Jack and Linda’s Conscious Cancer Journey

I met Jack in 1998, three years after the death of my first husband, and two years after the death of my daughter. It was wonderful to fall in love again. We were married in 2002. Two years later, August 2004, Jack was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Jack lived eight months after the cancer diagnosis. He consciously faced death and did everything he could to live. He created a video of his ethical will. He and I planned his after death care. Community members participated in all aspects.

What follows here are all the entries from the Caring Bridge website, established to share our journey, medically, emotionally, and spiritually. They became the journal of Jack’s conscious journey with cancer and dying.

Two entries that epitomize his inner attitude:
From Jack one month before he died: “Most importantly, I have fully entered into a conscious spiritual journey from living into dying. I feel my spirit soul is coming ever closer, to bring me home to the next phase of my journey, and I am feeling a greater sense of being in the right place at the right time. I am not afraid of dying, but looking forward to what comes beyond.

“In August, 2004, cancer came into my life. Starting with inoperable Stage 4 lung cancer, it metastasized throughout my chest and moved into my brain by February of 2005. Now I begin the greatest adventure of my life – consciously living into dying. And knowing whatever I am able to do in the time left, it will “be enough”. I am deeply grateful for my life and especially thankful to each one of you who have made it a wonderful life. May we all continue to work together on the Great Work of bringing good, peace and hope to the earth and all humanity.”
Journal Entries from the Caring Bridge

Friday, September 3, 2004

Jack was diagnosed with stage IIIB/stage IV lung cancer in his left lung on August 20.

The oncologist had told us that at this stage, the cancer is inoperable, and that treatment may extend life but not cure the cancer. Jack will begin chemotherapy in mid-September. He has already started several alternative therapies including visualization, massage, energy healing, and acupuncture.

He also has mentioned a heightened state of awareness and appreciation for the simple pleasures in life — including time with his beloved Linda, connecting with good friends and a great Keb’ Mo’ concert last week! We already feel deep strength and peace from those already holding us in their hearts. Our lives are deeply blessed by all the love that is woven all around us. Thank you for your thread in that sweet web.

Monday, September 13, 2004 written by Jack

We’ve just returned from the Mayo Clinic after 5 days of intensive consultation, testing, and treatment. We received some challenging news there. A new echocardiogram showed fluid in the sac around the heart, which led to the treatment of draining the fluid. Secondly, a bone scan showed metastasis into the rib bones. Thirdly, chemo-therapy is fully effective on only about one-third of the patients. The heart fluid drainage treatment was, for me, the medical start of my healing process. I can definitely breathe better, though I still have that hacking cough,.

We’re feeling the tension of not knowing what the future holds, of the probable side effects from the chemo, and the need to set our immediate priorities straight. A quote from one of the bulletin boards at Mayo inspires us: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, but today is a gift – which is why they call it the Present.” Good news. Charles (from New Jersey) and Barbara (from California) and their families are coming on Sept. 24 for a weekend with us

Tuesday, September 21, 2004written by Linda

Jack will begin Chemotherapy on Monday September 27 th . The potential side affects for the chemo include hair loss, nausea, fatigue, and lowered blood counts. We continue our work with alternative medicine, and meet with a naturopath this week to assess the variety of services open to us. We have started meeting with a support group at Pathways, a local free service for persons with life-threatening illnesses.

Personal Update: So how is Jack? And how are you Linda? These are the questions I am asked most frequently. It has been a roller coaster, certainly, with many deep questions surfacing about our time on this good earth, as well as the tired moments when we just need to rest. It has been a time of feeling the support of so many friends and also a clarity that we choose to live this journey consciously. We don’t know how much time we have; we don’t know what the effects of the disease will be, nor of the chemo. We are working to simplify, and for a guy like Jack, that is not easy. Today we went through his mail to stop the deluge of third class mail requesting donations and telling us the state of the world. Jack would like to work on some special projects related to sharing his biography and his slides, so we are finding ways to do that where he can do the fun part, and get help with the technical aspects.

Right now Jack is feeling pretty good. You really couldn’t tell that he has cancer. He has lost some weight, so now he gets to eat extra meals of smoothies with whole milk yogurt. We’re also doing carrot juice and good vegies. But bulk up Jack – go ahead and have that extra sandwich. We went walking down by the lake this morning. He stopped a couple of times to catch his breath. But we walked a couple of miles. And he swims a couple of times a I think we are realizing that we need more activities between full steam ahead and a crash into bed. So he is working to open up time for reading novels, listening to music or a relaxation tape, playing his accordion, having dinner or talking with friends.

I think for me there are several things to share. First, I am grateful to be walking this path with Jack. He has been amazing in his openness and in the positive way in which he lives each day. Our relationship is stronger than ever. Time is even more precious now. I’m working to get enough rest, stay involved with my wonderful work in teaching, take enough time for myself, and truly be available for what is needed with Jack. And for both of us talking about our feelings with good friends is precious.

