Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see. ~ Helen Keller
Death is weird. We think we know it, and accept it. We think we know and accept one day it will happen to us. We don’t, not really. We understand the concept but not the reality. Why is that? Many have come back from near-death experiences and have glorious reports. Death often seems lovelier, less brutal than the daily news served on a dark dreary platter of ugliness yet it’s still one of our greatest fears.
Death has power, great power. Death instantaneously places us in a frosty, firm stasis and effortlessly finds our frailty and holds tight and fast until we acknowledge its power. There is no life without death, period. We all know this but yet we don’t. Why don’t we get it? And in getting it, why don’t we hold life more precious still? Only death gives us a sharp, crisp, clean pinpoint focus on how precious all life is, not just our own. Perhaps we’ll never know. Perhaps we really don’t want to. What we do know is that when our time comes we want it to be peaceful and painless.
I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. My New Year’s resolution to post weekly was halted by my Mom’s unexpected death January 12th. Yes, I knew she was going to die. One day yes, I knew she would die but not that day. I didn’t want her to die. Not on that day, not on any day, but she did. Her thoughts have ceased, her breath still, her body is gone, never to be warm, feel warm and I never, to feel her warmth again. Death….. yours, mine and those we love will one day, someday come to pass.
The image most people associate with death is the Grim Reaper. I don’t see death as grim and final. Yes we are overwhelmed with sadness and no longer can we caress those we care for but death for me is simply a status update. I was brought up to believe and still believe that energy never dissipates but transforms. Since you and I are pure energy, when the electrical connections mainly our brain synapses stop telling our lungs to breathe and our heart to pump blood, we cease to exist in human form. We migrate into something else, something far less tangible to the human mind and almost unperceivable to the human eye.
From the millisecond your Dad’s sperm entered your Mom’s egg, you’ve been changing. From the miracle of birth to the silence of death we all go. So I ask again, where does this fear of death come from? Why does death have such power over us? Why is it our deepest, dreaded fear? I think it’s because we want more time to fill the space from miracle to silence with all the joys of life, love and experience all the beauty in others, ourselves and our glorious planet. We fear death when we fail to achieve our purpose. We fear we won’t get all the love we have to give out and receive love in kind. We won’t get to see all the wonders of the world. We won’t get to finish that project we started to help others, or leave a mark, a historical reference showing we lived, that we meant something. Never again to feel and see the joy in our children’s, grandchildren’s, lovers, friends faces when we embrace takes my breath away. Yet, if we live fully, deeply, without compromise, full of integrity, honour we have nothing to fear, not even death.
Death takes away but it also teaches us the most important lesson. When someone we love dies we remember. We remember to love, love, love, love, love. Live today, loving. Love as if it is the only thing you know how to do. You cannot fear death when your heart is full of love. You can mourn it, respect it, accept it and then move on and when you move on, rest assured you will take all the love of each person with you.
This piece was started March 14th but I never got around to posting it for one reason or another. I dallied because it’s not a topic many want to discuss let alone read during their leisure hours. Another reason was because death was all around me, wrapping me in a blanket of porcupine quills. Almost daily someone shared their news of the passing of a person they cherished. I’m still shocked and saddened at the unexpected loss of one of the best men I knew. My dear boss was buried April 14 leaving behind his wonderful, charming wife and three children, all of them people you’d wish to call your own family. My best and dearest friend was told two weeks ago her dear Mom had at most a year to live. My beloved friend celebrates her birthday March 2nd followed March 5th by the sudden and tragic death of her favourite brother. Her father’s death, which has never left her, is March 14th. With no time left to breathe she recalls the memory of her dear, dear friend who after a lengthy, hard-fought battle with AIDS died on March 25th. Sadly I pray that when her Mom leaves us, she does so in March so she can strike this month off as normal, wear black daily and render it the month of mourning with no pretence on her grief. She can then celebrate the remaining eleven months with full vigour as if to make up for the lost month which holds her greatest losses of all.
But life and death is not like that. It does not give us our way. It reminds us only that we are here to live, and live we must so when we die, as we all must do, it will be without regret.
However you view, celebrate, fear or attempt to ignore the thought of death, you cannot deny it. You cannot stop it. You cannot avoid it. You cannot control it or how it will happen. You can only control how you live.
I wish you all a life of love, without regrets, or too many regrets at best and throughout your long days and years, my best hope is that you strive to live your life with an open heart. A grand, humongous heart perhaps as large as a dwarf planet. Yes, live your life with a heart so big and full of love for yourself and others than when the feared, foreboding call of death beckons; you almost welcome a change in conversation.