David is Dale Borglum’s brother, the founder of Living/Dying Project
Doug, David’s Living/Dying Project volunteer, writes:
David was first diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer about six months ago. Now 69, he has long been committed to a vegan diet and a healthy lifestyle, with a great sensitivity to the human impact on the planet. Not surprisingly, he has struggled with the question of why he got his cancer. Did it have some origin in his way of dealing with emotions, perhaps a byproduct of his upbringing? Was it due to a lack of joy in his life, and his tendency toward selfless service to others? If the cause of his illness had such an origin, how might he heal it? And finally, how to hold all these questions that might not have an answer?
Just last week, David got word that his chemotherapy treatments were not effective in reducing his tumors, and that there was no benefit in continuing. So painful to realize that all he went through – the nausea, weight loss and fatigue– did not have an upside, and that door was now closed. Today, he is facing the options that remain open to him, including alternative treatments and the â€œpalliative careâ€ services offered under hospice.
I first met David early last summer, and since that time I have witnessed the journey of a deeply spiritual man, a Christian pastor as well as a meditation practitioner, as he faces the limits of his time left. There are so many moments of tears and tenderness as we talk together, sit in meditation, and do gentle yoga. Will there be many months more for our conversations, or perhaps just weeks? How can David share all that he has in his heart with his wife, his children, his many friends?
For me, it has been an extraordinary blessing to enter into David’s life and have this friendship.
From David’s Journal:
I don’t know. Death could be near –but my life energy has not abated much. Perhaps a combination of internal changes / healing my life and alternative treatments will work a “miracle” of Radical Remission–or of strengthening my system enough to be able to live with cancer. It’s too easy to head trip about the future, and I choose not to focus on the “what if’s” of the future that my mind can make up.
While my health remains very precarious and it’s been a tough couple of weeks pain wise, my spirit has never been more free; I’m learning to laugh and sing in a whole new way. In some strange way, having cancer and so many experiences around it has opened my heart. It’s not only that I’m reading “Funny Times” more and trying to laugh intentionally; not infrequently I find myself giggling like an embarrassed 10-year-old girl at – life itself. Or just twinkling with my eyes with the people around me.
My loving and well-meaning parents, especially my mother, taught me about moral obligation and duty and hard work (which over the years I had subtly transformed into social justice work and ecological simplicity and overemphasizing work.) I’m interested in combining joy with work for social and environment change.
feeling the brisk fall evenings and the warmth of sunny afternoon,
schnuggling up with my beloved watching “Desperate Housewives,”
hanging out with friends as long as my energy holds up. (Why did I spend so much time working and so little time enjoying friends before?)
I am amazed at all the love the universe / God is pouring into me daily, especially through the prayers and loving wishes of numerous others, rides, friendships, gifts, calls,and unbelievably now, meals for the family coming two or three times a week, organized by the Congregational Care Team of First Congregational Alameda. So many incredible friends, church members,and healers. How fitting that â€œDavidâ€ means “beloved.”
I’m not nearly as afraid of dying these days. I know it’s not a big deal, and physical death is hardly the end. But I do have my preferences–I’d like to live for several years, not so much out of fear of death, but more out of love of the precious life I have been given and the joy I feel. Daily, as I awake to greet the new morn, how can I keep from singing? Blessed be.
I thank you God for most this amazing day;
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky,
and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.
(I who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;
this is the birth day of life and love and wings and of the gay great happening illimitably earth.)
– e.e. cummings
Beloved Jesus, my healer and my guide,
to whatever extent possible, may I be freed of pain and suffering.
Teach me to recognize, accept, and release my fears.
Heal me in heart, mind, and spirit,
and if it’s in the larger flow of things, heal my body andÂ restore my energy.
When pain does come my way, may I meet it with tenderness, ease and compassion toward all who are suffering.
Doug Wallace – a spiritual volunteer for the Living Dying Project
Doug Wallace interviewing David Borglum on October 30, 2014,
the night before David died
Doug: David, can you tell me what your experience has been since you were diagnosed with cancer.
David: Having cancer has profoundly affected my life. At first I was relatively stable. I was feeling signs of hopefulness and also a sense of spiritual awakening, a sense of just being alive more and more to the present moment. As cancer seemed to get worse, my energy level decreased and I felt weakness perhaps due to the medications I have been taking to deal with the pain.
Cancer has also profoundly affected my life in a different way, in the sense of not feeling a lot of exuberant joy that I was originally feeling. Right now the big question is whether my strength will start to return and I don’t know. So anyway I’ve been going through a lot of ups and downs. Obviously I’ve been feeling that all of this has been more a little bit more intense of late, especially over the last week or two. It’s hard to distinguish what is causing what. Laughs. It’s been an exhausting, exhausting time.
I’ve also felt profound gratitude for so much support from so many different people. In particular I’m grateful for help with meals and for people who have made unexpected donations from out of nowhere, which I was not expecting. In some ways I feel I’ve never been so blessed in my life. I’ve been learning a lot about gratitude. One of the realities is that I don’t have the time and energy to send a lot of personal thank you notes that I would like to be sending folks.
Doug: What has it been like for you being supported by a Living/Dying Project volunteer?
David: Doug has been a true blessing on so many different levels, part of which has been having someone to meet with, pray with, meditate with, do yoga with, dealing with balance in a whole, new fresh way. This is been really critical. Doug’s presence in my life brought enrichment on so multiple levelsâ€“ spiritually, as far as friendship, support in learning more about yoga, also making sure that I have the best of things such as a yoga mat or suspenders. Laughs. Whatever would be needed. Some of those practical gifts have been invaluable. I also feel that when I’m tired my speech is not as clear as it had been an and I regret that. I hope to come back to these questions at a later time.