End of September: Visit from Children and grandchildren – wonderful: chemo starts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004 Jack writes:

Bummer. Went for the second chemo treatment yesterday, a week after the first, and found that my white blood count had plummeted to below acceptable levels, so they postponed the treatment a week. And what a shock since all other symptoms were positive – no nausea, good energy, good appetite. So much for predictability. Doctor advised no crowds, children, places with risk of infection. So have cancelled plans. Trying to view it as some time to have a retreat at home, getting some things done on my biography and slides that I’ve not had time to do so far. In every crisis there is an opportunity.

I’ve really been working to find a balance with this cancer. I read these stories about people who devote their whole lives to it – juice every hour, coffee enemas three times a day, etc.- and have completely recovered. The stories you don’t hear are those who did exactly the same, and they died. There is so much I could read, and do, and take. It could consume my life. I have been doing a lot – meditation, visualization, acupuncture, energy healing, a dozen dietary supplements five times daily, massage, – what is the right balance? I’m trying for the balance in my thinking as well. Some mornings I wake and the headlines I HAVE CANCER race through my mind. I’m trying to wake with I AM ALIVE as my headline. Ann Lamont says it best. “I don’t have a life-threatening disease. I am living a disease-threatening life.”

Thursday, October 14, 2004 Jack writes:

Better news this week. White blood cell counts recovered enough to allow my second chemo-therapy treatment on Monday, Oct 11 I attribute much of my feeling good to the dozen or so supplements I’m taking, as well as the healing thoughts and prayers from all of you and my other healing activities.

Other good news. By Wednesday, when we saw the oncologist, he said I had recovered enough so I would not be at major risk of infection if I were to go to my 60th college reunion at Stanford in California next week! The trip has been planned, ticket purchased, but on hold pending this news. Depends on blood counts

I’m looking carefully at my priorities, so I had a specially important personal development this week. As I’ve been searching for ways of dealing with my 75,000 slides from nearly sixty years of photography, a good friend, a video specialist, has come through with a marvelous offer – to buy and loan me a digital scanner for bulk scanning of slides, and thus available for family and friends. He has also offered to videotape me for a special record I am hoping to make – my ethical/spiritual will. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Finally, I had an important revelation this morning – I have accepted my cancer. Up ‘til now I have been resenting or resisting it as an unwelcome and undeserved intruder into my life. I’ll live with the cancer, do all I can to minimize its effects, but accept the consequences. Hope I can maintain this attitude.

Linda writes

“How are YOU doing?” a lot of people ask. I am feeling supported by friends as the caregiver, encouraged to take care of myself. I am learning a lot about the challenges and opportunities of being a caregiver. I find myself wanting to “do everything” for Jack, to give him the time to do what he can do in his projects with the lessened energy that he has. He is having six meals a day, so keeping on top of healthy snack options as well as meals is important. Then I have moments of being really tired, and having to ask him for help. Then my back went out at the same time that he was dealing with the low blood count, and we both had to pull in, and still help each other.

I am feeling very blessed in so many regards. First, Jack is so open to all the alternative ways of strengthening his body during the chemo treatment. Secondly, we are finding quiet time for meditation, yoga, and walks together. One of the most important things is that we have an open process, so each of our feelings can be shared with the other as we go

It is challenging to keep an even keel, to not be swept away by each wave, either of negative or positive information. We are working hard to respond to each circumstance. So when the blood count was very low, we jointly made a decision to cancel everything social, to protect Jack from infection. Another thing I realized is that I am often finding myself hard on myself for not being saint-like. When we got the diagnosis of cancer, my inner expectation got hooked and I said to myself that I can’t afford any negativity or reactions; time is too precious. I was feeling like I was in a pressure cooker – I was not matching my inner expectations, Now that I realize it, I am feeling more compassionate toward myself, and that actually might help me be more responsive.

I am more respectful and more in awe of Jack and his process each and every day. His self honesty, his integrity, and his genuine openness to a healing far beyond the cancer is teaching me. This morning he said, I had a profound thought – I feel I am accepting the cancer. He had that familiar catch in his throat, that heartfelt look in his eyes, and once again, I realized how lucky I am to be married to this guy. His soul is glowing so brightly it is hard to imagine dis-ease. He is a healer. He is also human and gets tired easily, gets overwhelmed sometimes; he is open to the full gamut. So am I.

We want you as our family and friends to feel free to ask us any questions that are on your mind. They will help us. And you can ask us personally, or you can ask them on the website. Others may have the same question you do. For us support includes honesty, searching and insight. We are all on this journey together, and we value you, your thoughts, and your wonderings.

Monday, November 1, 2004 Jack writes

Apologies for the delay in update this last week. A busy week plus several really low energy days after the last chemo. Much to tell. Yes. I was able to take my California trip, in spite of distressingly low blood counts on Monday just before I was to leave on Tuesday, Oct 19. Took 2 shots of Neupogen to raise white blood , wore a face mask on the planes- and made it! Wonderful family reunion with sister Nancy her family. Walks in the foothills of the Sierra. Then my 60th reunion at Stanford.

