Thomas Lawrence Toscano
Six Days For Thomas
These days are very interesting to me. There have been many surprises this week. Surprises that I truly didn't forsee. Some of them were even of the human kind, in person no less. Apparently, this is something that may become rare - or so I'm told. That said - there are some things about me that some of you know and some of you don't. I keep my own counsel. I have travelled a long road - one which has taken me deep into the artistic reality. In order to keep one's tack in such a journey, one is required to learn self-trust. To learn the way of reading trails - of hearing "yes" or "no". One can do this in a second - or one can take an entire lifetime. I'm some where in between. However, now that I have traveled that journey and learn many, many lessons - practiced and failed a sufficient amount of times. It's time for me to expand. Not compress. How that all will manifest I have no ideas - yet - I continue to listen and to trust what I feel. Quite some time ago when I was living in Brazil a very important person in my life, Monica, introduced me to "O Triguerinho". He was a wonderful spiritualist and philosopher. He gave lectures at his farm, people would travel very far to attend them. I never did, however, I was gifted a number of cassette recordings of his talks. During one talk - he told a story of how he was called to the hospital by an old friend. When he arrived there his friend was bedridden, close to death. He greeted Trigeurinho and thanked him profusely for coming to see him. He started to tell him just how sick he was and that he was very near the end. Triguerinho confessed that he was happy to see him, however, he could not understand what his friend wanted him to do. He certainly wasn't a physician and had no claim to ever healing anyone. Well, his friend grabbed his arm and said to him in hushed tones - "you have to tell me, tell me what it's all about and what to expect?". Triguerinho asked " what are you referring to?" - His friend replied "Why death of course!" Triguerinho, went on to tell the people assembled there that he was struck deeply by the timing of this man. He had lived his life, he was quite successful and yet, only at the end did he turn his attention to the meaning of it all. He then said in a very clear voice " so, my friends, do not spend your lives as chickens - with your attention to the ground, raise your heads and your eyes and begin the process of the inner journey now. When it is your time, you'll be glad you did". I took his advice - very, very seriously.
Yesterday, while I was starting fires, cooking food and moving wood, I heard a series of radio programs that effected me greatly and the one I'm about to refer too, truly insisted to me that I just had to share it with you all.
I listen to NHPR (New Hampshire Public Radio) in part because it's the NPR station that I receive best here in the mountains. It is to the East of me - and because I'm in the mountains - not on the highest peak either, I listen to what ever comes in most clearly. As I was listening, very attentively to the story brought to life by Sarah Gray (who has also read a book about her experiences) I was struck by a simple word as she told her story, the name - Thomas.
Sarah was pregnant with identical twins - and found out early on that one of them was not going to make it. Anenecephaly had taken hold and the fetus' development would prevent the child from living too long. They all decided it would be best to end the child's life, because, it could possibly threaten the healthy child in utero. Well, when they were about to put Sarah through an operation - there was a change of plans, simply because, what could have been relatively safe, had turned rather dangerous for all concerned. The two children were eventually born and Thomas, as he was called - was alive and feeding. Callan, his healthy brother, had no issues. Thomas did, however, there he was alive - much to everyone's surprise and he lasted 6 days. A very surprising reality that no one was expecting. Sarah and her husband began to plan for the baby to come home - however, it wasn't to be and after six days he passed. Subsequently, Sarah decided to donate Thomas' organs.
One year later - Sarah decided to find out what happened and began to call around to the entities that had accepted the donation of this organs. Through a rather miraculous turn of events Sarah journeyed to four different entities in four parts of the country. First was Harvard Medical Center, where Thomas' corneas had been donated. There Sarah learned that his corneas had great value because it is so rare to have them from one so young. Further, at that age the corneas could replicate cells easily and, in fact, some of Thomas' cells were still in use some two years later.
