this weekend I heard a phrase I had never heard before, “the miracle of death”. I was struck by it. two words I would have never put together, and had previously thought would be an insult to the other. but there they were, together, and it felt true. is it not a miracle, much like sunsets and cinnamon rolls and thunderstorms are? isn't it all a miracle? if it’s a miracle we are born, why isn't it also a miracle that we die? trust me, I understand how potentially shitty a thing it is to say when someone is grieving, "don't be sad, it's a miracle they died." to call any loss a miracle is a really good way of making people think you're a real asshole. I am not an asshole. I am just someone, like all of you, trying to figure out how to feel about this great big mystery, that oftentimes feels like a cruel joke missing its punchline. "you mean, I'm just gonna hang out here until I die, which I have no idea when that will be, and you're not gonna tell me why I'm here or what happens when I go?!!" ha? ha?
I spent a lot of time thinking and talking about death this weekend. in the name of chipping away at my fear iceberg, I decided to take a weekend intensive hospice training. you know, go big or go home. (there were several times I wished I had gone home). that the training coincided with the tragedy in paris, and the starting of my period, felt like a cosmic pop quiz. if it was a test on how late into the night I could sob inconsolably, I most definitely deserve an A+.
so on friday, while the radio was broadcasting news of terror, I was driving to the VA hospital to begin the training, and I was afraid. I was afraid of the darkness and the violence in the world, and I was afraid of the unknown I was about to enter into. I felt alone, and I wanted to be held. I also wanted to hold paris, to find a way to comfort a city in pain. helplessly I knew I just had to sit with all those feeling as I drove west. I considered turning the car around. I considered walking out when I was met by the attack of florescent lights in the hospital. but I walked on.
I walked into a room full of strangers. a room full of people that were so different from me, and yet, so very much the same. we all die. death is the great equalizer. the great unifier. and here we all were, for the same reason, dedicating our entire weekend to the inevitability of death. to hold space for it. to talk about it, and share about it, and weep about it. and we did all those things. we also ate casseroles together, and tried to comfort each other, and left an opening for the laughter in between.
on the last day there was a guided meditation, in which death walked up to us, and we had a conversation with her. after the meditation we were asked to write death a letter with our dominant hand, and have death reply to the letter with our non-dominant hand. as terrifying or ridiculous as that exercise may sound, I actually enjoyed it, even found myself smiling at one point during it. it was not what I was expecting. my conversation with death was a comfort to me. and when it was over, and I had these letters to read, I felt that I wanted to share them. I did not uncover the secrets to the universe. I still do not know why we must die, or what happens when we do, and maybe, that's ok. maybe the unknowing is a miracle just like the rest. maybe there is peace in finding a way to hold the mystery in our hearts, much the same way we hold a baby in our hands. to be grateful for the holding. to see all of it as an opportunity to then learn how to let go.
you have such kind eyes, I was surprised by that. and your robe, it was white, and luminous, almost as though it was sewn out of light. you met me on the soft green moss. the light was making sparkles through the tall green trees. the first thing you did was hold out your hand to me. and then you said, "I am here, so that others may live." it made sense. I understood. it was my time to give, I had received so much. there is so much. it is for all of us. I would like to know if I will get to hold it again? touch the skin of another, be touched? will I see more sunsets, count more stars? or will I go on to learn of new beauties with different names? will it be hard to let it go? do I have to let it go? why do we fear you when you are so gentle, and so beautiful, and so full of light?
please excuse my handwriting, I don't do this much (as you can tell, haha). I would love to answer your questions, to ease your mind, but that is not how this whole human experiment works. in order for you to learn and grow, in order for your sprit and the eternal spirit it comes from to continue to expand, you cannot know while you are here. you are here to live the questions. you are here to FEEL ALL OF IT. the answers would prevent you from that experience. I hope you can try to accept that, maybe even learn to love it. while you are here, be here, elsewhere does not need you to be anywhere else. I love you as birth loved you, and I'll hold you, just as life holds you now.
with a gentle heart,