Last week culminated in our annual Earth Charter conference on October 30, where I gave the opening talk, sharing some of my deepest held beliefs of our interconnectedness with all life, and our mission to live in harmony with the earth. At the end of my talk they gave me a standing ovation after I bequeathed that mission to all of them to carry on. I was most pleasantly surprised at the fact they had dedicated the entire conference to me for my work in bringing the Earth Charter to the Twin Cities.

More chemo later today. So far the major side effects are fatigue and low blood counts. No nausea. Appetite still good. Still have my hair (what there is of it). No pain.

I feel very fortunate, and thank you for all your prayers and good wishes which contribute.

Our dear friend Barbara McAfee is organizing this gathering: You’re invited to:

Beauty Soup: A loving bath of support for Jack Heckelman and Linda Bergh as they continue their dance with cancer.Sunday, November 14, 2004 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Lake Harriet Spiritual Community Bring your loving appreciation for these fine people. Bring your open heart. Bring beauty and joy share a poem, dance, song, story or tribute.

Thursday, November 18, 2004 Jack writes:

We had an incredible, possibly once in a lifetime, experience on Sunday evening Nov. 14th. We gathered for a sharing and healing community of music, singing, poetry, support, and dance. Over 70 friends and family were there, with twenty friends sharing talent and heartfelt tributes, ranging from a harp solo by a Juliard graduate and violin duets to poetry and healing words. Highlights:

Jim Kellerman improving on the flute, accompanied by piano and harp and everyone making tone of F, sending healing energy into my body. I felt filled to overflowing. Another was a hilarious but deeply touching skit by Jason, an upcoming young actor friend impersonating me with two grandchildren climbing Mount Everest after saving the rainforest. The view at the top promised to be beautiful, which so touched my mission of transformation and hope for the world. Linda and I each sang a love song to the other. I spoke briefly, reflecting on the words healing, love, gratitude, and hope. We realized at the end that this gathering was not only for the two of us, but was truly a healing experience for the entire community. We all left inspired, filled, and nurtured, having been part of a new ritual in our lives.

Linda writes: Medical Update: Jack had a CT scan; appears no more cancer than in August but more fluid has accumulated in the pleura (sac around lung,so liquid will be drained and help Jack’s cough and make breathing easier. Jack has begun his third round of chemo treatment; he has no side effects other than fatigue. So, in light of all these facts, the doctor has approved us taking a trip to see his son Charles and family in early December. Jack is working to tape childhood stories for his grandchildren, as well as sharing special pictures.

Sunday November 28, 2004 Linda writes:

This is the weekend of the time of Kirsten’s passing – now eight years ago, November 29th, 1996 – and a time of reflection and remembering. Jack and I had a quiet retreat to replenish ourselves and open ourselves during these days. I wanted to share some thoughts that came out of that quiet.

When Kirsten died, I experienced the love and support of community – all across the land – and that experience was felt in my body as love and light holding me at a time of unbearable loss. Community held me as I healed, through prayer and all the practical aspects of living. Then I became strong, and began to give back. And Jack entered my life, and the community celebrated our joy, and Jack began to weave his connection to my “family” as I wove mine to his. And both of us also developed new friendships through our work in the world.

This summer, when we received the diagnosis of Jack’s cancer, support began to overflow our hearts from the galaxies of both of our networks, now merging into one. We are so grateful for the loving thought and actions of each person in our universe. But this is preliminary to the thought I am struggling to find the words to share:

I experience that no one is going away. One by one, members of our community are showing up. They are showing concern and love, willingness to ask difficult questions, and do practical thing. I experience that Jack’s receptivity, and mine, is a gift to the community. That having cancer, one could choose to pull or push away, to isolate, to not want focus, to feel that receiving will lessen one’s independence. But to be willing to speak about death, to look at the end of life with aspirations of what one wishes to complete, to be open to feeling one’s body and pain also open’s one to feel love and joy – this is how I and others experience Jack. He is able to receive the giving people offer, and people express gratitude for that.

I experience that Jack and I have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to our community. That how we live our lives with cancer matters. That meeting this time of life with open attention keeps open our relation with this loving community. That being able to speak my heart to friends and family gives me strength to meet each day more fully, and to bring the fullness of this life to all I love and know. That living all of life consciously within community opens that possibility of a new path for every member of the community.

I am wondering if we are not now living out the deep gift brought in the dark night of the passing of Kirsten and Nina. That gift is that love is stronger than loss. That gift is that there is no loss, only change. That gift is that walking with the grief, fear and confusion as well as the joy is walking with the incomprehensible gift of a full life. That gift is that we are all one – that community is not separate from me or you. Community matters, for it can support us during difficult times and give us all more strength, meaning, love, and joy.

I could not have these thoughts without all of you in my community. And so I thank each of you for the unseen and seen support you bring. I thank those on the other side for their constancy of love. May we hold this through all time.

Thanksgiving Day, 2004. Jack writes

A day for reflection, for acceptance, for gratitude. I’d like to share some thoughts about how I am feeling, building on those I shared with that wonderful gathering of friends and family a week ago Sunday (see the last journal for details).

