Nic Bergeron died of cancer at the tender age of 24. He gave much to everyone who came close to him, throughout his life and in a heightened way as he approached his death. At his funeral many of his closest loved ones shared stories of their experiences with him, especially the loving wisdom he evoked and bestowed.
It seems important that as many people as possible have access to the intelligent compassion this young man expressed.
As a strong friend of Nic’s late mother in this life, and as his shaman, I was privileged to spend some time with him in his last days. Up in the bright front bedroom of his family’s home, the veil between this existence and the next was as thin as the skin stretched over his depleted shins. Nic, bald and beautiful with the sun pouring over his face, gave some profound reports of what that in-between place was like for him:
“Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between me and others. Yesterday, for several hours, the whole left side of me WAS my brother. I can’t really explain it, but I knew him from the inside. And for almost all of last night I was one of my mom’s friends, worrying about my kids. I had to say wait, I’m Nic! I don’t have kids.”
His broad grin and quick chuckle at that absurd yet real experience were followed swiftly by tears as he spoke again:
“Penn, I can face my own death. I actually feel quite fearless about it now. But my family’s been through so much. I can’t bear to bring them this grief. I know, I know, this crisis is also an amazing chance to clear a whole s_ _ _-load of old grief from the body, cause I kind of insisted that my dad let go of some. When he was with me yesterday I felt like there was a thick cloud all around my head. Then I became aware that it wasn’t all mine. It was his and it was grief. When I asked him to show me his tears, to stop protecting me from them, I held him while he had a huge wail and told me how much he was going to miss having me in his life, watching me go out into the world, being a grandfather to my children. His tears felt so good, I almost thought they could heal this f _ _ _ing cancer. We both felt a lot better after that. Now I have to find a way to help one of my brothers do the same thing. He needs it.”
That explains why his dad, Jacques, looked about 15 years younger than when I’d seen him a few days earlier. Jacques’ own moving account of these moments with his son tells of a profound and mutual gift they gave each other. In the arms of his father, Nic’s tears helped to release his own grief at a life cut short and to lighten the emotional pain of his passage.
His willingness to engage with his dad and others at this level shows Nic as a sage, an elder before his time. Despite waning energy, he continued to speak about the people he cared for, making specific wishes for their happiness – partnership for a friend who is longing for that, direction for one who is seeking his ‘feet’ in the world, healing for a relationship that had gone sour.
“Beat your drum, Penn. Not just to call in my guides. I’d appreciate that ’cause I’m doing my best to hear them, but I want that drum to help everyone I know to act on their dreams, here, in this life, NOW, before it’s OVER!” (playing on two of his favorite song titles by Cynthia Long, a spiritual advisor and ‘second mom’ to Nic)
We were both weeping and laughing there in the fervent love that had been drummed up, that was so reminiscent of his mother Ildiko’s passionate wisdom. It was then that a very powerful lesson was delivered to me. I was fumbling, trying to figure out how to quickly get my voice recorder set up so I could more accurately capture the jewels falling from Nic’s lips. It wasn’t happening smoothly, and I made a passing comment about being a ‘techno-idiot’. In more ordinary circumstances, it was the kind of thing that might have passed almost unnoticed, but in Nic’s extremely sensitive state he winced as if he’d been struck. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I really felt the toxicity of self-deprecating energy, even in a seemingly mild form, being no less harmful than cruelty directed at another. In Nic’s dying days, there was no way to deny such a spiritual truth, or the one that tells us how much and how deeply we are connected to each other.
“Ouch. Hurting ourselves hurts everyone. I’m ready to stop.”
I’ll remember, Nic. And may all the blessings you’ve left behind in this world follow you and nourish you for the coming journey.