212: Death & Transition of Momma Bear’s Passing
“It’s an in-your-face moment.”
– Nick Onken
Hello, my friends! Welcome to another episode of the OnkenRadio podcast (previously NION Radio), where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!
I appreciate you being here, and today is going to be slightly different as I share my recent experience and the lessons I’ve learned from my mother passing away a couple of weeks ago. I’m still navigating how I feel, but it’s fresh, and talking through all of it helps me process my emotions and get things out instead of all bottled inside. Who knows — maybe I’ll discover something new with you.
Have you lost a parent? Maybe a dear friend? A partner? With all the craziness from COVID, perhaps you understand exactly what I’m going through. Losing a parent is a new experience for me, and I will do my best to walk you through everything, so let’s jump right in.
My Momma’s Journey With Cancer
My momma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019, and that news was shocking. The idea that my momma, one of the sweetest people on the planet, could get cancer tore my world apart.
The doctors caught cancer in stage one, and she immediately had surgery to remove the tumor from the pancreas six months after detection. I live in New York City, but I flew out to Seattle for the surgery. Being there for her during that time of need taught me a valuable lesson about making an effort to fly out more. Supporting a loved one through cancer had never entered my mind, but that’s how quickly things can change.
My focus became supporting my momma and my dad and spending as much time with family as possible. Jumping across the country frequently isn’t easy, but it became vital to me.
I’m one of the lucky ones who had both an amazing set of parents and a great upbringing filled with encouragement and love, and I was able to return what they’d given me.
Our worldviews might not be identical as my parents are conservative Christians, and that upbringing didn’t resonate with me — no matter how hard I tried to believe it. I simply see our differences as how we operate and move through the world — it’s only a different perspective. Whatever works for them works for them, and the same goes for you — whatever works for you, works for you!
I’ve been on a journey to expand my consciousness, tap into other worlds, and learn to bridge the gap between this world, the matrix, and other worlds. I’ve come to realize the movie The Matrix feels more like a documentary now than a movie! I saw a clip of Bruce Lipton, a doctor dedicated to bridging science and spirit, talking about our world as a hologram — and we are consciousness receptors in human form.
Developing that perspective has shifted how I see and interact with the world, which created a different journey with my momma’s health. Early in 2020, we received the awful news: Her cancer spread to her liver and stomach. The doctors decided to take her off chemotherapy because it was doing her body more damage than good — they gave momma three to six months to live.
Unfortunately, she ended up having even less than that.
Differing Views on Cancer Treatment
Our differing world views came to a head as we discussed how to deal with cancer. Hearing their point of view was a battle for me. I believe in alternatives that work in conjunction with Western medicine, and throughout my life, I’ve discovered many different healing modalities that aren’t tested or seen in the light of day because, in my opinion, they don’t support the profit incentive that currently exists.
I witnessed first-hand the world of Western medicine and big pharma’s focus on profit and keeping people dependent on medications and processes. It’s not all bad. There are certainly places where Western medicine is helpful — I just don’t believe it’s done with the best intentions or that the institutions really care. It’s a system of indoctrination, which is sad when I consider that my momma could have had a few more years with us. I’ve heard countless studies of people healing themselves and their relatives with other modalities that focus on healing coming from the inside out.
The whole process has taught me to let go. I can only provide my parents with information to help, but unless they take action, it’s futile. That’s the more important lesson I’ve had to learn and understand is that everyone is on their own journey. Other people’s journeys are outside of my control. I can only do so much, and my momma’s journey with cancer is best explained with the fish proverb:
“Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for life.”
I did my best to teach my parents about different options to treat cancer, but in the end, it was her choice to choose what method was best for her to beat it.
Listening to My Intuition My Momma’s Final Weeks
I made trips out to Seattle more frequently in the months leading up to her death, knowing that “that” day would probably come soon. Being together, we created moments I will always treasure like simply walking with momma. In the end, when her strength was failing, we still managed a couple of laps across the porch.
A week before her death, I returned to New York from a week-long visit for a pre-booked trip to Egypt. I was excited but, oddly enough, pushed my ticket a couple of extra days for some much-needed rest and my own bed.
Finally, on my way to Egypt, I got into the Uber when my momma FaceTimed me and said she had a bad night and thought this would be her transition time. I was shocked.
