Kathy's late husband, Dr. Lee Lipsenthal, wrote a
book about dying called Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As Though it
Were Your Last, published last month by Random House ($22.)
My husband Lee Lipsenthal didn't believe in coincidences. Instead, he
believed in synchronicity -- what Carl Jung called the "coming together
of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause
and effect and that is meaningful to the observer."
Whenever I'd remark on the coincidence that a patient
I'd been concerned about showed up in my clinic or that a friend I'd
just been thinking about called me out of the blue, Lee would smile
knowingly. "Is it really a coincidence?" he'd ask. "Or is it
I was always the scientist, wanting to see physical
proof before believing in something that I couldn't explain logically,
but Lee was always able to trust in things he couldn't prove. Not only
did Lee believe in synchronicity, but he also believed in signs,
past-lives, and the power of dreams.
In fact, he told me many years after we were married
that before we ever met he had a dream in which he was standing at a
wedding altar next to an Asian woman with long, dark hair. On the first
day of medical school, as soon as I walked into the hall for
orientation, he had recognized me as the woman from that dream. (Never
mind, of course, that I had a boyfriend at the time and wasn't all that
interested in the nervous guy from New Jersey who was my academic
competition.) But he believed in that vision so powerfully that he
waited patiently for me; it was a year before we kissed. And then,
before beginning our third year of school, we were married.
Was Lee's dream and my attending that particular med school merely
coincidental? Or were they synchronous events? I was never entirely
sure. I just didn't believe the way he did.
Lee had always been intuitive; he always seemed to know
things before they happened. It was an aspect of him I'd attributed to
his meditation -- being tapped into something larger -- and that I'd
appreciated and even embraced. But when he began to explore past life
regression, I thought that my stable physician husband, the medical
director of a research institute, was losing it.
I tried to understand. I read Brian Weiss's Many
Lives, Many Masters, about Weiss's experience with a patient and
her past-life regression. I listened as Lee patiently taught me about
Carl Jung, Stanislav Grof, and many other psychotherapists who have
written much about spiritual crises. I learned that many people going
through difficult moments in their lives had spiritual awakenings, some
of which included past lives but all of which included the awareness of
the "bigness" of the universe. But was I a true believer? Not exactly.
Then Lee passed away from esophageal cancer in
September. My son and I wept in the car as we left the hospital. The
car stereo was tuned to NPR, and the hum of freeway traffic added
another layer of sound. Through the veil of our shared misery, we
suddenly became aware that there was another sound emanating from my
purse on the floor of the passenger side of the car.
I reached in and pulled out Lee's iPod. It had turned on
spontaneously--and as most of you who own these ingenious electronic
Apple devices are aware, it is not easy to accidentally turn on an
iPod. The song playing was Heaven Weeps. Just a few weeks
earlier, Lee had mentioned out of the blue how much he liked that
quirky song. I told my son the story, and he just smiled, shook his
head and said, "Oh, Dad!"
When we had been told the devastating news that the
Lee's cancer had metastasized and that there were no curative options,
I tearfully asked if he could send me a sign when he died. Was this it?
I still wasn't sure.
It makes sense that I felt Lee then, as Jung noted that
synchronicity is more likely to occur when we are in a highly charged
state of emotional and mental awareness. That's why times of trauma or
turbulence -- as with a death or birth -- can push us towards openness
and vulnerability. We're also more likely to experience synchronicity
when we are in a receptive mindful state, as is the result of
It turns out that I was not the only one who had had
visits from Lee. His publisher told me how the lights in her hotel room
flickered on and off when she came out to California for Lee's memorial
celebration. Lee's long-time colleague was conducting a workshop in
Italy in his stead, and when she turned on her computer to begin her
Powerpoint presentation, a photo of Lee popped up on her computer
screen. She hadn't looked at that photo in years, and it had never been
Could this really have been my Lee trying to tell
everyone he was all right? Was he having a little fun with us from
Although I profess to be a skeptic, I am also
open-minded, and I truly, desperately want to believe that there is
something out there greater than all of us. I want to believe that
after death our soul/spirit will continue on, that there are more
journeys for us, and with each journey, more lessons for us to learn. I
find myself asking -- as the Peggy Lee song goes -- "Is that all there
is? Is that all there is, my friend?" I want to feel hopeful throughout
my life and into death.
Lee was the love of my life, and I miss him every day.
These signs have been a huge part of helping me heal. Is it wishful
thinking on my part? Maybe. But I'd like to believe that Lee is letting
me know that he's out there watching and waiting for me.
The thought lifts me up at times of despair and grief.
Since his passing, I've been practicing meditation more, and learning
to be more open and present in the moment.
After all, just in case that is Lee, I don't want to
miss any of the signs as they appear.
For more information and to read an excerpt from her
husband's book, please see www.enjoyeverysandwich.net