March 28th would have been Donald Michael Kraig's 63rd birthday. Although the memories of him are good, it was a fresh infusion of grief all the same. I find it ironic that so many people, or at least people I know, have death dates so close to their birth dates. It would seem that karma is more than just a collection of twists of fate. Sometimes, it's just plain twisted fate.
Yet even before Don's birthday came to pass, there was a suggestion that the magical community was ignoring the "elephant in the room". What it boils down to is, dozens of magicians performed hundreds of healing rites for Don, and he died anyway. Well, those are indeed the facts, are they not? The implication would seem to be then that this was a great failure for the magical community, and the belief in magic in general, but I find that conclusion to be at least a bit myopic.
As far as healing rites go, suffice it to say, "this ain't my first rodeo". I have been on both sides of this coin that was minted in antiquity. I have been a participant in rites which have essentially pulled lives back from beyond the veil. I have performed multitudinous rites for people who were simply beyond my reach. Experience, is it said, is the best teacher, and I have learned much from this particular brand of experience.
First of all, cancer is hard. Diseases usually fall under the influenza of the malefic planets, Mars and Saturn. The nature of cancer is when cell growth goes unbridled, the case of an afflicted Jupiter gone wild. That's why treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are effective countermeasures. They are basically full-frontal Martial attacks on the body, in the hopes that their effects destroy the cancer before they destroy the host. That's also why most of the magicians I know were not only doing Solar work to improve Don's health, but Mars work to destroy the cancer.
Furthermore, this wasn't just any old cancer we were trying to get rid of. This was stage IV pancreatic cancer. That type of cancer alone carries a woeful survival rate, but by the time it has developed to stage IV, the chance of survival is around 1 percent. Even if all our magical work had improved his chances ten-fold, the odds were still horribly against him.
Over and over again I've seen, when the sick are beyond curing, the energies devoted are directed then to palliative care. Both the suffering until death, and the transition to the afterlife, are quantifiably eased. My best friend's mother died from pancreatic cancer, and the suffering she endured in the last two weeks of her life I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Don died peacefully and painlessly in his sleep. That alone is a minor miracle in an of itself.
Personally, I think we as magicians have this tendency to fall into a soft narcissism that "my will be done". There is some rationale for this, as magicians invoke and banish forces and entities at will, and also create living talismans to do much the same. That which the magician invokes, s/he may banish, and what s/he creates, s/he may destroy. Magicians are not the creators of other human souls, so it is folly to think that our magic can control human life and death. Mages can appeal to the Creator to change a human fate, and that appeal may be answered. Just as often, however, the final effect feels similar to signing an e-petition to Congress, and just as effective.
In the end, no person can change another person's time, and somehow, we need to find the grace to accept that, especially when it is time for the ones we love. The original mythical temple of the Order of the Golden Dawn was named "Licht, Liebe, Leben", or "Light, Love, Life", and I think those words are ordered specifically for a reason. Not only does it reflect the tripartite human composition of spirit, soul and body, but I believe it is in the order in which the magician may affect Creation. Don received a lot of Light and a lot of Love, but we could not extend his Life. Despite that, if he died knowing how loved and appreciated he truly was, then I say "two out of three ain't bad".