Gratitude. I am so grateful for the love and caring that each of you, near and far, have been sending ever since my diagnosis of cancer, and for the continuing flow of prayers and energy you are sending. I am so grateful that my chemo treatments have been going as well as they have, with absolutely minimal side-effects. I still have reasonable energy, have a good appetite, no nausea, still have what hair I had before. Yes, my blood cell counts go down, and need to be rejuvenated, but they bounce back. Very importantly, I have no pain. My body is restoring itself.

And I even can feel gratitude for the cancer itself – that it has brought heightened awareness of the preciousness of each day, that it has brought us all closer together, that it has given me the ability to receive more graciously, and helps me to see the important things in life more clearly. Each day is better than it would have been without the cancer.

So I (we) send you our love, our greetings, our gratitude, our hopes for your having a wonderful Thanksgiving day. We’re having a brief retreat together at a friend’s condo nearby, with time for a hot tub and reflection, and enjoying a Thanksgiving buffet at a special restaurant. We feel so blessed to have each other and be together.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004 Jack writes: Quick Medical Update: On the latest CT scan direct evidence of the tumor found in August!!. It could possibly be partially concealed. And no growth of cancer. We are cautiously optimistic, and feel that the chemo-therapy (and other healings) seem to be working

Saturday, December 18, 2004 Jack writes

As we approach Christmas, and the holy nights, we bring you greetings and gratitude for all this past year has brought, even including the cancer which has brought us closer together. I am healing, and look forward to the New Year with hope.

I am just completing my fourth round of chemo-therapy, and continue to have minimal side effects. Fatigue and lower blood counts are the main ones. CT scans show considerable reduction in the size of the main tumor in the left lung, with no additional spreading, which is great news! One disturbing cancer symptom has just showed up, with some minimal bone “destruction” with slight pain in one rib. Need to discuss more with doctors.

In the meantime I’ve felt well enough to travel to the east coast for 5 days with son Charles family and our three grandchildren. It was a wonderful sharing time with them. We’ll have a quiet Christmas in MN with close friends. We plan a visit to daughter Barbara and family in Jan, and more trips after the chemo is finished in early February..

So thanks again to all of you for your thoughts and prayers, and messages of encouragement. Please continue. May your holidays be full and meaningful for you and your families. Love to you all.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 Jack writes

Greetings for the new year. Several new developments, some good, some not so good.

We are generally doing very well, optimistic, and looking forward to our trip to visit family in southern California in January, and planning more extensive after finishing chemo by mid-February.

The cancer metatasis to the right posterior10th rib x-ray showed some bone destruction, which has been modestly painful, but is controllable with Ibuprofin and so far does not restrict my activities significantly. Also with our fifth round of chemo, which started on January 4, the fatigue seems to have been cumulative, so I’ve had several low energy weeks. I continue to be so grateful for no other side effects.

It has been hard to deal with the lower energy. I’m also trying to keep connected (on a reduced scale) with the world, with my work on the Earth Charter, eco-spirituality, concerns for global climate change, and social justice. We’re constantly working for better balance in our lives, for joy, equanimity, compassion and love, as our readings of Thict Nhat Hanh lead us to seek.

Mayo Clinic is researching alternative and complimentary treatments, in a so far minor way, and we managed to get in on one small study. On January 3 we went to Rochester and met with a very interesting woman, an energy healer, and shaman, who has contracted with them to provide lifestyle counseling and energy treatments which were well worth the trip. She also helped me deal with some of the fear I was feeling about the pain, and the possibility of significant reduction in activity.

Hope all is well with each of you, and we send best wishes for the coming months and year.

We grieve for the victims of the tsunami, and of the war in Iraq, and hope the suffering of the living can be alleviated during the coming months.

Monday, February 7, 2005 Jack writes

I passed two milestones this last week, each celebrated appropriately. On Monday, January 31 I became 82 years old, and continue to be very grateful that I am still here, and enjoying life. As I revise my address book I reflect on how many of my contemporaries have passed on, so it is good to be able to write this in person. The second milestone was my last chemo-therapy treatment on Tuesday. This completed the sixth round, which is all that the oncologists recommend without reaching the limit of diminishing returns. Again I am grateful that it again has had minimal side effects, though I’ve gone through some serious low-energy periods, and had several bouts of diarrhea. The low-energy days are frustrating since I have high expectations of productivity

Now my medical future needs some further definition, which leads to some anxiety. A CT scan was done on Friday, Feb. 4, to tell us the status of the cancer tumor. We do not think that the cancer is “cured” but we may have reached the limits that conventional medicine can do for the basic cancer. Now we need to continue our alternative healing approaches.

We already know of the cancer metatastasis into the right poterior 10th rib, and are starting discussions with the oncologist on Tuesday as to whether focused radiation would be beneficial. If so, it could involve three weeks of daily radiation. We’re also embarking on a post-chemo diet, with stronger anti-cancer elements, including fresh juices. We’re also continuing our other complimentary activities, including Iscador, energy treatments, breathing exercises, many supplements.

