from the food in the cafeteria, to the morale and focus of the staff, to the efficiency of inter-departmental communications and ultimately, healing. Even as the surgeon told me how well he thought she was doing and that we could be “back to Tulsa on a commercial airplane in no time”. I just wasn’t seeing it happening. I asked myself to be as calm as possible as I wondered what best to do for her.
Meanwhile, the indifferent oncologist we had walked away from three months earlier saw her on rounds in my absence (I got sick from the stress, bad food, and lack of sleep and stayed home for 2 days.) and told Kate to her face she was dying, suggesting she needed to go into hospice. This she rejected, saying, “That’s one story!” The doctor told her that it was the “only” story and she continued to disagree. She knew she had more to do. I knew I had to get her out of there or she wouldn’t last.
By that point, all I wanted was to snap my fingers and have Kate back in Tulsa, but how? I was reminded of how my first wife was once transported by air ambulance (an intensive care equipped small jet) 20-something years ago. I saw Light. I made calls to inquire about and set up an air ambulance flight, starting with our insurance company.
As I had figured, they refused to pay for the trip, citing “rules” that only allowed transport to the nearest hospital in case of catastrophic accident. After all, Kate was already in a hospital. The doctors at Sewickley thought we were crazy for wanting to move a recovering (or was it dying?) woman. The ones in Tulsa told us they were waiting. I knew I had to act, but wanted to make sure that I did what was for Kate’s highest good and not just to satisfy my fears.
The air ambulance company quoted me a price for our out-of-pocket trip: $11,300. I began to shudder and cry, and do again as I write this, not from despair, but from overwhelming gratitude. What was so astonishing about that number was not its great magnitude, but that it was so familiar. That is because you, our dear Mesa family and friends had held a fundraiser for Kate on October 2nd, 2012 and later handed us a check for—$11,300.
Kate and I talked about her situation and made a team decision. We would get her back to Tulsa whatever it took and make our stand there. Either she would get well enough to walk out of the cancer center there on her own, or there her life would end. I had had the intuition to hold onto your gift and not spend it to fix our broken furnace or pay off medical bills. We held a “get out of jail free card” and decided to play it. On January 17th, 2013 we flew Kate back to CTCA. I am so grateful to all of you for that miracle and for the resultant lessons of the last four months of her life.
In Tulsa, Kate was stabilized in the hospital and then returned to the guest room with me. With that her energy began to return, but she was still not out of danger. With her bowels still not working, she threw up several times a day and was fed by an intravenous pump we carried in a little fanny pack. Another pump was added to give her a constant flow of narcotics for the pain. Sadly, new complications began to set in as the days passed. With each one I’d think, “Oh, no! We’ve taken a step back down the ladder, but we can still go back up. Can’t we?”
By mid-February, Kate had progressed enough to see her oncologist again for treatment of the cancer, but he gave us disheartening news. The chemotherapy Kate had been receiving was not working and the cancer was advancing unabated. Somehow her pancreatic cancer marker had gone from lower than normal to over 1900 during the month of December. We tried to understand how that could have happened, but our minds were spinning.
The doctor offered that there was still one more drug to try—“if” Kate wanted to continue to be treated. We were stunned. I looked at Kate and saw that for that moment she was contemplating giving up—“pulling the plug” as it were. We were told that if the IV feeding were stopped, she’d last only a week. Had she had enough?
Together, we decided to give the new drug a try and see what happened and our odyssey continued. Through March, Kate endured more misery with remarkable grace, dignity, and humor and came to realize that the journey with cancer was her spiritual path. I let go of all else to be her advocate, guardian, and round the clock caregiver, including no longer answering email or returning your telephone messages. Our mail piled up at home. Bills went unpaid and taxes unfiled. I had to stay fully present for Kate’s highest good. Everything else would have to wait.
A drainage tube was put into Kate’s stomach to alleviate the nausea and make her more comfortable. It emptied into a bag that we stuffed along with the heavy little pumps into a tote bag gifted to us. This I carried for her most of the time wherever she went, the two of us tethered together by three feet of plastic tubing. We had to learn to move in absolute unison.
Meanwhile, Kate continued to lose weight and once again, her hair. One of the hardest things for me was to watch her look at herself in the mirror and cry. She could no longer recognize her body and her face was changing as well. Her eyelashes fell out. This was a lesson in our illusory attachment to our temporary physical form I knew, but a very cruel lesson all the same.
As the weeks rolled by, additional problems emerged; swelling in Kate’s legs and abdomen, loss of red blood cells from the chemo that at one point required her to get six units of blood within eight days, and weird urinary tract problems no one seemed to be able to figure out for nearly a month. Finally, it was not one of the MD’s but our new Naturopathic doctor who figured it out, not by some lab test, but by reading Kate’s energy and listening—really listening, to our story. She simply pulled it out of Higher Knowing.
