I started crying upon hearing this, when he gently admonished me that he would need me to be strong through this process. I stopped crying immediately, stunned that this calm voice on the phone from Sydney belonged to a man that had just been told that he was infected with a horrific, in all likelihood terminal illness. The only positive to come out of this diagnosis is that they were finally able to sort out the excruciating pain that he had been suffering up to that point. The pain management protocol started enabled him to initially live a life much closer to that he enjoyed before.
I always knew Maurice was a strong man, one who met challenges in life head on, unflinchingly. However, I was very surprised by the calm, the poise, by which he dealt with his illness. Through his avid denials of discussing the subject previously, I had always felt he had a fear of illness, a fear of death. Nothing unusual, most of us do, not surprising given the world we have created for ourselves. Like the god realm of Buddhism, we have brought most of what we have desired into reality, we worship at the altar of youth and beauty unfailingly. Any talk of our own mortality is seen in public circles as a subject that at the very least is in poor taste, morbid, with much more relevant things to discuss. Maurice however, accepted the place he found himself in and began to try and align himself with a path that would bring him back to health. Stage 4 cancer is not something that someone generally recovers from, but he was determined to embrace his future with hope and not sadness, and encouraged those around him to adopt a similar outlook. He underwent some traditional treatments, undergoing a course of radiotherapy to further help with the pain, but eschewed chemotherapy, a poison he was unwilling to ingest with little promise of benefit in his case.
In the 5 years I came to know Maurice, he had journeyed from being a man who held out little hope for a spiritual side of life, scarred through contact with traditional western religion, to someone that finally found his calling in Buddhism. Buying an Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine supply business, he was thrust into the periphery of current medical thought, exposed to a system with a 5,000 year history, methods used today still based on a text over 2,000 years old. Through direct experience he could see the immense value in this alternate world view and came to be one of its biggest champions. Traversing this path of Eastern medicine, it wasn’t long before Eastern spiritual thought also permeated his worldview. I would like to think I played a part in this process, lending my experience in these fields to educate when requested, and to debate when necessary. Something I loved in my relationship with Maurice, no topic was off limits, he was keen to discuss everything, usually bringing some well thought opinions along with him. His beliefs on humanity, morality and how one can lead a good life were arrived at through careful consideration throughout the years of his own life journey. I think he was quite surprised that these beliefs were closely mirrored in ancient Buddhist though, and those espoused by the modern master, the 14th Dalai Lama.
So it was, during this incredibly challenging time, where the body that he had honed to a peak state of physical fitness started to rebel against him, that his years of contemplation bore their sweetest fruit. He would never be far from some Buddhist text, and seemed to face his rapid deterioration with an ease that I know I could not repeat. This was not to say that this time was without difficulties and frustrations, with his partner of many years, Georgina, bearing the brunt of this. She can only be described as a saint in the seemingly effortless way she wore the brunt of all pent up frustration from the man she loved. But on the whole, I could only hope to be so brave.
Maurice had studied some Tai Chi which he loved, but his perfectionist nature made it difficult to maintain his practice the way he would have liked with his advancing illness. Seeing this, I taught and encouraged him to practice some basic Qi Gong, some simple, subtle movements that can have profound effects when practiced consistently. And practice he did, twice a day repeating the movements as I had demonstrated to him, increasingly bringing him a sense of peace and satisfaction that he was actively doing something to help his health. I feel blessed that I got to share so much time with Maurice in his final weeks, guiding him in his energetic work, providing some hands on Reiki / Qigong healing when I could, and of course, laying the foundations for the continuation of his business which he was so passionate and proud. My final embrace of Maurice will be forever etched in my mind, 2 weeks before the completion of his journey.