Good news from our trip to California Jan 19-24, during which we enjoyed visits with Barbara and Dom with an early celebration of grandson Joshua’s tenth birthday. We also had a visit with sister Holly, It was wonderful to see the sunshine and lovely green of southern California spring, in contrast to our Minneapolis snow and sub-freezing temperatures.We’ve also now decided definitely on our trip to Mexico to visit with good friends Larry and Carol, leaving March 21 and returning April 5. It is great not to have to schedule around chemo treatments.

Our best wishes to each of you and appreciation for your updates on the guestbook.

Thursday, March 3, 2005 Jack writes:

Our lives changed significantly again last week when we discovered that the lung cancer had invaded my brain. My talking, writing, walking, coordination, swimming were temporarily impaired, but fortunately a steroid pill decadron reduced the brain swelling and most functionality is returning. I won’t be driving due to risk of seizures. An MRI on Feb 24 revealed multiple brain lesions, for which we have just started radiation treatments, which will be daily for 4 weeks. I’m also getting radiation on a right rib which was partially destroyed, and I am taking a medicine Zometa to help rebuild it.

Our oncologist has said that brain involvement could mean I have only 3 to six months to live, and that my functionality may decline, so I should treasure the good days. He recommended I enroll in a hospice program. This new development has made me more aware that I have not only a life-threatening disease, though I continue to try to live a disease-threatening life, but I have a potentially life-limiting condition, so I need to carefully plan and follow the priorities for my living hours.

This is a hard time for me, as I’m, at last, facing up to the pressures of limited time, energy and declining functionality. I’m grieving about leaving Linda, about not seeing the grandchildren grow up as much as I had hoped, of less living, but am moving toward acceptance of it’s being enough. So we proceed each day with dedication and hope, and find the joy that it brings.

The family is rallying around wonderfully. Linda is being a constant caregiver. Charles is arriving Friday March 4, to bring love and help with estate financial matters. Sister Nancy arrives March 9 to bring love and help with my memoirs. Sister Holly will come in April to bring her love and special talents to help with my 75,000 slides. Barbara will come as soon as we can arrange a date.

Linda writes:

This last week was similar to the level of shock of the first diagnosis of cancer. From it we are facing the future with new levels of awareness. This includes what we need to have in order for Jack to feel more complete about projects like his memoirs; clarity about what needs to be handled so he doesn’t have to care for business things any more; support for him to be independent and mobile as much and as long as possible; and friendship and support around him at every level from conversation and food to music to spiritual discussions about life and death.

In all of these areas it is terribly challenging to give up all the things he is used to doing, and Jack is handling this transition with a lot of grace and occasional confusion and sadness. It is definitely stretching our relationship as we figure out where care-giving is needed, and how we make decisions we should make together. We are both pretty feisty, and pretty vulnerable at the moment, so we move from laughter to outbursts to equanimity at quite rapid rates.

Our local community is showing up big time. The Universalist Church is bringing meals and providing rides, and someone is even going to be doing walking in the pool with Jack. Our friends are going to build a ramp for a wheelchair for when we need it, and met with us to help us think through all levels of care. Meals and companionship and phone calls are coming in.

If you are local, and would like to help with meals or rides, please e mail Kim Pilgrim who is organizing this at the moment : tkpilgrim@peoplepc.com. JACK WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU, SO DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL. We welcome visitors: Call us at 612 927 0894.

IF YOU WANT TO POST A NOTE IN THE GUESTBOOK, WE WOULD WELCOME IT. Jack is no longer using his e mail, so send anything personal to Linda’s e mail linda@lindabergh.org.

Keeping communications open with friends is a high priority. We so appreciate the connection we have with each one of you. Linda and Jack

We would like to share a verse with you that has been helpful for us in these times:

We must eradicate from the soul all fear and terror of what comes out of the future. We must acquire serenity in all feelings and sensations about the future. We must look forward with absolute equanimity to everything that may come, and we must think only that whatever comes is givent to us by a world direction full of wisdom. It is part of what we must learn in this age, namely to life in pure trust without any security in existence, trusting in the ever-present help of the spiritual world. Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us. Let us discipline our will, and let us seek the awakening within ourselves every morning and every evening. Rudolf Steiner 1919

Personal Entry not on Caring Bridge :

Jack March 4, 2005: “I’m dying of cancer. That’s the first time I’ve said it.”

Jack March 6, 2005: “What an exciting time to be alive: trying to balance a lifetime of hopes and dreams and unfulfilled expectations on a tiny pinnacle of time and energy.”

Jack March 11 2005: “I had conversations with Barbara (daughter) on resuscitation.(This was after Hospice asked the question) I decided that I don’t want CPR.”

March 16, 2005; Time with a spiritual friend. She said: Your soul is so large and beautiful. It is coming for you to integrate with it. It will be harmonious. You are integrating the body with the soul so that the body doesn’t feel it has to keep going after the soul is gone from the physical body. It will be soon.”