As imaging later confirmed, the delicate condition of Kate’s internal organs had allowed a fistula (an opening between two body systems that are not usually connected) to develop between her gut and urinary tract. This caused great pain as solid debris came out in her urine and led to a resistant infection.
Pancreatic cancer is a deadly, pernicious thing, and the last chance chemotherapy drug didn’t arrest its progress either. When complications from the fistula landed her back in a hospital bed at the beginning of April, we were told what we already knew. Between the toxic effects of the chemotherapy, the cancer metastasis, and months of not being able to eat or digest food, Kate’s bowels were breaking down—just what pancreatic cancer is insidiously famous for. We were told that nothing could be done to treat her without making things worse, and she had entered a phase they called “active dying”.
To her credit, Kate accepted this as her Path: To teach others about pancreatic cancer and how to die with dignity without their having to experience it in a physical way themselves. She would show the way. I marveled at this amazing level of inner strength, and admired her bravery. While she was not afraid to die, she was indeed apprehensive about it. Mostly, she was profoundly sad about leaving me. She loved life, she loved me, and wanted very much to stay.
One day I came into her hospital room early in the morning and she told me that she had written a poem. She had watched the sun coming up and words began to form in her mind. I expressed surprise at this and she good naturedly chided me for doubting her abilities, saying with mock sternness, “I’ve written poems before…”
I was simply not prepared for the simple beauty of the words she shared with me that day. She had written a poem about her death and rebirth unto Spirit:
When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be part of the ocean, the surf and tide.
When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be part of each flower, in each garden narrow or wide.
When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be a kitten’s purr, a raindrop, a baby perched on someone’s knee.
When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be part you and I’ll be part me. (Wait and see!)
Kate left the hospital the day before her 54th birthday to return to the guest room with me, and in the five and a half weeks that she lived after that, she continued to dazzle and delight everyone she came into contact with. We spoke openly about her dying, often to the shock of others. In the end, many patients, caregivers, and staff thanked us for our frank discussions about her situation, and for our information about the metaphysics and spiritual teachings of incarnation, death, and reincarnation. It comforted them.
While unable to stop the cancer itself, the energy and higher consciousness work done with Kate at the center through acupuncture, reflexology, Qi-Gong, and the frequent healings I gave Kate mitigated her misery and boosted her life force. It was weirdly striking that she could be so sick yet so spiritually alive.
Ironically, people still seemed to think Kate was getting better, even when she was nearing death. She was often told how beautiful and “together” she looked, with some commenting on the fact that she was even sporting makeup. “She isn’t wearing any at all,” I would tell them. It was just her natural beauty shining through.
My only explanation for this phenomenon was that people sensed Kate’s Light and could only correlate it with good health. There were patients not as sick as she that radiated far less. I told her that her Light had grown so great that her weakened body could no longer contain it and she had to go home. I reminded her that her work here on earth was wrapping up and she was “graduating”. She recognized that she would continue her work from the Spirit Side on a higher level. “I’ll be part of the team from up there”, she told me.
Some of those we encountered stubbornly would not accept that Kate was dying, even staff members. They would remind us about “the power of hope” and that “miracles happen”. Some implied that we just needed to pray harder. We told them that we had been given many miracles on our journey with cancer, but it felt very unlikely that Kate would live.
We began to see the great healing that would occur by her death and came to accept it. I discussed “death as an option” with other patients and caregivers. For some their whole lives had revolved around treating the cancer for too long. They were listening. Some of the staff rejected the idea outright, saying, “we give them hope when others give up,” but even Kate’s surgeon confided in me that he and his wife had discussed how much treatment they would seek if taken ill. What is enough? Humanity needs better answers.
On her birthday, some of Kate’s nephews called her in our guest room and they had touching conversations. When she got off the phone with one of them, she lamented only half joking, “I guess I have to be dying for those boys to call me.” Rarely would she have heard from them otherwise. I remarked that maybe she did indeed have to die in order for some people to “get it” about certain things. That would be part of her legacy.
Kate suffered greatly through her final ordeal, ultimately losing half her body weight. She sat for hours getting IV’s, endured great pain, dealt with crushing tedium, and struggled with thoughts of her approaching journey home, but she never lost hope, deep abiding gratitude, or her sense of humor. She delighted everyone from the cafeteria staff to the doctors and nurses. Everyone knew her or knew about her. She was openly loved.
Through her suffering, Kate taught others about the power of love, the benefits of being “real” within relationships, the blessings of knowing and expressing gratitude, and Hozho—walking the beauty way. We also hoped that through her journey people within our holistic healing community back home would realize that NO ONE has the answer to cancer. You can’t just juice it, vitamin it, or Rife machine it away.
