Birth and death. They are two things we all share in common no matter what else separates us.
It’s impossible to experience one without the other — at least for us mere mortals. Yet we do not treat them with equal respect and passion.
A woman announces she is pregnant, and everyone showers her with love and light. The same woman suffers a miscarriage, and she is largely left alone in the shadows. We do ourselves a major disservice by focusing on one side of the sacred coin to the exclusion of the other.
Birth is about arrivals, beginnings, hope and opportunity. It’s fun to talk and think about. Death, on the other hand, is about departures, endings, loss and grief. Dark and depressing, right? At least that’s what society and culture wants us to believe.
People have been dying for thousands of years — but we still often whisper the word if we even say it out loud at all. If we don’t speak it, it’s as if it won’t happen.
It’s safe to say that no one has stayed alive forever by denying they would one day die. We also don’t bring back those who have passed by being reluctant to talk about them after they are gone.
I have learned that not only can it be okay to ask someone questions about a loved one who is no longer with us, it can be healing and affirmative. The person may not be here in physical form — but they are never gone from the mind and heart.
I took a class recently where I was reminded that as a society we don’t die well. Children don’t discuss end-of-life decisions with their aging parents. Young people who think they are immortal don’t take time to think about how they might want to be remembered.
Even doctors don’t talk much about death with their patients when doing so could eliminate a lot of anxiety and misconceptions. Of course, doctors are human, too. Maybe they believe that if they don’t talk about death, it won’t happen to their patients. Maybe they just don’t have the words.
Life is not easy. It can be as dark, scary and uncertain as we believe death will be.
For many, it can feel like the birth canal was a conduit to anything but life. For those people the tunnel or canal they go through when they die may actually be their way to finally live.
As Rumi says, “This place is only a dream. Only a sleeper considers it real. Then death comes like dawn, and you wake up laughing at what you thought was your grief.”
Most organized religions fail us by creating and perpetuating myths for that which is really the great mystery. They discard and may even attack the stories of people who have had died and come back to share that the experience is not at all what we have been taught to believe.
There is no literal “heaven” or “hell.” There are no pearly gates that are closed to those who don’t have the correct password.
Like life, everyone’s experience of death will be slightly different based on how they lived and what they believed. If you lived in fear, judgment and always expecting the worst, death may be hell for you. If you raise your vibrational energy while you are on this earth, death may be more like what we think of as heaven. Our consciousness dictates how we live and also how we die.
Someone shared a poem by Dawna Markova with me today that I would like to share with all of you. I do not know the name of it. However, the words so beautifully capture the delicate dance we are asked to do with life and death. Often we may not know for sure which one is our partner.
“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”
As humans, we are blessed with the kind of consciousness that helps us to see, experience and appreciate life in so many rich and layered ways. We also know that it can be snatched away from us at any moment. It places us in such a unique and tender position.
Our fear of death, of being human and falling in our mortality, can stop us from living well and dying better. If we lived every day as if it were our last — and it very well could be — we might be less judgmental and more loving; more adventurous and less afraid.
Maybe we wouldn’t need to be right and prove that others are wrong. Our priorities might change. Maybe we would finally see beyond color, gender and sexual orientation.
If we really believe that there is a “God” and that we will be reunited with that source of unconditional loving energy when we die, our fear of death might lose its hold on us. We might talk about it more. We might plan for it more. We might honor more people while they are still alive instead of waiting for them to die.
I spent most of my life terrified of death. I was never sure if I was more afraid of missing those I left behind — or worrying that they might not be able to go on without me. Either way, it left me feeling paralyzed and avoiding life.
Confronting my own mortality and developing an unshakeable faith has helped me to think of death in a very different way. It has made me less afraid to talk and think about dying, and to be more open to accepting and celebrating it … whenever it should happen to come. It has made me want to share that receptivity with others.
Beginning Monday, March 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., I will be co-hosting a monthly online Death Café with Death Doula Cheryl Durden.
At a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their finite lives. A Death Cafe is a group-directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes.
If this sounds like something that may be of interest or help to you, or someone you love, please join us via the Zoom link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82505416919?pwd=dEFhZG1YV08vUHppdUdJbjR5SENEZz09
Meeting ID: 825 0541 6919
It may just change your life.