The journey into liminal reality is often a very personal one. When Henry Ellebracht was diagnosed with thyroid cancer it was a shocking moment. And yet, his cancer was very treatable. It required surgery, a fairly straight-forward one at that. The problem is that following surgery a blood vein ruptured. Henry’s hands were filled with his own blood and he was rushed back into surgery. His outcome was a good one.
To understand the impact of that illness, the surgery, treatment and recovery, you have to first understand what preceded it. For years Henry was terrified of any perceived or imagined threat to his health and well-being. In his own words, “I was a hypochondriac.” To enter the liminal domain of the worst of his fears, to have the thing that was feared most, provided an opportunity for a life transformation. When a person faces death head-on, what happens to the lesser intensity of fearing getting sick? For Henry, that vast contrast, participating in the thing feared most, immunized him against all preceding phobias.
“Today I have zero fear of those things that would have previously terrified me. Amazingly, today, there is nothing. By the sight of my own blood, I was delivered from the fear of my own blood.”
It is difficult to communicate the breadth and depth of such deep emotions. And so Henry decided to represent the meaning of his experience through artistic photography. In the following triptych of photos we may walk through Henry’s pre-liminal state of being bound by fear, the liminal stage of perplexity and terror, and the post-liminal state of new awareness – a kind of rebirth beyond the old fears. Blood is the artistic element that represents the actual fear in the face of real threat, even as blood is the medium through which joy eventually comes. Transforming joy comes through the power of immersing himself in what he feared most – and being liberated from it. Though Henry doubts that “there is a reason” for his illness in the first place, he is confident that a transformation may take place for those who dare surrender to it in the great yawning chasm into which we often fall.