I wasn’t expecting to hear that, and I froze. I decided to cancel my trip to Egypt and fly home instead. I’m glad I did. It was all serendipitous and magical the way the timing aligned because if I had not changed my flight earlier, I would’ve been in Egypt already and most likely unable to make it back to Seattle in time. By the time I arrived in Seattle, hospice had brought a hospital bed to the house for momma, and she was so frail she could barely communicate.
I told her I was there. I told her I loved her — which I know she heard. The next day, during a moment of clarity, momma scratched her head, and I took the opportunity to say, “I love you. I’m here.” She mouthed, “I love you” back, and it was beautiful to know she understood I was there. It was a powerful moment.
The following day, her pain worsened, and I was with my dad and my brother-in-law. Sadly, my sister tested positive for COVID, so she was quarantined alone upstairs.
We knew we had to give momma permission to let go and go “home.” As difficult as that was, we knew it was necessary.
It was difficult watching my nephews come down one by one and say goodbye and let grandma go because they had such a special relationship. We were all crying, and it was so emotional. A couple of hours later, we could see her breaths getting slower and slower. We surrounded momma, placing our hands on her, and watched her take her last breath.
An Initiation Into Death
Watching somebody take their last breath is a profound initiation into a different world — especially when it’s somebody you love dearly and who brought you into this world. I know it was an induction of some sort — I’m still learning what that is.
I’m grateful everything aligned for me to be there. As Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” I’m grateful I got to help walk my momma home.
I couldn’t articulate what I was experiencing at the time, and I’m still trying. It was a familiar feeling of transcending into the death portal and almost knowing what she was moving through once she left her body. I feel like I understand what transcending this world feels like and understand where she is. I can talk to her anytime.
Over the last couple of years, my work with plant medicine has shifted my relationship with death to a deeper understanding that there’s way more beyond this world than what we can see or that what our five senses give us as a limited amount of experience.
Life is a gift. The human experience is powerful, and death is part of that experience as a transition into another realm. Thanks to psilocybin, I believe I didn’t lose my momma — I gained an angel and another guide in the outer realms.
I miss her, being able to see her, and talk to her — it’s still fresh and new, and it’s hard.
Processing Momma’s Death
A couple of weeks after her death, I had another psilocybin journey, this time about death and rebirth, and I went through that portal myself. It was a sonic vibration of color and light. While it can be scary, it helped me process what death is: letting go of this construct of the hologram of this human experience, taking those lessons, and coming back and integrating them.
Grief comes and goes, and if you’ve lost someone close, especially a parent, you know what I’m talking about. It’s like this secret club you don’t want to be a part of but get initiated into unexpectedly.
Take time to value the people around you, your parents, your family — even if you don’t get along with them. There’s always a way to create safe and loving spaces because anything is possible. We create the world we want to live in.
As I go on this journey, I want to thank you for listening, and to everyone who has reached out on social media, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Death and Identity Alchemy
Death is something we all go through and experience unexpectedly, but death doesn’t have to be a scary topic or become part of our identity — we should use death to shape how we view life. I hope you found some wisdom that resonated within my experience of momma’s transition and that you can start creating a new relationship with death on your Identity Alchemy journey.
While part of my journey has been losing momma, my greatest lesson was how cancer invoked a more profound response to visit her frequently and build a deeper understanding of who she was before she left. Now I have no regrets, and I’m doing my best to incorporate death into my life. I know it will take time, but I walk a new path on my journey, death becomes another element to alchemize into my identity.
Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained. Thus, I define Identity Alchemy as the process of deconstructing who you don’t want to be, thereby allowing you to realize who you want to become.
I believe that the deconstruction process of your inner world and your life is such a huge piece of understanding of who you are to curate who you want to become. Through it, you’ll be able to identify your shadows or the things you don’t want to be true about you, shedding them slowly. In general, I noticed that the more inner work that I do — the deeper shadow work that I do to understand myself — the better life becomes toward the path of wholeness.
Thank you so much for joining me today, guys. I hope you connected with this episode. If you did, please screenshot it and post it to Instagram and tag me, @nickonken. And if you’ve got time, leave me a review of this podcast. I’d love to hear your feedback.
I’ll catch you guys next time — now go live the creative lives you were meant for.
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“This whole world is a hologram.”
– Nick Onken
Some things we learn in this podcast:
- How to give permission for your loved one to let go [10:44]
- What is it like to watch someone die [11:39]
- How to handle the loss of a parent [13:15]
- What is death [14:18]
- How does grief evolve [16:08]