What I saw was that everyone’s cancer is different and healing from it is still hit or miss no matter what the methodology. After Kate passed, I met a man with pancreatic cancer who was walking out of CTCA cancer free. Another had kept colon cancer at bay with natural means for two years, only to have it escape to create a large tumor in his liver. He had eaten an alkaline diet, used herbs, and sold a car to purchase a Rife machine. When I left Tulsa he was in the ICU.
The truth is that so many people are so sick from this disease, yet we as a species are not doing enough to solve the riddle. We’re still too concerned with money, power, and agendas. I was also aware that many whom cancer had stricken were not learning anything from their journey. They were just enduring it while still trying to do business as usual. Cancer doesn’t strike individuals, it affects whole families and communities. I saw the worst of it each and every day for four solid months.
Kate also recognized that I was being transformed by her journey with cancer during those last four months we spent in Tulsa and spoke of being happy to have made the personal sacrifice for it. She felt that I was more openly displaying my own inner Light and she was pleased to see that other people besides herself were taking notice of it. It had always made her mad that people didn’t seem to recognize what she saw in me from the moment we met.
Kate gave me an opportunity that I had always longed for—to be a hero. I got to be just that, if only for one person. “You’re my best friend,” she repeatedly told me. “I couldn’t have done this without you.” Many others noticed what I was doing for Kate and complimented me on the way I took care of her. They marveled at our obvious love for each other. I responded that I was only doing what I felt she or anyone else deserved. I told them that in my Perfect World, everyone who was sick would have someone to do likewise for them.
We saw that by being highly conscious and staying in the moment we were engaging in the Highest Path and finding the healing that already existed for both of us, even if Kate’s would be in death. We taught others about energy and consciousness. I gave healings to other patients, caregivers, and even hospital staff, helping many and developing new techniques. We both made drawings and beaded jewelry and gave them away in gratitude.
Just three weeks before Kate’s death, we taught the second of two art classes for other patients and caregivers, showing them how to make inspirational Gratitude Cards just as we had done at The Mesa. We walked together as we had from the day we met, showing others a different way to be by our example. Our presence left a mark on the cancer center and many spoke of it.
Even though Kate could likely have gone home to Pittsburgh by commercial air when she got out of the hospital in early April, she wanted her end of life to be in Tulsa. She felt safe, loved, and compassionately cared for there, and was terrified of traveling again. She also knew it was easier for me to remain there. It would be complicated to take care of her in her final days at home and she didn’t want to end up in some unfamiliar institution with compassionate strangers.
I told her that the decision was up to her alone and asked her to choose what was right for her; not for me, the doctors, her family, our friends, or anyone else. She was the first patient at CTCA Tulsa that could have gone home to die but requested to stay. New plans and policies had to be set in place to do this. She helped that institution better learn how to deal with end of life patients and in turn we were so graciously and generously accommodated. I will be ever grateful.
As May began Kate was becoming weaker and somewhat disoriented. I asked the hospice nurse to periodically check on her because I wanted her to be safe. After some mishaps at night when I was asleep, it was decided it was time for Kate to enter the hospital for the last time. When asked if she was ready to go, Kate simply replied, “No.” I told her that I would back her up and care for her in the guest room as best as I could for as long as I could, but that I could not watch her every minute. She then agreed it was time. When we were reminded that hospice care meant turning off the intravenous feeding, I realized we had stepped through a new door.
No one could have possibly prepared us for Kate’s last week of life. Even though we had been briefed on what was likely to happen as she came closer to crossing over, witnessing it was shocking, gut wrenching, and intensely human. Kate did not want to be put to sleep, but instead to die consciously. She wanted to be able to know that I was with her and say goodbye.
During her last days I drummed and sang for her, and played the Native American flute that she so loved. She suffered mightily, because she wanted so badly to live and remain on earth with me and because she loved life. When we met, Kate had been willing to let me go. After nearly eleven years together, I had to help her leave.
At the very end, I was on my knees next to her bed, holding her hand and stroking her head. I heard clicking and popping from the walls and furniture—sounds that I had once been told herald the presence of Spirit Beings. With her last breaths, Kate’s sharp moans changed to what sounded like a clipped, high-pitched, “Bye…bye…bye…”. I felt her spirit go through me from front to back at the level of my heart and I knew she was gone. She died within ten minutes of the time of day she was born, leaving this world through the same window of the daily cycle she came in on.
While I miss her terribly just three weeks after her passing, I am understanding more and more about the beauty of Kate’s life and death, and our shared path as Twin Flame Spirits. In our walk together, we each learned to unconditionally love and be at peace with each other. Neither of us, however, managed to learn to fully do that with respect to ourselves. That is now my challenge—to surmount loneliness by loving myself as much as I did Kate and finding a peace within myself. By my doing so, we will both become healed.
