Our best friend, Wayne Marinelli (aka The Food Doctor) was healthy and fit. He was a dedicated vegan for seventeen years; hiked hundreds of miles in the Grand Canyon; always smiling, willing to lend a helping hand and one of the happiest people walking around. He and his best four-footed friend, Sonny, were planning to move to Seattle when the crisis hit. A very aggressive form of brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforma) took Wayne on a thirteen month journey that included terrifying medical interventions, natural healing methods, spiritual work, positive attitude, fearful moments, valiant triumphs, and lots of laughter. It was a shock to him and everyone close to him when the tumor progressed into a ventricle and quickly claimed his life. He was 42 years young when he passed.
From September of 2003 through October 4, 2004, I served as Wayne’s health advocate and care giver. Robert and I served together with other family members during Wayne’s hospice care time. At the end of his days, the inoperable tumor blocked Wayne’s ability to speak what he was thinking. We learned to communicate by asking questions for “yes/no” answers. It was frustrating for him to be unable to express his last wishes and thoughts. Our conversations with Wayne had always been deeply spiritual and many faceted. We did our best to understand his feelings and needs as he let go of his earthly experience.
We discovered something important during that precious time. We were always engaged with hope and faith that Wayne could beat this cancer, ‘just like Lance Armstrong‘! For people who were very conscious about so many things, we were also in a curious sort of denial that this tumor could ever win and destroy Wayne’s healthy body. We just refused to believe it was possible that his time on earth (in this body) could be over. We focused so much on Wayne’s survival and treatment protocols that we avoided too much talk about death. Of course we did have some conversations about how it would be for all of us, should he succumb to the cancer, but when we actually faced the finality of his time here, we wished there had been more time, more practice, more dialog. . . more something to prepare all of us for this.
A realization occurred to me that other people are likely to experience similar feelings when faced with loss. The term prehospice surfaced in my mind, along with ideas for programs that would allow for open dialog about terminal illness and end of life issues. I asked Wayne about creating a retreat for this purpose at his house. While he could not verbalize his approval of this plan, he gave his biggest smile and thumbs up to the plan. Even though he is no longer in the body and we miss him dearly, his enthusiastic smile lives on in our minds and hearts to inspire this work. His formula for living well is threefold and simple: 1) Life is good 2) Don’t worry, be happy and 3) All you need is love.