Friday afternoon, May 29, 2009, my friend, Greg Finch, and I were having coffee in Peet's coffee-shop on 19th Street in Sacramento, California.

The previous day, my wife, Carol, had been diagnosed with Stage III, level c, ovarian cancer. Her surgery was scheduled for that coming Tuesday.

As Greg and I talked, I shared with him three things:

  • I know there are profound spiritual lessons in this for both my wife and me.
  • I have to do it differently this time.
  • I have to accept this and "let everything be as it is. "The only thing I can do is be "consciously present with her."

Rediscovering faith

After walking away from a fundamentalist church as a teenager, by age 40 I felt something was missing from my life and started looking for answers.

I began going to a small Unity church in Modesto where a guest speaker named Carol Ruth Knox delivered a talk one Sunday. For the first time in my life, I heard a message that resonated to the core of my being. I knew this was Truth, capitalized, emboldened and underlined.

A few months after that first meeting, I bought a small business in Walnut Creek, near her church. Over the next few years, her teachings on "Non-duality," "Progressing Spiritually from Victim to Victor to Vehicle," and "The Dark Night of the Soul" changed my life and the way I see God.

These lessons helped me see that my wife's cancer would have a profound spiritual impact on us both.

The present of staying in the present

I had been a caregiver about 30 years before and it didn't go well. I tried to do everything myself and avoid the pain by "stuffing" my feelings and numbing out with alcohol.

Part of "doing things differently" this time was recognizing that I couldn't fix my wife. I could take care of many of her physical needs: cooking, driving her to doctor's appointments, buying groceries, cleaning house, etc. I also realized I needed to take care of myself, if I was to remain strong enough to take care of her. I would ask for help or hire someone to do the routine chores.

The greatest gift I could give to her (and to me) was to remain conscious throughout the experience. I said to God, "Okay, I am going to be present for all of this. I am going to feel it all." My promise to my wife was, "I will be consciously present with you and hold your hand throughout."