Death as a Hacker


This post has eluded me for weeks, mostly because of the raw intensity and discomfort of the experience. I now realize I might never mold the words quite right.  But, I will write it anyway. I also struggle with the sympathy this post will evoke from the reader, which is not my intention.  While I do appreciate the compassion and kind-heartedness of you, my friends, I ask you to put that aside for now.  Please know that my son is now home, healthy and happy.

“You have little time left, and none of it for crap. A fine state. I would say that the best of us always comes out when we are against the wall, when we feel the sword dangling overhead. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” – Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power

We are humans.  Little bioelectrical systems, twinkling among a mass of ecosystems, floating through a solar system.  The rest remains a mystery.  Many people, myself included, are curious and probe into the mystery, that great adventure of discovering Ourselves.  There are many resources among these aforementioned systems offering clues; teachers, nature and astrology, for example, all can the point the way.  But they point only, for as parts of the system, they are embedded within it, and can do no more.

But Death is not part of the system.  Death is the hacker of systems, the wild maverick of truth and disruption, the dark hero of awakening. Death will skip all the juicy details and gentle encouragements and deep meditations and drop you, right on your skull, onto the rock of truth.

I have recently met this hacker called Death, and had my head cracked open, and my life hacked.

I found myself riding in the back of an ambulance with my son, who had rapidly developed a severe case of pneumonia.  A very surreal experience, as I suspect it must be for all those riding in the back of ambulances, not being an event for which one plans or prepares, or even considers.

His sickness had fallen upon him like an avalanche, and was so severe that the emergency room of a local community hospital, (our original destination), had called for an ambulance to take us to a children’s hospital where his care would be more specialized.

He was placed in Pediatric ICU, and I spent the wee hours of that first night pacing his hospital room, waiting for him to stabilize or be placed on a ventilator.

He did stabilize at 3 in the morning, and I cannot say my mind did not visit the dark places of possibility, had we arrived even 30 minutes later.

And that was the beginning.

Six days later, after traversing the many intense ups and downs of an emergency hospital stay, my son was doing better.  We were seeing improvements, and the idea of going home within the next few days was becoming a possibility.  I recall sitting next to his crib on a swivel stool, singing some silly song to his great delight, when a commotion broke out in a patient’s room near ours. A nurse shouted for help and within seconds other nurses and doctors flooded into the room.  More commotion.  More nurses. More staff.  A woman, a staff member I did not recognize, briskly popped into my room and informed me that she must shut my door.  Through the door’s window I watched her shutting the doors of the surrounding rooms also.  Voices were muffled now and everything seemed hushed and eerie.  Suddenly there was a wail

“No! NO!  Don’t let him go!  Please do something!  PLEASE!”

A man, a young father I recognized, having passed him in the corridors many times on my way to the shared bathroom, was in a frenzy at the nurses’ station.

“This can’t be happening!  This isn’t real!  What the hell is going on?  Do something!  Please!  Don’t let him go!” 

He continued on this way, repeating the same phrases, clutching his face, and wailing for several minutes.  I was paralyzed, as if a sword of hot ice had been thrust straight up my spine, my head filled with the electric static of shock and panic and despair.

Two staff members now positioned themselves outside my room, blocking the door.  I realized they were guarding us, preparing for the possibility of violence from this man.  Guarding us from Death, I thought.   But they could not guard us.  Death was in the air now, my ears had drunk it in and my bones were shaking with it.  I looked at my son.  He was still happy and smiling and reaching out for me, unaware of the drama surrounding him.  The irony of this wonderful healing little boy and the death of another little boy just feet away hacked at me like a terrible scythe. Death cracked my head open.  In this altered, cracked state, I spoke to Death.

“Why are you doing this?  Why is this happening?!” I sobbed.

I am reminding you.  You are always asking the question, though you already know its answer.  But you do not trust yourself, and instead work so hard digging for answers in the hourglass, to find only the sand slipping through your fingers.

You are here on this Earth as an artist, perfecting your divine art of being. Yet you blind yourself to the masterpieces you create, fogging your eyes with desire and doubt. You are deaf to your own sublime symphony, clogging your ears with some warped need for loss.  Do no belittle yourself or your contribution, for that is the poison of destruction, far worse than I. Own your magic, and be done with your absurd addictions to mediocrity. And waste no more time.  

He paused.  Then asked,

 Tell me, what would you be doing right now, if you were not fearing the death of your own son, doubting your mothering of him, and chronically hoping for his healing?

By this, he meant my chronic hope for healing my son from epilepsy.  I saw the truth of Death, and at that moment dropped all interference.  The clutch of these thoughts fell away, and it was like static dropped from a signal, and I was clear.

With absolute ease and absolute absence of logic, I began doing what I knew I should be doing.  I began collecting life for the little boy two rooms away.  I started with myself, searching the crevices of me for any extra life I had picked up along the way.  Then I went through the room, in the corners and under furniture, like some funny cosmic housekeeper.  I asked the babies who had died in these rooms for whatever they could provide from their current cosmic locations.  And my son helped me.

