“Opening up to the pain of death, our own or that of someone we love, is one of the most mysterious blessings of life.” Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson goes on to say that nothing focuses us more clearly on what matters, helps us drop our defenses more quickly or gives us more compassion for human suffering – that death has become one of our greatest teachers. This, I know to be true. Why? I guess because I have been up close and personal with death my entire life.
What got me thinking about this? Well, allow me to back track. Just a few days ago, very dear friends of mine suffered the double, mind-boggling and incomprehensible loss of their soul sister and her husband. Another dear friend of mine lost a life-long soul sister a couple of weeks ago. Over the past year, numerous friends and acquaintances have lost a loved one as well: mother, father, brother, best friend, soul sister, spouse. The thing is, most of the people who passed did so unexpectedly. I don’t know what is more painful, an unexpected death or a diagnosis and watching someone wither away very quickly. That’s a tough one!
As a result, I’ve spent most of today thinking about death, loss, grief, pain, suffering and resilience. That’s what the pain of death does to us. It makes us have conversations with ourselves. Conversations that make us explore the mystery and intrigue behind this so-called rite of passage. A passage that is so beautiful and marks the end of a soul’s purpose here on earth, yet one that is so painful and sorrowful for those who are left behind, ones who’ve never been taught to talk about death or have never been up close and personal to it. Today, I shed lots of tears for the human suffering of my own friends who are trying to process their grief. Today made me examine my life and reflect on my relationship with this rite of passage called death.
My intimate relationship (and fascination) with death started at an early age. I lost a couple of classmates when I was in elementary school. A dearly beloved cousin of mine passed away when I was in 8th grade (he was one year older than me). From there, it was my only living grandmother, uncles and aunts, their husbands and wives, cousins and, ultimately, my parents. Over the course of my career, there were a few students and several co-workers that passed away too. And when people who are our own age, and who are our contemporaries, come to the end of their life, we really turn inward and examine our own lives – whether we want to or not. A key factor for us is to get comfortable talking about death.
Is being up close and personal to death a blessing? Is having experienced all these losses the reason I am able to show up hold the space for others to grieve? Is being fascinated with the afterlife, reincarnation and research stories of near death and out-of-body experiences what enables me to have conversations with the dying and help them cross over peacefully? Is having gone though my own out of body experience and being in a place of pure love, consciousness and bliss the reason why I can so freely talk about death and dying? Is my understanding of the many aspects and changes the body undergoes as it prepares for that final breath what helps me comfort and prepare someone for their transition or the transition of their loved one? Is my passion for organization and event planning why I can so readily help someone to organize their end of life affairs, wishes and celebrations? Is embracing and working through the stages of grief what helps to build resilience? Is gratitude what has made me so resilient? Questions, questions and more questions! No wonder my head, heart and body were screaming for attention today!
Though today’s tears, reflections, and heartfelt pain for shared human suffering, I realized that all this death, loss, grief, pain, suffering, life altering moments and resilience have shaped my spiritual and healthy relationship with the dying process. It is a gift for which I am grateful. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a few of my friends held the space for me to make sense of all this today……infinite love and gratitude for your presence, love and support……and for yoga, foot reflexology and amazing dinner with friends! Our Tools and our Tribe are a must go to in life and in death. These are our blessings!
Like any other rite of passage, I believe end of life is something we must plan for and celebrate. And that includes our own end of life! After all, we are all terminal! This is a date we all have and cannot cancel, reschedule or postpone. We must have a say in our own planning and celebrating. However, much of the planning, and many of the conversations, fail to take place. We must fix this, my darlings. We must reshape the way we think and talk about death, and allow it to be our greatest counselor, mentor and teacher.
Next up……THE Conversation!
Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC