What's it like to face mortality? I mean the nitty gritty. What does it feel like? How do you get yourself to a place of acceptance, maybe beyond?
I observed my 17-year-old cat bounce back from what seemed like near death earlier this summer. And my parents have both been hospitalized in the past two weeks.
So, I wonder.
My mother, who is in good health, it seems, said she's ready when the time arises. She visited her sister often several years ago as she accepted the end of physicality with such grace and faith. In that conversation with my mother, I identified that the hardest thing for me right now would be leaving my ungrown daughters. They are a strong pull.
I suspect as we age, our perception and perspective of death shifts from What am I leaving? to What I am entering? I'm certain it helps if we have some life experience behind us to make that leap.
In my early 20s, my best friend quickly weakened to cancer, although no one would admit or even talk about it. At his wake, two of us wept at the thought that no one did with him either.
In my 30s, I worked in the funeral industry and became comfortable with what happens after death, how we honor our dead, employ ritual to get us through and encounter grief. I had a miscarriage during that time which personalized the grief and loss and opened a new place in me.
I am ready to look at death in myself and for others very close to me and find a similar new place. Not a locale of fear, but rather one of taking the next step and beginning to let go of our tight grasp on life in favor of something that may be more freeing. Of course, that suggests embracing the unknown. Life is the known and probably the reason for clinging so violently to it. Even if life has been unfair, unkind and painful.
Just what is in that unknown? Is anticipating death any different than exploring our own shadow – the areas the light fails to shine? When I have undertaken that dark jaunt inward, I have found it teeming with life. Life different from the external, but life nonetheless. And, as I uncover what's there, I realize I am also illuminating those places. Could transition from life to death be the same?
What if we were unafraid of death, treating it like a natural phase? Practicing gratitude for the life we have lived, the people we have loved, the lessons we have learned and looking forward to the next adventure. Maybe shifting us out of bodily pain and turmoil into peacefulness.
I don't intend this as a theological discussion, but a practical, natural one.
I do know on several occasions, I have felt the love and presence of family and friends who have left this life ahead of me. Each time I perceived more love than I had prior to the presence. I never experienced fear. What can this suggest? That whatever lies in the afterlife is capable or greater love and travels back to those still here? Where is there any fear in that?
• How has my experience of death shaped my view?
• Can I initiate a conversation about my ideas or fears with someone I trust that could be helpful?
• Have I had an experience that, when explored more fully, opens me to a newer concept of the transition from life?
• To what do I most cling in life?
• What's the message for growth in that?