Between was informed by the works of some outstanding authors.First on the list is Bardo Thodol, more commonly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Mystical Classics of the World) by Robert A.F. Thurman (Translator), Huston Smith and Dalai Lama XIV. This book not only provided the inspiration for the title of my novel, but it helped me to provide Barbara, the lead character, with a Buddhist perspective on death.The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes and guides a person through the experiences that the consciousness has after death, as well as the interval between death and rebirth. It also describes the signs of death and what rituals should be observed when death is imminent. Barbara says:

The Tibetan Book of the Dead advises one to practice meditation when one is preparing to die.

The first kind is a calming meditation, where you focus on a lovely picture or object and let your thoughts go their own way without dragging you with them. Once this tool is developed one can go on to insight meditation—where the calmed and focused mind can better understand the reality of the situation. The environment. The self.

The book tells us to observe without reacting. Scan over everything that is going on without responding. Use a mental map of one’s being to look everywhere for the real self.

Become lucid in the between.

Practice reaching the death point without fear.

The next step is imaginative meditations. That’s where I am now, visualizing a positive place where I can mentally go—a home, a safe haven, a place of beauty—in case I am swamped with fear when the time comes to die.

howwedie_ How We Die: Reflections of Life’s Final Chapter by Sherwin Nuland I found Dr. Nuland’s overview of the dying process fascinating—especially because it is given from an M.D.’s perspective. Barbara was very wary of Western medicine and, in Dr. Nuland’s opus, she found some validation for her suspicions. At one point in the novel she says:

Sherwin Nuland says that doctors push for senseless surgery because of the challenge of The Riddle. He says, “The quest of every doctor in approaching serious disease is to make the diagnosis and design and carry out the specific cure.” He says that this quest is nearly all consuming, and that the solution of The Riddle can become more important than the welfare of the patient. He cautions us to be mindful of that. And I am.

She didn’t trust Western medicine, refused to submit to chemotherapy and the Whipple Procedure that was prescribed and, in the end, was left only with whatever relief Western medicine could offer.

murasaki_cover The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel by Liza Dalby lent a delicious Asian underpinning to Barbara’s romance with a poet and fellow teacher, Jerry. He quotes widely from Liza Dalby’s book and talks about the way Murasaki wrote about Genji, the Japanese Casanova. Jerry sends Barbara a letter before she dies which reads:

“The Chinese poet Li He would travel on a donkey with a tattered silk sack over his shoulder,” Jerry’s letter says; he’s always teaching, “and whenever he would come across something that inspired him, he would write it down and put it into his sack. When he finally got home he would empty his bag of treasures and work them into poems.

“I, too, have been traveling, and when the snow howled off the mountains in Nagano, or a cup of coffee released its fragrance, or a girl in a karaoke bar would croon a Barbra Streisand song, I wrote the moment down in my memory.

“And then I worked them into poems,” his letter continues, “for you.”

My eyes water with an old ache. On the inside front cover of the book he has written a Murasaki waka in fine script:

As life flows on, whoever will read it–
this keepsake to her whose memory will never die?

hippodiet Soon after Barbara is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she and Carolyn go to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Palm Beach, Florida to find a natural remedy for her illness.This takes place nearly 18 years ago, long before the general public knew much about raw food diets and wheatgrass juice. Hippocrates was a forerunner in this area, and The Hippocrates Diet and Health Program by Ann Wigmore served as its bible.