Last month I wrote a piece about Grief. This month I want to ask you this question. How can death enhance our life above and beyond anything else?
Five weeks ago my husband had a stroke. Although there is still internal healing taking place, the external ramifications of the stroke are negligible. He looks, walks, talks and acts exactly as he always has. But nothing is the same. And it never will be. Because death knocked on our door and whispered softly, “I’m here. It’s not time to touch you yet, but you just keep me in mind. Remember, life is enriched and enhanced and made all the more precious and wonderful when you remember, I am not too far away.”
Many years ago the sister of a good friend of mine was killed in a car accident. Angie came from a large and very close family and was on the verge of opening her own business. She was a beautiful, joyful and passionate 21 year old with an infectious laugh and a smile that lit up any room she entered.
At her funeral her mother stood up to speak and we, who sat in the church braced ourselves for the inevitable sobs from a mother newly bereft of her child. She stood there looking out at all of us in absolute silence and we waited. She took two or three deep breaths and then began to smile. And then she spoke.
“We have been so blessed. Angie lived her 21 years doing exactly what she wanted. She was fearless. She took risks and lived life to the fullest. She brought us so much joy, so much laughter, so much happiness. There is no room in this church or anywhere else for mourning Angie’s death. Her life was a constant celebration and that is how we will honour her.
Everyone of us will grieve in our own unique way. The loss of a job, a friend, a child, an opportunity. “Grief is the midwife of your capacity to be immensely grateful for being born,” writes Stephen Jenkinson,in his book Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. He says also, ““Grief is not a feeling, it is a capacity. It is not something that disables you, we are not on the receiving end of grief we are on the practising end of grief.”
So what does that mean, ‘the practicing end of grief?
If we pretend it wont touch us or our loved ones then in truth we cannot say we are truly living. We need to consciously create or at the very least become aware of a resonance of death that softly hums below our every thought and deed and action; a drone that harmonises with the melody of human joy. The two are intrinsically linked.
Carlo Castaneda wrote “Death is our eternal companion. It is always to our left, an arm’s length behind us. Death is the only wise adviser that a warrior has. Whenever he feels that everything is going wrong and he’s about to be annihilated, he can turn to his death and ask if that is so. His death will tell him that he is wrong, that nothing really matters outside its touch. His death will tell him, I haven’t touched you yet.’
It is through this awareness that we can be free. Free to speak openly. Free to make our own mistakes. Free to lift our eyes and our spirits up and up and up and be who we are.
“You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound. Kahlil Gibran
Rising above worry, anxiety, grief and pain requires us to choose. When we claim the power to choose, we connect to the heart of who we are and in that moment we are free. Nothing else matters beyond being engaged to our heart. Through the heart we connect to our soul and through the soul we connect to Unconditional Love.
One of the things I have learned and now carry with me since my husband had a stroke is a strong knowing that the future is not guaranteed. In other words not putting off what might be enjoyed or completed today is far wiser than saying. “Ill do it later.”
We all know this of course, but living it day to day is the gift of death tapping my shoulder and reminding me it is just an arms length away. Yesterday I was sitting on my old rocking chair looking out of the lace curtains of our little cottage in the mountains sipping a cup of herbal tea. I was watching the sky slowly turn pink as night began to fall and was relishing the quiet when my husband decided it was a good time to change the kick-boards in our kitchen. The banging and the scraping and the hammering began and as I sat there I had a flash of what it might be like to sit here in silence had Death actually tapped him on the shoulder those five weeks ago. And at that moment everything changed.
Instead of relishing the silence I sank joyfully, thankfully into the clatter in the kitchen. I closed my eyes and imagined him on his knees pulling and pushing, and banging and scraping those recalcitrant kick-boards and I felt happy, free and completely and utterly at peace
* (a warrior is a person who lives impeccably)