Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Death as teacher

Listen to this post:

There's a shadow on your mammogram.

Those words from last Friday haunt me a bit, though not as much as if I hadn't been called back before.

Yes, it IS in the back of my mind as I wait a week for another go-round. Why do these things always happen over the holidays, a time when it isn't possible to get right back in?

Yesterday at a Quaker meeting of those interested in discussing/learning how to be with those suffering and dying, we each were asked to articulate our feelings about death and after. I repeated what I have written here: "Living is a helluva lot harder than dying" – in my opinion. I said I don't really fear death, though I am not ready.

If the mammogram proves to be something more than a shadow, I dread the struggle. As a healer friend said, breast cancer is really a chronic condition these days. "I already have one of those and don't need another," I replied.

Life is a struggle, but in that struggle is what makes us grow and become more of who we are.

I'm not sure how hard I'd struggle against death, but that's easier to state when that is not my condition. I'd probably fight because of my daughters; the thought of leaving them motherless is heart-renching. I explained in the suffering/dying group that I never have a problem at a funeral of walking up to the casket and speaking to the family. I see how others shy away. The family wants its pain acknowledged – mostly, I hate to generalize. I learned that working in the funeral industry and getting to know a wonderfully gifted and known thanatologist/grief counselor. When my grandmother died, I was about 10 and we, as grandchildren, were curious about her body at the viewing. I touched her just to see. It, definitely, wasn't her.

Unlike many of my brave friends, though, I have not been with someone at death – near death and very ill, but not at the moment of death. The stories I've heard confirm that it's been pretty peaceful; hardest on those left behind.

This seems like an odd time of year to be thinking about death; on the other hand, winter is the season of hibernation and death, preparing for rebirth in the spring. I have been contemplating what in me must die this season to birth something else. I am leaning toward my propensity to worry. Yes, I have shed some of my psychosis, but I believe it needs to die. It is blocking my ability to live in the present. That is what's attempting to come forth.

As someone once said: live in the present; it's a gift. That's what I want for Christmas.

• What currently gnaws at the back of my mind?
• How do I struggle to not let it overwhelm me?
• What deaths have I already died?
• What is waiting to be born in me?
• What do I feel about Death?

death for myself
is a completely
different matter 

– in my mind –

than losing
a loved one

it seems my life
has been a series
of stripping, loss
and mini deaths

preparing me
for the final


yet how will
I feel when it
eventually calls?

no regrets, I pray
... if I learn to live
in the NOW

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