The next step in her adventure brought her to Duke University Center for Genetic Research. There they were examining the genetic make up of the umbilical cord blood for both of the twins. The epigenetic changes found in the blood of these two identical twins, gave the researchers rare and precious insight into why Thomas had suffered his fate. It was a truly special set of circumstances that gave them all this very unique research opportunity. The next was a research lab called Cytonet. There they learned how Thomas' liver had been selected for very important research to discover the proper temperature to freeze infant liver cells to help those infants with sever liver problems. They excitedly told Sarah and her husband and son, that they were the only family to ever visit. Finally, they found themselves at the University of Pennsylvania. They met the researcher who had received Thomas' retinas, which were aiding her in the study of retinoblastoma, a potentially deadly cancer of the retina. The researcher confessed her guilt - for she told Sarah that she had waited six years for Thomas' retinas to fulfill the chance to do such research . Sarah calmly explained that Thomas' eyes would have simply been put in a grave. Better that they be used towards such an important goal. In one of the laboratories, Sarah saw a picture of Thomas' on a bulletin board with the caption Thomas Gray, donor. Sarah then relayed "my feeling of grief started to turn into pride. I felt that Thomas was introducing us to his colleagues and his coworkers. He was introducing me to people I never would have met and taking me to places I never would have been."
Thomas - my name - Thomas - Sarah's son's name. I know, as many of you know, that we are all connected. That the separation is not real, that we are all joined in ways that our perceptions and even sciences have only scratched the surface thereof. In an instant, I knew that this recognition by me was pointing me to this blogpost. In this time of social distancing, many people staying home, volunteer isolation, quarantines, closed schools, routines interrupted, you all know the rest, there is an enormous opportunity.
Yes, you can sit at home in fear, you can drive yourself crazy with worry, you can spend all your time watching the cable networks and addict yourself to the tragedy and increasing tension that the situation can breed. Or, you can choose to trust. Trust that what happens still has it's benefit in some way or another. Take the time to get to know yourself, your loved ones, your partners, your neighbors. Find something in your life that you appreciate and focus on that. Each day, discipline yourself to find something for which to be grateful. Just that last sentence alone can transform your life. You have stopped - "stuck" at home - for a very important reason. There's still time to open, to hear, to expand, to love, to Love, TO LOVE!
You know how I feel about my life. How blessed I am, how fortunate my situation is. The pictures you have seen here are those of yesterday's sunset as it descended into the forest in front of my property. See the dirt road? See the pile of rocks, the pile of firewood. And, my trusty jeep, hiding away in my turn around spot - so as to leave the firewood a bit more accessible. It's my heaven - exactly where I am. And believe me when I say - angels abound.
That story of the man in the hospital was wind in the sails of my journey. I did as he said - and now - fear is a small indicator that I have more to look at - it is not the paralyzer it once was. I respect your process and respect what ever path you decree that you must follow. And, yet, I offer you this little blogpost.
I know what it means to lose a child. I watched my mother lose her son, and her brother. I watched my grandmother lose her son. I know the suffering of such experiences. Those events never leave me. I still hold some sense of responsibility for my brother's passing at 48. So, nothing that I say is academic or intellectual. It is from our greatest teacher - life.
Yes, isolation is required - your lives are different and will perhaps remain so for quite some time. Who knows. That doesn't mean you have to stop living. And, most importantly it doesn't mean there's nothing to do. There is - love yourself and those around you. Ask yourself the questions " how can I live more tomorrow than I did today?" -"How can I manifest love more tomorrow than I did today?" And, of course, count your blessings as you drift off to sleep. Ah, one important point - you don't have to hear an immediate answer. Ask the question with sincerity and then, TRUST the answer is there - you'll understand when it's necessary. (There's that word again - trust. Trust what ? YOUR SELF. )
Think of Sarah for a moment. Look at what her path became - all because she insisted in following up on the donation of her son's organs, and again, no family had ever undertaken such an investigation. Look at how rich her life became. Why do you suppose? It's very simple - she understood that her son's death was part of an enormously powerful ripple of giving and love and hope and expansion. HER boy, her Tommy - had come to serve a purpose in his own way. We are all here for the same reason. If you can't find it - well - that doesn't matter really. KNOW that it's exists and ask the question " How can I fulfill my part in life" each night. Again, don't sit around waiting for answer - open to each day and see the synchronicity in your life. The path, as it were, will unfold. Or you can become your blocks puzzle champion or win 5million games of solitaire on your smart phone, or clean your house from top to bottom 60 times in 60 days. Or, you can actually be the transformation of your world. The choice - truly - is yours.
My greatest thanks to Sarah Gray for her courage in sharing. My greatest thanks to her son Thomas for inspiring this Thomas to write to you and share a simple fact that in isolation there can be the deepest connection of them all. Connection of the heart - which transcends, time and space. Thank you to the universe for the lovely encounters I was gifted with during this very eventful past week.
Thank you all, as always, for being here with me. Thomas