Death Has A Terrible Reputation

Last Tuesday in Year of Inquiry (YOI) we began our final twelfth month. Almost an entire year together investigating commonly painful topics.

We saved the best for last.

The investigation of our thoughts about something being OVER.

Death. Exits. Done. Asta la vista!

Although it sounds like I’m kidding around a little….the ideas, beliefs and orientation we have to endings, death, getting fired, break-ups are some of the most incredible concepts to examine and feel, ever.

When something is over whether it was fun, lousy, or complicated, there are all kinds of mixed feelings. Sometimes enormous suffering and pain come alive, almost unbearable.

It will never be like it was again. I can’t handle this. I need closure. I don’t want this to happen. 

But can you know that it’s true that it SHOULD be like it was and stay that way? Are you absolutely sure it was better before it was over, or that nothing good came after?

Are you positive you didn’t handle it well? 

My three sisters, my mother, my father’s close friend, and all my sister’s partners and my former husband are all gathered in a circle surrounding the deathbed of my father.

Outside the rain patters on the beautiful rectangle panes of 1920s window glass. It’s pitch dark as midnight, but only early evening. November in Seattle.

Ten people all alive and physically well. Ten kind souls, some of whom with potentially very long lives still to come, many of us in our 20s.

My mom was only about the age I am right now.

We are all touching my father’s body, still surprisingly solid looking, although his beard is sparse from chemotherapy.

He just took his last breath a while ago. I am holding his left hand. I felt it grow cooler and cooler. There is a deep, yet incredibly sacred silence pervading everything.

Then tears come through the body like a huge crashing wave.

We’re all riding it, engulfed in it. It feels like there is nothing but this very alive grief, shaking everything.

For the previous two months, I had been living with what feels like anxiety, visiting the hospital every day. Still in my first job after college, I dutifully came to work at the appointed hour, and one morning my boss said “Come and go as you need to. I’d be a basket case if I were in your shoes.”

I left immediately and went back to the hospital. My sisters and I rotated in and out of my father’s room for two months. Before he went home to die.

As I look back now, I realize I did not have to do anything to handle that situation.

Understanding my dad’s death is still underway, even over two decades later. I do not need closure.

When I believe that before the death/change was better, I feel sad, even bitter. When I believe I don’t want that to ever happen again, I feel terrified.

Who would you be without the thought that you don’t want it to go the way its going? Or the way it went? Or that it is all-horrible that this life is so temporary and things come and go?

Without the belief that it’s over?

“When you rest deeply in the Unknown without trying to escape, your experience becomes very vast. As the experience of the Unknown deepens, your boundaries begin to dissolve. You realize, not just intellectually but on a deep level, that you have no idea who or what you are.” ~ Adyashanti

Turning the thoughts around…..strange these ones are: It will never be like it was again, oh hooray! Everyone, including me, is handling this. I need it to remain unfinished, open. I want this to happen.

That last one, not so sure when it comes to to my father.

But this is just a simple exercise in inquiry.

“Is it true? Expect nothing. See these four questions as a gateway, a door into yourself. And continue. Move into that third question, and the fourth question. Turn it around. Expecting nothing other than the experience of what arises….Death has a terrible reputation, just like life. We think ‘when I die I don’t know what’s going to happen’. Well, in life, we think the same thoughts. Everything we believe about life, we project into death. If you loved every thought you think, welcome life, welcome death.” ~ Byron Katie

If my dad has gone on to have a compelling, fascinating, magical adventure (how could it be otherwise) then why would I ever want anything else for him?

I don’t.  

Much love, Grace

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