I can’t say how long this went on for, but I was at some point interrupted by the hospital’s social worker, as she made her rounds to each family witnessing the situation.  She asked how I was doing. I promptly dried my still wet face and gathered my wits and my self back to reality, and Death left me.  She told me that though things like this happen, it never gets any easier.  I nodded, and after a moment of small talk she moved on to the next room.

Several hours passed on that second floor in silence.  I made my trips to the shared bathroom down the corridor, and couldn’t help glancing into the  emptiness of the little boy’s room.  That evening our young doctor said good night to us, and commented that it had been a hard day.

The next morning, the room was occupied.  There was the father.  And the mother.  There was their little, maybe 5-year-old daughter.  I recognized all of them.  And there, in the crib lying down, was the little boy.

I knew it was none of my business, but after several baffling hours, I mustered up the courage to ask our nurse, who just so happened to be the little boy’s nurse the day before, if this was the same little boy.  She looked at me cautiously, and was silent for a moment.  “I can’t tell you anything, legally.  But… he’s alive.  He’s not dead.”  She hurried out of the room.

I passed the father late that day, on my way to grab an afternoon coffee.  “How are you?” I asked, holding back my urge to bear hug him.  “Oh, I’m much better now!” he sang to me.

And that was it.  The next day they were gone.

We have also since gone home, and I have spent many hours contemplating Death and his maxims.  Contemplating how one reality was unexplainably swapped for another, and the undeniable and impossible miracle of it all.

There is a raging fire buried within us, and I touched it that day with Death. It is a wild lover and a quiet sage, a soft flower and a fierce warrior, a curious child and a wizened old crone. It is the ember of aliveness, and it is all things. From this place confidence is a trifle, a trinket of times remembered.  From this place everything is possible.

If we can master ourselves, then we will find ourselves.  We will command our highest magic, and if we inject it into the body of our lives, I think we can perform the most precious of miracles.  In fact, I know we can.

“The only real crime you can ever commit is that you won’t admit that you are God.”  – Alan Watts

18 responses to “Death as a Hacker

  1. Oh my gracious, Ms Andrea. I was just signing off all electronic things when the notice of your post pinged in and I stopped in my flow today to visit your wisdom and magic. The voice of death through you is shaking me of even more illusion; I am rocked and altered by the realization that we can always be gathering life from the corners, under beds and in full light at all times. No more time for Crap! Huge Heart Hugs for the clarity that such courageous walks through fire give. xo! m

    • Marga, so many times did I try to relay this story to you via email, choked on it, and delete delete delete! It has been brewing in my insides for a long time, and is a relief and joy to have it out in words. I am so glad it touched you, no time for crap! 😉 Your support through this whole affair was priceless to me, and your support here makes me feel safe and loved, and free to share to the depths. Love you friend. xoxox

  2. Susan Meehan

    Wow. You are eloquence defined, life in clarity, light in darkness. Your words are magical. So blessed to have met you when Dr. G dialed you up intending to call me… The universe at work. Golden Wolf

  3. theresa mitchell

    Oh Andrea! You write so beautifully! Thank you for sharing this experience with us. It reminded me of Annie’s heart repair surgery, she made progress and then backtracked. Every other day was filled with struggles and success. I was tired of it all and feeling sorry for myself when one of the nurses mentioned the little boy next door who would not being going home because he was only born with half a heart. His family was preparing for a funeral. What a wake up call that was! I’ll take a successful heart repair any day. Blessings to you and your family. Please, if you have time, look us up when you are in Brevard again. Take care!! 🙂

    • Ooh my goodness Theresa. It is such a wake up call. There is so much life and beauty around us, if only we have the eyes to see it. Annie is such a beauty, so happy and joyful in her pictures. We will have to get all the kids together in FL one day. I am dreaming of it!

  4. Tina C.

    Wow! Thanks for sharing and taking the time to write this up. I’m sorry that you went through that…but sometimes the hardest things to go through make us different/better/stronger. So happy that your son is back home and well too!!

  5. Reblogged this on Life as Improv and commented:
    Compelled to share the words of one such at this, giving voice to the ultimate Hacker – finding rich nuggets from courage in the journey, such as this: “If we can master ourselves, then we will find ourselves. We will command our highest magic…” Much love to Andrea and her beautiful clan.

  6. viewpacific

    Oh, oh, those are powerful words from a heart-gripping experience. Thanks for going inward and choosing to share it.
    My own death has been enough to face, and having faced the death of each of my own children has been transformative.
    I’m sure Western hospitals are doing their best in insulating us from death. Yet, the denial of the reality does not fully serve. Your awareness allowed you to call in something transformative, and deepen your connection to others and living.
    Thank you.

