The death of someone I love reminds me of my own impermanence. The loss of their familiar presence makes me consider what matters most to me.
In my twenties, I read The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castenada. Young, in love, with a long life ahead of me, I took in the idea that death was always close by, sitting on my left shoulder. Remembering mortality became an early spiritual practice. When I was frazzled or anxious, I consulted my death. I still do. I ask if a delayed flight, a rejected article, or a car accident where no one is injured matters in the end or even tomorrow.
I’m a slow learner, so I’m still practicing
“Death is the only thing in your life that will always tell you the truth. If you have any lingering, unresolved questions about life, consult your death.” ~Carlos Castenada
2. Death transforms both the living and the dying
You’ve likely experienced the death of a friend, a family member, or a pet. Each is different, although longing for what was or what could have been is a common thread.
My brother’s death two weeks ago will change me in ways I can’t yet imagine. The last living member of my childhood family no longer calls on the weekend to find out how I’m doing. I no longer encourage him to talk to me about the challenges of his illness. We no longer remember a shared past. Instead, like everyone, we are swept along by the river of time.
“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” ~Jorge Luis Borges
3. Sacred ritual helps us find meaning in death
Ritual creates a safe container for painful feelings I cannot avoid. It’s human to create ritual in community or alone. Every spiritual tradition knows and teaches this. Sometimes my rituals involve tears and song. Often they end in gratitude.
My brother loved the Westport River in southern Massachusetts. I couldn’t be at that river today, so I walked to my stream, scattered flower petals in the water, and watched the current carry them away. I sang the song we sang at his death and remembered him.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi
How do you to honor grief and death? Do you consider or consult your own death, or do you find that idea morbid? If you’d like to try creating ritual, I suggest Creating a Grief Ritual: Love, Loss, and Continuing Bonds.
Besides writing blogs, I’ve submitted articles about my brother’s illness to a few journals (with his permission). Waiting for Another Dance is a blog written during a time of hope. This weekend, I’ll read a piece published in The Healing Muse 2015. The reading includes thirteen local authors whose articles or poems were published in The Healing Muse. It’s at Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, NY, May 14, 2:00 – 3:30 pm. I’d love to see you there. Bring extra Kleenex.