As 2012 has passed, the energies of Creation are now all about crossing over. Some of us, like my Kate, will do so in a physical way. For the rest of us, the challenge is to stop admiring the bridges of religion, gurus, healing modalities, crystals, and other 3rd Dimensional go-betweens and cross over to a higher level of spiritual energy and consciousness directly, without leaving our physical bodies. As a team, Kate and I are on our way to covering both paths.
After Kate passed, I was allowed to stay in our CTCA guest room while her body was cremated. I will always be grateful this. It allowed me some time to stay within the compassionate community I had come to love and respect and to just decompress a bit in familiar surroundings. I’d sit out in the high-ceilinged central hallway and play my flute so that those in the ICU and hospital could hear it. I wanted to give something back.
The day I picked up her ashes, I took a walk around the trail near the center that I had traveled many times. I looked at the trees and felt grateful for the local nature that had generously supported and grounded me for the past four months. I had watched the trees bloom and leaf out, and witnessed the return of the animals and birds. It had comforted me.
I wanted to leave an offering, but all I had in my pockets were some coins. I thought for a moment about leaving some, as I have done in a pinch when picking up a feather or such, but it just didn’t seem appropriate. Then I knew exactly what I wanted to leave.
I went back to our guest room and returned with a spoonful of Kate, knowing that she had come to feel that Tulsa was her last earthly home. I walked along until I found what seemed like the perfect spot. I stopped and looked down at my feet and saw something move. A tiny baby rabbit not three inches long was in the brush in front of me and hopped away. It was there that I laid that small part of Kate to rest, near that clear symbol of new life.
Not surprisingly, coming home was a total shock to me, the house and The Mesa just resonating with Kate’s energy and crammed full of the things she loved. (If she loved it, she kept it!) They were like time capsules, everything just where we had left it four long months and a lifetime ago. At first I wanted to close off from that energy because she was gone, but I soon understood that I needed to breathe it in, let it envelop me. I never would have pushed her away.
I am now doing rather OK, finding it hard to believe that it is already three weeks since she changed worlds. I am still mystified by our Twin Flame Spirit relationship, and what that means now. Kate never fell into a “why me?” kind of place about her journey and I have not with respect to my loss. Rather, I was in that place when we first met, not able to get over my extraordinary luck. I had over ten beautiful years with the other half of my own soul. How often does that happen?
I recognized after Kate passed that she was never really separate from myself, no matter what she looked like in 3-D. That was merely illusion. She has always been part of my essence and I of hers and it will always remain that way. Although I have not heard from her directly in a literal way, I have been feeling her more and more as something happy that flows through me. I still miss her physical presence. She was something!
Right now I am dealing with a lot of 3rd Density stuff that feels painful; making arrangements for the unpaid medical bills, changing ownership of everything to my name alone, informing friends that Kate has passed, and sorting through her personal effects. I do my best to be present and to maintain a higher consciousness. It helps me get through each day. I am taking it all very slowly, just taking inventory of what’s here at home, trying to figure out what to keep and what to divest. There is a certain freedom in that alone, one that I had given up each day I chose anew to be with my Kate.
I have no idea in the longer run what I’ll do or where I’ll go from here. I don’t know how or if I’ll keep The Mesa open. (I am now 5 months behind in the rent…) I don’t know if I’ll stay in this house or even in Western PA. I could throw darts at a map, but I feel that Spirit will continue to guide me and the way will be shown. Why wouldn’t it?
It is my intention to continue Kate’s legacy by telling her story and using what I learned from her journey to help others. I’ll also be writing more on the Mesa News about what happened for us through her journey and about my own process of readjusting to life without her. Stay tuned for that… if you like.
I want to deeply thank all of you who sent love, prayed for us, held space, sent healing energy, donated money to help with living and unpaid medical expenses, sent cards, or gifts.
I am especially grateful to:
- The group of “Clan Mothers” who drove 1,000 miles and 18hrs out to Tulsa to celebrate Kate’s “Rebirthday” with us.
Those who looked after our house, our Mesa, and our cat, Sedona, not knowing when we’d return.
- Our friend and spiritual anchor, Nance, who I’ve spoken with at least once a day for the last ten months for helping us with staying grounded and keeping things in the highest spiritual perspective.
- The institutions and practitioners who have seen fit to forgive medical bills not paid by Kate’s insurance so that I can start my new journey with only a mound instead of a mountain of debt.
- The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Southwestern Regional Medical Center (CTCA Tulsa) for their enormous generosity, kindness, and compassion.
- The dedicated medical professionals who cared for my dear Kate so gently and lovingly, especially Dr. Janet Cheek, Acupuncturist Teri Applegate, Dr. Judith Boice ND, Massage Therapist Daren Hines, Karen Nevener RN, Dr. Pierre Grieff, the many nurses of CTCA Tulsa, and the many other patients and caregivers who shared their stories, tears and laughter with us.
Bless you all.