I learned just now that my mother has passed away. I did not need to be told. The phone ringing in the middle of the night was enough. And because others have opened their hearts to me in times of their own death, I am not in uncharted territory. Thanks to them, I recognize this sad and beautiful land all too well.
I’ve learned a few things about death over the years. Death does not seem such a mystery to me. I am not so much comforted by static images of heaven as in that cosmic process to which the symbol “heaven” refers. We are born out of it and we dissolve back into it. What we think of as life and death are modulations of something deeper than either. Whether we call that mystery “matter” or “spirit” is a matter of semantics. The experience of life is surely beyond either of those categories.
As my mind fills with grateful memories to the woman who taught me so much, feel the need to sing a silent anthem to the river of life who gave such a gift. We do not belong to each other but to life. To love nature does not mean only to love trees and animals, we must also learn to love our death as well as our birth, for life is endless change.
We are not the flickering consciousness that hovers above such living and dying. We are not some static observer left behind by the flow of the river. We do not stand at the shoreline watching everything else change, we too belong to the flux.
As a fish might, in times of storm, find peace by going deeper into the current, so may we in times of grief and pain go deep enough into our grief to find that life and death are threads in a seamless garment. Above all, we must not hover above life as an imagined observer, we must go deep.
There in the depths of life we are comforted by the universality of death. And so it is with any grief. This is not my grief, it belongs to us all. Grief is the painful trophy given to all who have had the privilege of loving. I have been by the side of those whose greatest wish at the end was to make their death into a gift to others. They shared their fears and their acceptance with me at that most intimate moment. And now at this sad time, in the dead of night, I hold their precious gift.
I, too, want to share the gift. I want to learn and teach that when we receive the call, as we all eventually do, at the death of the dearest of friends and especially as we approach our own death, we must remember to go deep.