By Neill Reilly
William Ward has written a personal account of his encounter with brain cancer. By the skill of his craft, he has turned the personal into the universal. Since William has spent nearly thirty years as a Waldorf teacher at the Hawthorne Valley School in Harlemville, New York, he approaches cancer as a teacher would. As a teacher, he is open to learning vital life lessons from cancer. William also battles cancer, as a warrior would defend himself against an enemy that is trying to kill him. His out-of-body experience during surgery included a spiritual epiphany. That experience is the essence of William’s journey and survival. After his brain surgery he retained an indelible mark on his soul—he had been saved for a reason. William received the grace to live and tell his story. All his readers are the beneficiaries of that graceful year he had to write his story.
Sixty to eighty percent of cancer patients with William’s type of brain cancer die within a year. A sobering reality, from which he fully understood that life, each second of it, is truly precious—precious not in a delicate manner, but precious as in the lifeblood that streams from our hearts to maintain life in all our cells. His many questions revolve around the following perspective. How can I learn from this tragic situation? What distinguishes William is his commonsensical spiritual approach, his childlike wonder, and his boundless good humor. He has stared death in the face and has been scared and reborn.
The experience is not just for William. It is for all of us and centered on how we view ourselves. Are we just materialistic beings or is humankind more then a conglomerate of cells, atoms, wishes, and needs? William experienced spiritual fullness in his surgery. In this epiphany, William also encountered what he calls “The Children of the Future.” These children desperately want to be born and educated in Waldorf schools so that they can add their gifts and love to a very needy earth. In a certain sense, we are all Children of the Future—incarnated spiritual beings who came to Earth to share love.
When you read how William relates his journey, you realize you are in the midst of a master storyteller. William puts the reader in media res, but the place he puts you in is the middle of his consciousness. From this vantage point, you meet Andy, his lovely dedicated wife, his daughters, and dozens of human angelic beings who bear his cross with him. William is not alone; in fact, the cancer has surrounded him with love! He is in a cocoon of faith healers who refuse to let him go gently into the night; instead, he goes gently into the light.
This book has many levels and perspectives from the serious to the comic. At its heart, it is a Michaelic book. How do I encounter the Christ through cancer? How do I learn from my mortal enemy? How do I transform evil into good? Cancer can be seen as another instance of materialism gone amuck—endless, meaningless growth. This is the modern encounter with Ahriman. Cancer could be seen as ahrimanic materialism. Cancer can break the spirit. How William brings meaning to meaninglessness is beyond art. It is in the acquired balance of a spiritual life filled with reverence and joy. In William’s words depicting his life, you can sense his deep connection with Rudolf Steiner’s path of reverence from How to Know Higher Worlds. You can feel the importance of spiritual activity from The Philosophy of Freedom. William has fought the good fight; he has run his race; he has kept the faith.
Teachers, mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, those who are ill, and those who support the sick should read this book. In other words, everyone should take this journey with William. It is a cathartic experience that will transform the reader by witnessing William’s rebirth. By reading Traveling Light, the reader will be filled with Love, Light, and Life!