During this time in March, while he was having daily brain radiation, Jack’s sister Nancy came to help him with his writing, and, it turned out, spend her last time with him. They worked hours every day, turning his life story of over two hundred pages into an eight page life history, basis for the beautiful brochure printed for his memorial with pictures of his life. Simultaneously he wrote his Ethical Will and arranged to have it videotaped by a friend the day before we left for Mexico. He was a man on a mission. Could we have known that a month later, he would be dying, and none of those things would have been possible? In terms of day to day activities, he was also meditating, doing yoga, taking walks, working out in the pool 3 times a week, having weekly body healing sessions, having special nutrients and carrot juice and other special diets. All of this was to maintain the fullest possible health and highest functioning for the longest possible time. Perhaps most memorable and meaningful, arising every morning, walking outside and saying his Salutation to the sun : There was a special glow that began to be around Jack during this time, a palpable sense of something shifting, of joy and presence much larger than personality. It is hard to describe.

Jack & LindaSunday, March 20, 2005 Jack writes:

Good news! The doctor has given us the green light for our two week trip to Mexico, to visit dear friends Larry and Carol in Ajijik, east of Guadalajara. So we leave tomorrow, Monday the 21st, for the land of sunshine and flowers.

These past two weeks I’ve answered the “how are you” question with “better than expected.” I’ll finish my 17th brain radiation on Monday, (three more after my return) with very few side effects so far. A little more fatigue (more to be expected they tell me), only a little hair loss, and continued feeling of good energy and functional effectiveness. A little more weakness, especially in my legs. Practically all the mild pain from the rib is gone after that radiation.

But the real news is how much we have accomplished this week with the visit of my sister Nancy, who brings not only her love, her pack of family history including dozens of my old letters written during my Stanford and Navy days, and all sorts of memorabilia from my childhood, her experience with “Living into Dying” (the title of her book) and her expertise in memoir writing. We have written and finished not only a summary memoir but also an “ethical will” to pass on the guiding principles and values of my life. It will be distributed at my memorial service.

I’ve also finished, with a good videographer friend, taping a video of my life for my family and friends. Linda and son Charles have finished revising our wills and all our financial estate affairs. Quite a remarkable week! I feel such relief that some of these big projects on my “to do” list can be crossed off the list.

Most importantly, I have fully entered into a conscious spiritual journey from living into dying. I feel my spirit soul is coming ever closer, to bring me home to the next phase of my journey, and I am feeling a greater sense of being in the right place at the right time. I am not afraid of dying, but looking forward to what comes beyond.

So I’m feeling good physically, emotionally , and spiritually. Each day brings more gratitude and joy. Thank you all again for those prayers and thoughts you have been sending my way. I love you each, more each day, and they help make each day special and precious.

Love, Jack (and Linda)

Thursday, April 14, 2005 Written by Jack on April 9th:

REFLECTIONS ON TIME OFF IN MEXICO We’re back from our trip to Mexico! When I’m asked how was it – wonderful, and how am I feeling – better than expected! The predicted fatigue after 17 radiations of the brain did cause a little decline in energy, but nowhere near as much as expected. Having wheelchair support in airports made the flights do-able.

Our two weeks in Ajijic, Mexico, with dearest friends Larry and Carol and Edie went exceptionally well. We left snow here and enjoyed the sunshine, flowers, sunrises by the lake, good restaurant meals in beautiful lakeside gardens. Ajijic is a cultural center so we enjoyed plays, concerts, ancient dance, as well as art galleries, farmer’s market, all in small pieces that my energy and mobility allowed.

The one task I undertook, and essentially completed, was the dictation of the final parts of my memoirs. It is different than I would have written a year ago, as I seem to have a wider perspective, writing with more feeling and reflection than before. I also had the thought of actually retiring – and am exploring that feeling.

Most important of all were the deep and meaningful discussions with friends of my journey of living into dying, and how best to proceed on my physical and spiritual path. Linda and I have such caring, insightful and loving support. We all learned more about care-giving from being in a small microcosm of support, open to sharing and facing these issues.

In Mexico – where we stayed for two weeks – we walked each morning to see the sunrise and worked daily taping his memoirs , finishing them literally the morning we left. One morning he said, “I think I’m going to retire” Another day he said, “I think I’m in a stage before living into dying. I’m in a stage living into Loving.” He was so happy there, as the pictures attest, worked out in the pool every day, and could actually walk with less wobbles when he left.

Personal entry not on caring bridge. When we returned from Mexico, he had to finish his brain radiation. We re-entered hospice care. Exhaustion at a level we had never seen set in, and his breathing became labored.

April 14, 2005 Linda writes: MEXICO AND NOW

In Ajijic we had a wonderful time away from appointments, phones, lists, and work – a true vacation. Life was simple. Jack was experiencing some loss of balance, shortness of breath, and fatigue, but was also gaining strength from doing pool workouts. Jack wrote upon our return: “As you can sense, I feel, if I can keep at about this level, that I am in a good place, and that I have a little time to go. Maybe I can beat that prognosis after all.”

