An Introduction to Dusty

Dusty’s favorite was the sunflower


Have you ever met someone and recognized them at first glance? No, you’ve never met before, at least not in this physical time and place. There is an instant soul connection and you realize you’ve known each other forever. You fall into a relationship that is as comfortable as your favorite jeans and as awe-inspiring as your favorite work of art. That’s how it was when I met Dusty.

Some would call us twin souls. Whatever it was, it was destiny.

Dusty was already gravely ill when we met. In fact, the friend who connected us was reluctant to do so because she didn’t want me to be hurt. Robin was a dental hygienist who saw Dusty in the office and, when she read her long medical chart she told her she had a friend who was looking for answers to similar symptoms. Dusty agreed to talk with me and answer any questions I might have.

“She has advanced Lupus,” Robin said when she called, “and she’s not going to make it. I just don’t want you to develop a relationship knowing she will die. I don’t want you to be hurt.”

“I’ll be okay,” I promised. “Besides, it’s unlikely to be more than a phone call.”

It did take me a couple of days to make that call. One, I have always disliked talking on phones and, two, what if Robin was right? Did I really want to take the chance of developing a friendship I knew would end within a short time? Yet, that still small voice within me kept telling me I needed to do this.

The moment we spoke we both felt as if we’d come home. By the end of that hour long phone call we were finishing each other’s sentences and there was no way we weren’t going to meet in person.

What followed over the next three years of her life changed me at my very core. This was a woman who knew how to live, and how to die. She challenged my belief system and opened up new avenues. I didn’t even realize I was stuck until Dusty pushed me to free myself of my self-limiting beliefs. We discussed everything and we knew all there was to know about one another. It was Dusty who helped me to find the doctor who would discover what was really wrong with me.

Dusty had Lupus, a disease that isn’t necessarily a death sentence today. However, when she first got sick, like me, she went through doctor after doctor who insisted she was either hysterical or just on a mission to aggravate them. By the time they did the right testing there was too much damage and she was placed on high doses of steroids. I was too, at one time, but I was able to get off them and she was not. Our lives were not only intertwined spiritually and emotionally, but also physically. She was eleven years older and had been on the very path I was currently traveling.

There’s a lot more to this story that I need to write, and will write, as time goes on. However, the purpose of this post is simply to introduce you to someone who deserves to live beyond my memories. Yesterday, on May 20, it had been 24 years since she passed. When I talked to her that morning she had said goodbye. She was tired, she was ready and she knew I was strong enough to move on without her. Besides, she wasn’t really leaving, she assured me, merely moving on to a different dimension. She would be watching and waiting for me. At noon she was gone and at that very moment I felt both a sense of release and a strong kick in the stomach.

Yes, Robin, it still hurts. But the pain is so very much worth those few years of love.

A Letter to My Younger Self

Beth at age 14

During my thespian days


Dear Beth,
At fourteen, you know very little about the world. You are growing up in a small insular community where everyone you know has known you since birth. Until this year you’ve been relatively healthy, so the mysterious pains and exhaustion are overwhelming you. There’s so much you want to see and do, but the physical problems make you feel as though you are going to die soon. It doesn’t help that no one seems to believe you’re in pain. Well, except your kindly doctor who believes it’s Rheumatoid Arthritis and declares you’ll be in a wheelchair by the age of 25.
It’s going to be a rough life as you get older; however, there will be some really awesome points as well. You’ll end up floating between doctors for 23 years looking for answers. But you’ll also have some incredible opportunities in writing and theater in the meantime. Not many writers can say they attended workshops with John Irving or took a class from Jane Smiley. Just as not many budding actors can say they won a trophy at All-State Speech contest. You really do have talent, kid.
Do you remember when you were seven and you thought Grandpa Ferree showed up to see you the day after he died? You remember what he told you, don’t you? He said you would one day have a great deal of influence, but you’d be much older before you realized your potential because it was something that required a lot of wisdom you don’t yet have. I now know for certain that event really happened because your life is going to unfold in such a way as to make it undeniable. Right now, you think it was just the silly dream of a child. But, that’s because the adults around you told you it was.
At this time, you’re looking to Mom and Dad for answers they don’t have. Unfortunately, it will take years for you to come to terms with this and realize they are just as human as you. It’s okay, you’re a kid and you still think the adults know what’s going on. Can I tell you a secret? They don’t know any more than anyone else when confronted with a new experience. Your illness is a new experience for them. Hell, I’m pretty sure YOU are a new experience for them. You’ve always been strong-willed; even more so than your brothers. Well, most of them anyway. I’m pretty sure at least one of them gave them more than a few “Come to Jesus” moments.
I really want you to know it’s going to be all right. Do you remember when Grandma said you have some very special gifts? Those gifts will be what gets you through some of the toughest times of your life. Not just your ability to read people; but also, your determination to fight for the underdog. That sense of justice will lead you to fight for what’s right while your intuitive abilities will get you out of some very tough situations.
When you reach your fifties, you’ll discover that everything you’re beginning to go through now is necessary. All the pain, and the joy will lead you to a place where people will not only accept you for who you are, they will embrace you. Incredibly, they will listen to your wisdom and learn from what you share with them. Just as Grandpa told you that night in 1968.
Right now, you want to be famous. Later you’ll learn that fame is relative. While you might not be recognized on the street by strangers you will be recognized by those who are most important. These are the people with whom you will change the world.
Oh, and don’t worry so much about religion! Being saved has nothing to do with accepting Jesus and everything to do with accepting yourself.