The Divining Rod

He was a prominent citizen. He had influenced hundreds if not thousands of people. He was like a divining rod, one of the exceptional ones who can find water with a two-pronged stick.


People around me confided, “I am not ready for him to go. He still has more to contribute.”


A few weeks before he died, he confided in me as well.


He said, “I am afraid of choking.” I listened.

He said, “I am afraid of dying of asphyxiation.” I listened.

He said, “Help me.” I listened.

I said, “When you feel my hand on your chest, we will breathe together.”


I placed my hand on his chest. We practiced breathing together. With each inhale and exhale, we rehearsed his dying.


Now, at the time of his death, I am a midwife to his process. I request those who are frightened, those who are holding on to his life, to leave the room. Two of us remain, sitting on either side of him.


Helplessness floods my being, and then just as swiftly I find myself fully engaged with him, as he is now—and as I am now.


He says, “I am afraid of choking.” I listen.

He says, “I am afraid of dying of asphyxiation.” I listen.

He says, “Help me.” I listen.

And I say, “When you feel my hand on your chest, we will breathe together.”


And so we breathe once more, as one, my hand gently upon his chest.


And as he takes his last breath, an immense and tender rush fills the room. And I hear myself say, “Help me.” And in my imagination I hear him say, “When you feel my hand on your chest, we will breathe together.”