Working to bring back some of that “manyana” time sense into our lists and tasks here in Minnesota has been challenging. I came back to full time work, we came back to many doctors’ appointments, the last three of 20 brain radiations, and the process of entering hospice. And Jack had some serious symptoms of breathlessness and fatigue. (From walking ½ mile last Thursday to not being able to go around the block on this Tuesday.) We had yet another removal of fluid (700 CC)from his lung lining just yesterday. Today he is resting and recuperating. Each day we need to be alert to what is needed. We will now have services from Hospice, and from his long term care so that he can continue to live as fully as possible with support. He wants to continue going to the pool, going to church, and seeing friends, as well as work toward completion of some of projects.

A word about being a care-giver. First, I am so grateful for the variety of services available to him and us, and to our friends, who built a wheelchair ramp (in case) for us while we were gone, and continue to bring meals and support us in many ways. And for everyone’s prayers and thoughts. I am learning to verbalize to Jack about my and other’s caregiving so that he can understand what is being given, and therefore continue to be a part of the communication link. Also, I find that when I am able to state my needs, I feel more joyfully engaged in the process, and not fatigued by it. We are both on a steep learning curve, standing between the realities of meeting changing physical needs and the positive love of living each day fully. Every Wednesday evening we are opening our home for music. It is lovely.

In the next month, we will have a medical re-evaluation, and decide whether to have further treatment. We will also assess if further trips are feasible. Jack would like to see the East Coast and friends and family there in May, and even dreams of being able to attend the Heckelman family reunion in California in July. Everything, of course, will depend on Jack’s level of physical functioning. Meanwhile we are here. Visits are always welcome. Sister Holly arrives tomorrow, April 15 for a week; a Mpls friend Anna, who is in college, is coming home this weekend to see us, nephew Tag will visit for a day next week, and daughter Barbara is arranging for a visit in mid May.

Meanwhile we send all our love to you, and are so very grateful for your continuing love and support Jack and Linda

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Jack Heckleman passed peacefully around 6:00 a.m. this morning. (4/24/05)

A three day vigil is being planned and will begin at 2:00 p.m. today, Sunday, and end Wednesday morning 6am. You may visit any time at 4315 Xerxes Ave. S. in Minneapolis. People who wish to sit with Jack to participate in the vigil may call Kim @ 651-482-7699. Participating in the vigil is sitting quietly with the body, reading scripture, offering songs or poetry or meditation, or any other gifts you want to offer to help him transition.

A Celebration of Jack’s life will be in May in Minneapolis and in June in Philadelphia.

We know Jack is smiling down on us from above. We are thankful for your love and blessings through this transition. Love to you always, Linda

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Jack’s Final Days: Remembrance by Linda

Jack & LindaLast week of life: In looking back, we can see his pathway, and the beauty of the last week of his life, so surrounded by love of friends and family.

Friday April 15th hospice nurse: he has three months to live-needs oxygen. Oxygen brought to the house. It is a shock, and then a blessing, so he doesn’t have to work so hard to breathe.

Saturday: April 16th . I teach my last classes. A young friend helps him clean his office in preparation for his sister Holly, who arrives that evening. He is exhausted.

Sunday April 17th A Walk in the Peace Garden (His last) He was still inwardly planning a trip to the east coast. He is very exhausted.

Monday April 18th water workout (his last) at the YMCA (took oxygen ) Everyone could see frailty.

Tuesday April 19th: dream:he had to go through three doors and then he would come to a bowl of liquid that will fill him and give him all the energy he needed To him it was about his body. To me, it was a step toward crossing over to spirit world. I was grateful for his journey toward spirit, yet felt such deep sadness at how close he was coming.

Hospice nurse tells me that Jack has two or three weeks to live and ordered a wheelchair and walker: It was the first time that I really got that he was in the last stages of dying. I cried and cried as I drove to Target. I knew I had to let go, and help him cross over. I decide to wait to discuss what hospice nurse brought until we are at the doctor together tomorrow . He spends time turning over the slide projects to Holly, sad that he will not get to work with the 75,000 slides he wanted to scan to digital.

Wednesday April 20th Doctor’s appointment: Dr. said family should come to say goodbye now. Jack and I sat in doctor’s office and faced the enormity of NOW death is almost here.

Home – after another very long nap -he said “It is all being recorded.” Some kind of awareness of a higher reality. Singing at Home in the evening: knowing his frailty, we called all the people who had come to sing or been close to family. Over 20 people showed up, and we had a beautiful evening; he was frail but glowing, as though this was the liquid energy he longed for. Two saxophones played “Amazing Grace”. When we sang “white coral bells” He kept insisting: “Sing it in harmony!” and then would lean back and smile.

Thursday April 21st: A friend took him for a walk by Lake Harriet in a wheelchair( last time outside); then he was exhausted for most of the day. Gave his most prized possession, his camera, to his sister Holly that night in a ceremony. Very alive and joyous, just very very tired.

Friday April 22nd: Hospice nurse: “Jack has only 2-3 days to live. Left lung not functioning. “

Called his children; they would be there the next day. Close soul family, minister, young friends, came to say their blessings and goodbyes and receive his. He handed over missions to many. He said to the minister; “it seems like my last rites”. Hospital bed delivered and placed in the living room, where he was moved in the evening. Young friends came with harp and violin, and voice, and surrounded him with music and love. He had barely whispered during the evening. At the end of the evening, we circled the bed to sing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. I looked over, and he was singing in a normal voice right along with us. He said “The driving is getting lighter” I slept with him in the hospital bed.

