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A new beginning at the end life

Terminally ill Marilyn Myers is buoyed by a $5-million donation for an alternative healing center to bear her name.

By JEANNE MALMGREN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2000


photo
[Times photo: Lisa DeJong]
Marilyn Myers’ 200-acre Tennessee farm will be the home for the Marilyn B. Myers Foundation for Creative Healing.
Even as she hovers at the brink of death, Marilyn Myers' spirit is strong.

"I'm still plugged in," she said Wednesday, with a wan smile.

Marilyn is terminally ill with ovarian cancer. She was the subject of a series, "Dancing in the Twilight," that appeared in the Times during January and February. When the series concluded nearly a month ago, Marilyn was expected to live only a few more days.

Instead, she continues to amaze her family and the Hospice nurses who care for her at her St. Petersburg home. And what Marilyn calls miracles continue to occur.

Last week a donor came forward with a large gift: $5-million to start a healing center in Tennessee bearing Marilyn's name.

The donor, who does not want to be identified, had read in the Times about Marilyn's plan to donate $20,000 to Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. That money will create a program for teaching alternative healing methods to people who care for dying patients. Before she became ill, Marilyn used those techniques in her career as a massage therapist and holistic health educator.

The donor is a Tampa Bay area resident who works full-time as a customer service manager. The donor's mother died of ovarian cancer at age 50, the same age Marilyn is now.

"This is a person who lives a modest lifestyle, but came into some money and felt inspired by Marilyn's vision of integrating holistic health with conventional medicine," said Marilyn's son Boomer Ford.

On Wednesday, six people gathered around Marilyn's bedside: the new board of directors of the Marilyn B. Myers Foundation for Creative Healing. The group included Marilyn's two sons, three close friends and the donor.

Just an hour earlier, Hospice nurse Sally Cushman had told the family she thought Marilyn was "transitioning," or preparing to die at any moment. Her blood pressure had dropped to 64/40 and her heartbeat was irregular.

Dancing In The Twilight

As the end draws near for Marilyn Myers, who is terminally ill with ovarian cancer, she has embraced dying, finding joy where others often see despair. We are visiting her regularly for a series of conversations; you can find links to previous installments here

Then Marilyn rallied, as she had so many times before. The board meeting proceeded. While Marilyn drifted in and out of consciousness, plans for the foundation took shape.

It will offer training in a broad array of alternative therapies, including massage, aromatherapy, music therapy, healing with whole foods, acupressure, holotropic breathwork and something the group labeled "contactful care" -- hands-on, full-attention caregiving for seriously ill people.

Because the foundation will be located at Marilyn's summer home, a 200-acre farm in Tennessee, nature will be a big part of the healing arts practiced there. The directors discussed plans for wilderness trails, labyrinths for walking meditation and community-supported agriculture in which participants farm organic vegetables as a group project.

At Marilyn's request, her son Charris had contacted the Montreaux Center, a Canada clinic that treats people suffering from anorexia and bulimia. They hope that patients from the clinic may come to the Tennessee center for nature-based treatment.

The foundation will be a non-profit corporation and most likely will qualify under Internal Revenue Service guidelines as a public charity foundation, said Tampa attorney Harold Harkins. Harkins, who met with Marilyn and her family early last week, is donating his time to help them prepare legal documents setting up the foundation.

As the board meeting came to a close, the group held hands and prayed aloud. Then they decided to sing a song for Marilyn.

By that time, she had sunk into a light coma that's common among dying patients. Her eyes rolled back and her mouth opened. Every so often she gasped, as if trying to get more air.

She seemed not to be there. But they knew she could hear them. And so they sang:

O come, o come angel band,
Come and around me stand.

O bear me away on your snowy wings

To my eternal home.

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