Five years ago, I experienced a crisis of the spirit. It began during the illness of a dear friend who spent the last 18 months of his life in our home battling the ravages of Pick’s Disease, a rare and irreversible form of dementia. The months of care as the disease progressed called upon resources our family didn’t know it possessed and challenged us in ways we could not have imagined. In it’s own way, the experience strengthened us and drew us closer as a family.
Throughout his decline and especially at the end, it felt as though we were fulfilling an ancient pact, a sacred contract. It came to me in this way: long ago before we came, we agreed that we would find each other, and that I would help him in his hour of need and he would help me. On some level, his passing was a signal for me to wake up to the truth of my being.
Even with that awareness I still didn’t know where to turn in the aftermath of his death. I found myself searching for answers to the meaning of my own life—and didn’t know where to begin. I was hungry for a deeper sense of purpose.
For months afterward I struggled and every day was a battle with inertia. It was di cult to muster the passion I once had for my work as a chiropractor. I felt like something inside of me was dying, and yet at the same time something alive wanted to come through. I found the greatest peace in solitude.
I began spending long periods of time alone in the woods, going out early in the morning before sunrise, or in the evening at sunset. Sometimes I would stay out all night, sleeping on the ground, and coming home in the morning. My wife was incredibly tolerant of my strange comings and goings. Sometimes we would just look at each other and she would say, “go ahead and go.”