From the Ashes Rises the Phoenix

by Donald Dillbeck

Incarcerated for more than forty-three years and a long-time participant in the Art of Soulmaking, Donald Dillbeck is currently serving time on death row in Florida. He has just accepted to write a six-month column for us. Please enjoy his article below and be on the lookout for his column in next month’s issue!

A handful of years ago my adopted mother passed away. We had a strong bond and were very close. It’s safe to say she was what anchored me and kept me going in the early years while being on death row. She was in her mid 80s when she passed away, so she had a good full life. Perhaps a year before she had a stroke, and since she lived by herself, it took three days before she was discovered lying on the floor. There would be no recovering from the damage done, and her last days were somewhat vegetative.

I have a healthy view of death and don’t see it as being something horrible. It’s a natural part of life. For her, dying was mercy. Death is something we all get to experience at some point in time and it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s only our bodies that expire, not us. I know we are all eternal, which means there is no beginning nor end to our spirit. Our journeys began way before this universe became form and will continue after this universe is nothing but a vague almost forgotten memory as even she continues her unending saga of Been, Being, and Becoming.

Before my mother did move on, I was sending her through spirit the message, “Mom, it’s okay to just let go. Everything is going to be alright. I love you.” I felt that the main reason she wouldn’t let go is because she didn’t want me to suffer her loss. Death is often much harder on the living than it is on the one who departs. Knowing the ones who love us will suffer can keep us bound to our bodies even when we know it’s time to move on.

When I was given the message she passed away I felt relieved because she fought the good fight and it was time for her to have new adventures. She was finally free from a crippled mind and body. I felt at peace for her.

The next day, two lawyers came to see me who were not only on my legal team but also people who between us a loving friendship of sorts was formed. When I saw Kimmy she told me she had taken a job in another state and she just came to tell me goodbye. Inside, “Noooo!” was my reaction even though I knew we all have to follow our own path and hers was leading elsewhere.

After she left, not ten minutes later Shanoor gave me the message that she too took a job somewhere else. My reaction was, “WHAT!! MAN THIS SUCKS! BOTH!!”

Needless to say, when I got back to the cage it all hit me like a ton of bricks. Losing three people I loved practically in one swoop.

I have an imaginary flute that sometimes I play for this beautiful gorgeous earth as a healing balm for all the idiotic stuff we humans do to her. I share with her my heart and let her feel that I care. Well, this flute also serves another purpose. When I feel such sadness as I did that day, I’ll start playing the flute in my heart and let the sadness be the melody. What comes out is always so beautiful. All that weekend I let my heart be expressive this way. I know to never suppress or repress anything. It’s better to embrace and accept loss rather than shove it down and hold it inside.

When we experience beauty it’s very hard to remain sad because beauty is also joy. Sorrow transforms into joy. After a few days I was very much at peace with all this change. I knew they all live in my heart and even though we don’t see each other physically, it never stops me from touching them spiritually. The healing process was complete.

I can really appreciate the experience because like any pain I’ve endured it helps give me depth I wouldn’t have had if I never would have experienced it. It also gives me an understanding or empathy towards others that only comes when we can put ourselves in their shoes and grasp what such pain and suffering is like for them.

Most of us who have been in prison know what it is to hit rock bottom. Had I never experienced a dark night of the soul too by falling to such deep depths of hopelessness, how would I know what it is like when someone else is at the end of their rope without any hope and feeling complete despair? It’s only by experiencing such deep anguish that I too can relate to theirs.

Over the course of this life, I’ve learned not to be so quick in calling something a curse. Yes, it might be very unpleasant experiencing it but in the right perspective it very well may be a true blessing. Sorrow can be beauty. Sadness transformed into joy.

Had not the Phoenix been consumed in the pyre and turned into ashes, how could he rise up with the most gracious beauty and melody? Impossible!!

So, I say thank you thank you thank you to my life for all the ugly as well as the pleasant. Without it, I couldn’t know depth.

This is not only Pain to Purpose but more importantly Purpose to Pain.