    • Thank you so much view pacific. I agree, the denial of reality does not necessarily serve us. It sounds that you have gone through many a tremendous experience with death, and I feel your strength and appreciation in your words. Thank you.

  7. The words were incredible and I was deeply touched. If that wasn’t getting them right, I don’t know what it would look like. Your reaction of culling together a collection of Life to offer the family and the child in the adjacent room was beautiful. This speaks to the possibility of what we might bring to bear in “everyday” life, when the fear and hesitation are laid aside, and acceptance of ourselves commands the day. Thank you…


    • Thank you Michael. When you tell it back to me, I see the eloquence of the experience even more. I am so touched that you enjoyed this. Thank you for holding space for my musings. 🙂

  8. Going out to work on the airplane I got the movie “Gravity” and just coming home yesterday I got “The Book Thief”…one movie about returning to our home as it is on earth and the other about various times of leaving it. “The Book Thief” is a story told from the perspective of a narrator and that narrator is death. It was interesting to hear the thoughts of death about the living and then to arrive at my home on the Oregon coast and to find this beautiful post waiting from you.

    Powerful experience.

    Not being a parent I can only imagine the tug of war in the chest when a little being one has birthed is hanging on a balance point of exiting the physical form. When that form is suffering, it is a hard call to know which side to root for winning. My heart would not want these little magic blossoms of the flesh of my flesh to never be away from my side, but my compassion for physical suffering would not want to see endless pain and struggle. That is an amazing point mastery for embracing what actually is and then riding the wave of what will be for as long as life will allow a functional physical support of the living of it.

    It was a huge tipping point for me when I felt past just the intellectual understanding that the love of what enlivens the form goes nowhere away from us at death, but rather moves more within us. We get kisses on the breeze on each out breath when living.

    One of my favorite people found recently who so eloquently captures with words my similar thoughts about this is John O’Donohue. So ferocious a life force he IS that could beautifully describe what it means to be living…but, in the spirit of true confession, when I learned that he had physically died, a weight like a ton of bricks hit my chest leaving an imprint of momentary heaviness on my heart. I never met him, yet I miss him terribly. He is one of the tribe who speaks the words that I hear in the ear in my heart and to think he could no longer be tracked down to be given a physical hug here made my feeling of separation and aloneness on the earth adventure be felt in a more profound way.

    The words of John:

    “The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused.”

    “We do not need to grieve for the dead. Why should we grieve for them? They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation, or pain. They are home.”

    “Your soul is the priestess of memory, selecting, sifting, and ultimately gathering your vanishing days toward presence.”

    “Human skin is porous; the world flows through you. Your senses are large pores that let the world in. By being attuned to the wisdom of your senses, you will never become an exile in your own life, an outsider lost in an external spiritual place that your will and intellect, have constructed.”

    Lovely A, with your precious teaching son, you took such stunning steps with presence using your body and it’s senses as the dance partner. What a profound and powerful way to touch the edges of going home while still being at home here on earth. You are a priestess of memory sharing with us here.

    To die daily and be born into each new day anew is such a powerful way to live. Each day is such a gift and at times dancing with physical death can be the most incredible of a drill sargent of a master teacher reminding about this.

    PS……gracious the gifts of art and love my awaiting mail was holding these days 🙂 🙂 🙂 Cups of tea to sooth the soul through dark moments are so graciously rewarded in return with the beauty of alive art that returns on the breeze heading west. Massive squeezes sent to your home and the artists creating a colorful life being lived there.

    • M, you have a mother’s heart, and I think you serve in this life as mother to the mothers. 🙂 You have hit my sentiments exactly, on the balance of a child’s life in this physical plane. I followed your dropping of keys to John O’Donahue yesterday, and sipped on his delicious wisdom in a talk he gave entitled “Love is the only Antidote to Fear”. I was raised in the Catholic Church, and had one priest in particular, one I knew as a little girl before my family moved to another state, that I loved dearly. Actually, he was the only one. Ha! Mr. O’Donahue brought me back to that feeling of safety, as a I felt as a little girl, and his words are so funny and profound, light and yet deep. I find myself delighting in the words of a new teacher. (Through the posts of you and Marga, I was also brought to the work of Byron Katie, another paradigm cracker for me.) I am so ridiculously thankful for finding such excellent women, in flesh and now in virtue(al). 🙂 I have read your PS to the kiddos, much to their delight. We had a most fantastic time creating for you. Love, A

  9. I was chasing after marga t. and I should have known she would lead me to these riveting words of truth, penetrating to the core…thank you Andrea for the love pinch of wakefulness through your powerful post.

    • Yes, it’s good morning to us, time to wake up! 🙂 I also delight in following Marga’s magical footsteps, always a delightful and insightful adventure. What amazing friends and teachers I find myself surrounded with, here on wordpress. So happy to meet you Renee.

  10. Beyond words, thank you for sharing your profound, life affirming experience. Love the magic of miracles♥

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