Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dreading or Dreaming of Death? It's a ballot question after all.

"Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limits of our sight." ~ Rossiter Worthington Raymond

It's the Day of the Dead!  How does that make you feel?  Did the use of the word 'dead' cause a reaction in you?  If so, what kind of reaction?  Do you fear death?  Your own death?  That of your spouse, parents or children?  Perhaps the death of a friend or other extended family member?  Does it conjure up memories?  What kind of memories?

As sure as you are alive and reading this, you will die.  Someday, somewhere.  You and your loved ones may have time to prepare or they may get that God-awful phone call everyone dreads.  The reality is, we don't know when it's 'our' time to die.  Yet it's something that will happen to everyone and if you haven't already experienced the loss of a loved one, you will.  This is just a reality.

So why are most people afraid to talk about it?  To plan for it?  To see all sides?  Why are we afraid to talk to the people left behind about the ones they have lost?  We say we don't want to upset them or make them sad.  I promise you, it's not about them, it's about you in that case.  They already think of them.  They already feel a roller coaster of emotions and it will last as long as they themselves live.  It will change over time, it will come and go, but they will always remember and it will always be a part of them.

I wish to challenge you to engage in an open discussion about death and dying.  On this Day of the Dead, or All Souls Day Eve, 'holidays' which honor and celebrate our departed, it seems a fitting topic.  For in our culture, we don't really celebrate death.  Hell, we don't even talk about it! Not when it happens and not in the days, months and years that follow.  We seem to be quite uncomfortable with the topic.  We fear it.  We seem to collectively strive to be immortal and don't like to discuss death, preparing for it, participating in grieving rituals or actively remembering those who were once close to us who have died.  When we are confronted with death, we go 'through the motions' and then slam the door on our emotions. Maybe that's why there is so much dis-ease in the world...

I wonder why that is.  Why we as a collective culture do not like to talk about death.  All I can come up with is fear.  What are we afraid of?  Where did our beliefs about what happens when we die come from?  Does one's belief in an afterlife or reincarnation make a difference?

It's also in the forefront of my mind because here in MA there is a ballot question on physician assisted suicide.  As you can imagine it's a very heated topic and a very slippery slope.  Suffice it to say I think that it's a very individual choice and I strongly believe in choice.  But one person's fear should not interfere with another person's choice and free will.  No matter what the topic.  I've had the honor of being present for the transition of some people.  I've sat with them and their loved ones they introduced me to (that only they could see because they predeceased them).  I've literally felt the 'spirit' of those who have died around me or other people and no, it wasn't my imagination.

Maybe it's not so much about the fear of death as it is our fear of living long enough to accomplish...what?

On this All Soul's Eve, I am remembering fondly my grandparents who have passed (Agnes and Leon Packard, James McGillicuddy), my uncle Dino, my friend Emily and especially my daughter Meghan.  Yes, it's important to say their names. I am thinking of all those children gone too soon from their parents arms and hearts.  For all of my friends and family who have lost someone near and dear.  Does it fill my heart with joy?  Not exactly.  Although I do believe they want us to remember them as they lived and not dwell on OUR sadness at their death.

I remember getting 'the news' about all of my grandparents. I remember my grandmother telling me when she'd die and she was 100% right.  I remember giving Reiki to my uncle hours before he died and knowing he would soon take his last breath and what an honor it was.  I remember holding my beautiful dead baby girl in my arms in a rocking chair in the emergency room and lovingly making molds of her hands and feet as keepsakes.  I remember having to tell my family and the heart-wrenching moment when I sat on a neighbor's kitchen floor with my boys in my lap and told them their sister had died.  Yes, I have tears in my eyes as I write this.  Maybe you do, too.


It's because of love.  You see, death bothers us because we love so deeply as humans.  Sure, I am sad when I think back to those death days.  Yes, I relive my own personal hell now and again.  I could choose to stuff it, but that's not healthy or productive.  I allow myself to feel the emotion because my heart is filled with love.

The sadness turns to smiles when I continue to remember their life.  Had they not had such a profound impact on me through their living, they dying would not have an impact on me to the same degree if at all.

The Day of the Dead is a celebration!  It's to celebrate the life of our departed loved ones.  To have hope that their soul is free and fulfilling it's spiritual mission or whatever your religious, spiritual or personal belief may be.

I first heard this song before Meg died.  I immediately loved it.  I still do.  It's a beautiful tribute. Take a listen.  Imagine the scene.  Enjoy the Celtic music and lore.  Feel the love.  All Souls Night by Loreena McKennitt

Let their light shine.  Let it into your heart swish it around and radiate it back to the world.  I'm sure they'd appreciate the attention and the sentiment.

Mark Twain said, "The fear of death follows from the fear of life.  A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."

Perhaps wiser words were never spoken.  If I learned anything from Meghan's death, it was that life is unpredictable.  If I learned anything from her life, it was to live for the moment.  Live with joy, wonder and enthusiasm.  Don't be afraid to say what you want.  Do the things you love 'again, again!'  And love.  Love with your heart, your mind, your body and your soul.  Fear is a wasted emotion.  Live, laugh and love every moment of every day with every ounce of your being.  Say, 'I love you'.  Say, 'I'm sorry'.  Never, ever say or do anything you may regret on your death bed or should that person not come home tonight.

It's all about love.

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