Email sent to Friends and family on Friday

Greetings: We invite your love and prayers as Jack makes his transition. Jack is birthing to spirit, and we don’t know when that will be, but it will be soon. Close family and friends are coming, and the community is surrounding Jack and I with great love and support. In the last week Jack has been on oxygen and every day has been weaker. It has been a surprise to see such a rapid shift from function to such fatigue, but as one friend said, when Jack decides to do something, he goes for it. Jack is very tired, and ready to let go of his body. In this transition his mind is crystal clear, and his smile still ready to greet those he loves. As always Linda and Jack

Saturday: April 23rd It was the last morning Jack would be up and get dressed. He prepared for his casket, made and delivered by his niece and Native American friends from Wisconsin. Per his wishes, it has dragonflies and a maple leaf burned on the cover, and is the most elegant wood coffin I have every seen. When they bring it through the door, his face lights up like a child. The inside is rainbow silk. part of the huge hand-dyed roll held up for our wedding processional when the dragonfly was on Jack’s back. He has few words at this point, a warm thank you.

Then, exhausted, he goes to bed, and will not get up from it. He will not speak but a few words before he dies. His daughter Barbara and son Charles and wife Jamie come, spending this precious last day of his life with him. He doesn’t speak all day, except to tell them his child nickname “Buck” came from “Buck Rogers”. He doesn’t move except for a spontaneous reaching out to hug his children and lots of eye contact. His sister Nancy calls in the evening: suddenly he speaks, telling her in a strong whisper: “Casket -Beautiful” and “Everything – just fine” and “Tell everyone – LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!”

Charles and Jamie leave to the hotel, and Barbara and I settle him for the evening on the hospital bed. She goes to bed, and I join him. We somehow, even on this night, share the day, of the joy of his seeing his children, and being able to say goodby. He is restless in the night, saying “It is enough” (He had always wondered how he would know he had done enough in his life and could let go.) A few hours later, after re-arranging him and seeing him more peaceful, I slip off the bed to the couch just feet away for a short reprieve.

Sunday April 24 th When I awake at 6 AM, he has slipped away without a sound. After his daughter is awakened, and says goodby, I stand by the bed alone, wishing that I could have been there for his last breath, as I had somehow pictured doing. I hear a voice from within myself. “Please, no regrets.” Thank you Jack, for all you gave, even in those moments around death. I feel at peace, taking in the gifts he gave and simultaneously feeling such deep sadness of the end of our life together as we knew it. (Linda)

In March, Jack wrote an ending for his life story that would be given out at his memorial:

In August, 2004, cancer came into my life. Starting with inoperable Stage 4 lung cancer, it metastasized throughout my chest and moved into my brain by February of 2005. Now I begin the greatest adventure of my life – consciously living into dying. And knowing whatever I am able to do in the time left, it will “be enough”. I am deeply grateful for my life and especially thankful to each one of you who have made it a wonderful life. May we all continue to work together on the Great Work of bringing good, peace and hope to the earth and all humanity.

T. Jack Heckelman

Written by Sister Nancy for the Memorial Service brochure

Jack’s final days were filled with joy and gratitude. His eyes often filled with tears at the wonder of life. He inspired countless friends, re-defining what aging could be for many young people and for others he was the venerable elder for the community. In him they found a big hearted and caring father, grandfather, mentor and example of engaged activism and enthusiasm for life. When Jack found his days were few, he focused on courageously dying with consciousness, considering it the greatest adventure of his life and wanting to be an example to others.

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Caregiver Reflections

coming soon…

Verses on Conscious Living and Dying

(From Utne Magazine article and CaringBridge web site)

Quiet I bear with me – by Rudolf Steiner
From Book of Meditations and Verses

Quiet I bear with me,

I bear within myself the forces to make me strong

Now will I be imbued with their glowing warmth,

Now will I fill myself with my own will’s resolve.

And I will feel the quiet pouring through all my being.

When by my steadfast striving I become strong

To find within myself the source of strength

The strength of inner Quiet

Eradicate Fear

We must eradicate from the soul all fear and terror
Of what comes out of the future.
We must acquire serenity in all feelings and sensations about the future.
We must look forward with absolute equanimity to everything that may
come, and we must think only that whatever comes is given to us by a
world direction full of wisdom.
It is part of what we must learn in this age, namely to live in pure trust
without any security, in existence.
Trusting in the ever-present help of the spiritual world.
Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us.
Let us discipline our will, and let us seek the awakening within ourselves
every morning and every evening.

~ Rudolf Steiner,
“Living into the Future,” November 27, 1919, Education Lectures, GA297

Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury…….. pardon
Where there is discord…….. unity
Where there is doubt…….. faith,
Where there is despair…….. hope,
Where there is sadness…….. joy,
Where there is darkness…….. light,

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned,
It is in dying to self that we are born into eternal life.