For some years in California, a young man came to my lectures in a bed, brought in a bed. He was a quadriplegic. He could not speak. He was about twenty-eight years old. He was like this (laying back on a slant). His attendant could hold his hand over an alphabet board and there was just enough capacity to point at letters. That was the way he spoke. Each time he came, I went over to him and hugged him, and then I would wait while he spelled out some words. I felt in myself how reactive I was to the immensity of his deprivation state.
He was very angry. He had normal sexual desires which he could not find expression for. Angry. This had happened to him when he was eleven years old from a hit on the side of the head. He had now been through college; he was twenty-eight years old. He was an extraordinary person.
But for at least six months of my knowing him, I was caught in my reactivity to his condition. I saw that this was an extraordinary opportunity for me to work on myself. He was reaching out for friendship, and I reached out to him as well. Over time I began to see how I could meet him behind his disability. I started to relax my whole way of being with him regarding time. I got so that I was not even noticing that he was speaking to me through his alphabet board. I began to meet a profoundly wise spiritual being in this body. As I met him that way, he felt it safer to be more open and started to let go of his anger.
At one point, I was going to speak to an audience of 500 doctors and helping people. Kelly, the man, asked me if he could introduce me to the audience. I said “wonderful!” They wheeled him onto the stage. I could see the audience was very upset. They were all professional helpers. He spelled out on his alphabet board “R.D. says we are not our bodies. Amen.” That was his introduction. The audience stood up. So much beauty.
A year and a half ago he decided that he had lived long enough, and he asked me if it was all right if he died. I said to him that each of us must make our own decision, but that I loved him a great deal and I would miss him, and that his presence in the world was helping many of us.
But living was so hard for him that he decided he had had enough. The problem was he didn’t know how he could die. He had no control of his body to take pills, and nobody around him could help him for fear of going to jail. So we talked about it and decided that fasting was the only way. For twenty-one years they had poured food into his gullet and he had choked it down. It was all mixed, pulverized food. So now he started to cough it up. It was the only way he could die. Two weeks later he died. I considered him one of my great teachers.