Earlier this week, the Princeton Alumni Weekly received news that Charles McPhee ’85, the syndicated radio host known as “The Dream Doctor,” had died at age 49, after a five-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Memorial services will be held May 21 in McPhee’s hometown, Potomac, Md.
PAW readers who did not know McPhee personally may remember his story from two items in the magazine: a 2005 profile, in which he explained the Princeton roots of his interest in “dreamology”; and an essay he wrote two years later, shortly after being diagnosed with ALS. In the latter, McPhee began by recalling a troubling dream about going blind, recounted the difficult emotions that accompanied his diagnosis, and finished with a touching, hopeful passage about the future:
“Despite this grim prognosis, the tidal waves of emotion and panic that first accompanied my diagnosis have retreated. Today I am buoyed along in the currents of a quick-moving river; as they say, you’re never more alive than when you’re standing next to death. I realize I have entered a new community — the vast legions of people living with illness, cancer and other bad diagnoses — and I am hardly alone. Most dramatic is my liberation from the illusion of time — that there always will be more time to see a friend, to repair a marriage, to spend with a child, to develop a hobby, or to concentrate on one’s spiritual life. There will not always be more time, even for those who are healthy. I have learned that in death’s mirror, the magic and beauty of life truly are illuminated. My days are rich and full, spent with family, friends, and colleagues. I am still working, but yesterday I bought my daughter a training tricycle a few months early. Her long legs can’t touch the pedals yet, but they will soon. It feels good not to be blind.”
Click here to read the rest of McPhee’s essay at PAW Online.