Anyone who is up to date with reading The Owl Journal will know that my last entry — The Where and the When — ended with one helluva cliffhanger.
Then again, it’s also entirely possible, if you’ve been reading since the beginning of my hellish journey with ALS, that you did NOT experience the Cliffhanger effect thanks to the equally pernicious Boy Who Cried Wolf effect, as I described it in my May 2021 post titled, The Boy Who Cried Owl.
Either way, cutting to the chase, the end is near, very near, and this time it’s actually going to happen.
I mean it!
Since I’ve been documenting and sharing my thoughts on this journey all along, and since, in return, I’ve received voluminous and deeply gratifying evidence that people are reading and getting something meaningful out of my doing so, I feel a non-oppressive obligation to explain how I arrived at the end, recognized it as such, and decided to take the next step, to cross over.
As mentioned in The Where and the When, upon returning home from my truncated respite stay at the Hospice House, the question of Where I wished to die — Answer: Home — had been finally and definitively answered, and further, though less transparently expressed in the blog post, my return home was unexpectedly accompanied by a peaceful awareness that I was ready, at last, to let go and pass away.
Now, let me clarify what I mean by peaceful awareness.
No, I’m not in some magical blissful state, surrounded by the presence of benevolent angels waiting to guide me to the afterlife. Rather, my experience since determining that I’m ready to pass on has been — like the experience of life itself — bittersweet. On one hand, I still feel tremendous sadness for all that ALS has robbed me of, as well as all it’s about to take from me and from those whom I love. On the other hand, I’m exhausted and simply ready for the fight with ALS to be over.
(Side Note: Back in July 2021, a year to the day after I was told by my doctor that I had six months to live, in a blog post titled Now With 100% More Howard, I described the experience of outliving that prognosis as being akin to watching a baseball game that has gone into many extra innings. Well, perhaps a better sports metaphor would be a boxing match with no round limit, no ref, and, as I write this, as of yet no knockouts.)
And so, I repeat: I’m exhausted and very much ready for the fight with ALS to be over.
This bonus time I’ve had — the days, weeks, months, and now a whole year — included many wonderful moments, celebrations of my life, precious time with family and friends. I’ve had an additional birthday that I didn’t think I’d have, celebrated Laurel’s and Julian’s birthdays an additional time as well, and I had a bonus Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and New Year!
And yet, simultaneously, each and every day included a brutal physical struggle with the simplest activities of daily living, and the excruciating emotional pain of observing my body and its level of functioning gradually and irreversibly deteriorate.
So now, I’m throwing in the towel. I’m exhausted and very much ready for the fight with ALS to be over.
While a small number of folks closest to me were told beforehand, most reading this will be learning for the first time that I wrote this post before I passed, and that someone posted it for me the day after. It was a very difficult decision to do it this way, but for one simple, practical reason it had to be so: Due to my difficulty breathing, there was just no way that I was going to be able to have a conversation about this with all of the many people I’ve been so blessed to have in my life.
Additionally, as it turned out, over the course of my last week, my body seemed to start giving out on me at an accelerated rate — deeper fatigue, even more shortness of breath, achiness from sitting all day, etc. — almost as if it had received the signal from my brain that I had set a date to die and consequently it got busy doing just that.
Fortunately, because this boxing match lasted so long, I’ve had the honor of hearing from many of you, everything from cross-country journeys in order to see me in person, to transglobal Zoom calls reaching as far as Luxembourg, Hong Kong, and Osaka, Japan, to Likes and comments on Facebook, and I’m deeply grateful for every damned bit of it! ♥
Conversely, after all I’ve written on I, Too, Heard The Owl — a grand total of 138,425 words, including this post — there’s really not much more that I would have had to say in return, had we all been able to have that one last chat, except of course a final…
I Love You!!!
And so, having thus depleted my supply of words, I hereby leave you with the absolute perfect quote from someone else, a quote from a favorite song by a favorite band that I’m sure, for many of you, will come as absolutely no surprise at all.
Fare you well
Fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river
Sing sweet songs
To rock my soul
–Robert Hunter, from “Brokedown Palace“ by the Grateful Dead
15 thoughts on “Notes on The End”
Howard!!! Wherever this path (….is for you steps alone) takes you from here, I wish for you happy trails! ❤
And you are loved as well! Find peace my friend. We are all better for having known you 💕
Oh dear Howard, my prayers and love go with you as you step through the veil. One moment and you will be free. I love you brother. You are definitely showing us the way. Thank you teacher. ❤️💔❤️
Such a Howard!!! So full of light.
Wherever your new path takes you…Shine on!!
Thanks Howard and the whole of those who are connected to you. We will keep learning and living for now. Thanks for the example of bravery, honesty, love and so much more. Peace and love and see you around.
…’nothing but love…
catch you on the flip’…
~ beloved wisdom… borrowed words from my son, Noah…1971/ 2010
Praying you finally are at peace. That your family and friends are grateful for the extra time and amazing words you’ve left behind. Your courage was admirable and awe-inspiring.
To Howard’s family and friends may you find peace knowing Howard is in eternal peace.
God Bless 🙏 – a distant but caring connection.
SUCH A HOWARD !!!
So much light…so much love…so much wisdom!
Wherever you new path leads..Shine On
Claude and Leola
I never got to meet you but this has knocked me for six. Rest easy, Howard ❤️
Peace & Love be with you and your dear family Howard. It was a pleasure to know you. Rest in peace and Play on, play on 🧡
Howard I am Glad your pain is over, but the sound of silence is dealing. Soar with the owls. See you on the old playground where we grew up. Peace 🙏💙♥️
Howard- what a beautiful teacher and guide you have been- we will meet you in the stars one day.
Dearest Howard, we met but the one time so long ago on a crazy trip to Vancouver with Michael Kramer. It was a joy to meet you then. I look forward to a time when we will meet again on the otherwise and dance together to the Dead. Rest in power dear man. Kieran Clifford, Dublin Ireland
I love you Howard. I’m grateful for the parts of our earth journey we have shared – witnessing you falling in love with Laurel , witnessing you falling in love at your sons birth , witnessing your spirit loving living life
and the courage of knowing when to take your final breath
releasing all but the love
you are ….